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Project Chesed and Toy Drop Success

You may remember that just before Pesach, we at US Chesed asked you to donate your unwanted books to families in the Philippines. Our aim was to provide books for 2 libraries, one for the Jewish community in Manila and the other for the wider community living in Mountain Province in North Luzon. Well thanks to your huge generosity, over 30,000 books were collected within four weeks from around the US communities in London. What a fantastic achievement.

These collections were inspired and organised by Muswell Hill Shul member, Shelley Schachter-Cahm. Thank you Shelley. Below is an article written by Shelley which will give you some idea of what was involved.

Shelley will be organising another Rosh Hashanah toy drop for 2013, so please start sorting out your unwanted teddies, books and games now. More information will be given shortly re when and where you can drop the toys off.

If you would like to read a letter written by Shelley about her experience please see Women’s View.....

I travelled to the Philippines with my children to oversee the distribution of the donated items.  On the first day there I hosted a party for the street children in a shanty town in Paranaque, Metro Manila. Each child received a book and a toy and lunch was cooked up for over 200 people and served on the street in between bouts of musical chairs, general knowledge quizzes and the ubiquitous Karaoke sessions where entire neighbourhoods joined in the singing.

The logistics involved in getting the books on a 16 hour drive over unpaved roads up into Mountain Province took up much of the first week – the rainforest environment is so humid, travel by road is only possible before noon when clouds descend and visibility can be reduced to a couple of metres.  Finally arriving in Besao, the building promised by the local municipality was looking like a carpentry workshop as the shelves were still being constructed. We discovered the work had only really started once we set out from Manila because the local community could not believe it was true they would be having their own library and couldn’t believe shelves would be necessary. The sawdust and nails were swiftly cleared, and we spent the day unpacking and sorting into reference, general, children’s, travel and cookery sections along with a healthy selection of durable toys. The following morning the entire town gathered to watch the local mayor and I cut the ribbon and declare the library open with emotional speeches and plenty of hugs all round.

On returning to Manila, I met up with the Smile Train, an international charity who perform cleft lip and palate surgeries for local children without the means to undergo surgery in the private hospital system. The Smile Train is well funded through external donors but has little appetite for spending on toys and books when each pound could be spent on another surgery, medications and all the expenses involved in a successful recovery. The Toy Drop stepped in with books for the local clinics to use as part of the recovery speech therapy programmes and has committed to providing each of the 800 anticipated patients of 2014 with a cuddly toy to take home after surgery. The working conditions of the surgeons and dentists are a far cry from what we would expect in the West, and the parents are not in a position to provide any of the material comforts a child in surgery can benefit from through playing with their first and possibly only plush toy. 

The local Jewish community centre is host to a vibrant and growing community of locals and expats and serves as a hub for learning with limited resources. The very generous donations of Jewish and Jewish interest books has transformed the capabilities of the Manila community to provide enough religious and general reading matter to last a generation. The official inauguration will take place in December when the Toy Drop returns toManila.

Follow our incredible progress on www.facebook.com/thetoydrop and for any items you wish to donate, please contact shelley_schachter@hotmail.com

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