02 August 2015

Dubai Sent Lego To Bring Joy To Filipino Students

Do you know that there is a small city on the outskirts of Manila where ore than 80 schoolchildren get to build toy houses, cities and farms, all with Lego bricks donated by hundreds of Dubai residents? Yes, Dubai.

In started last May 2015 after the Napilas Integrated School in the Philippines, which largely depends on donations, received a massive box from Dubai resident Kristina Kunz Kharazmi. It didn't contain the books, clothes or stationery supplies that the community school in Silay City usually receives from donors around the world. Instead, it was packed full of Lego and Duplo bricks.

Based on the report of Afshan Ahmed for The National, the 37-year-old Kharazmi, launched a Lego charity drive in December after she ­noticed her children (pictured above) – 5-year-old Alexander and 3-year-old Izabella – building fantasy worlds with the bricks.

"My kids build all the time," says the Danish IT professional. "We have thousands of Lego pieces at home and one day it occurred to me that there are so many children out there who aren’t as privileged as mine."

Kharazmi began by collecting bricks from her children’s collection, then spread the word among friends.

"I thought, hang on, if everyone can donate at least five pieces of Lego, then this could turn into a massive box that I could send to a school in need," she says. "We could contribute to setting up a Lego room at a school, which would be amazing"

"The beauty of Lego is that all pieces fit together, so it doesn’t matter what pieces the people donate. And kids of all ages find it interesting. They can just build and build and build."

With the help of other philanthropists in Dubai, Kharazmi has contacted schools in the Philippines.

"In Dubai, we are surrounded by so many Filipina helpers," she says. "Even in my kids' schools there are so many kind ladies who talk about the dire situation back home, while not having enough money to buy necessities. That why I decided to start here, with a few bricks."

Kharazmi believes play is an ­integral part of the education ­process, which is why such toys are as important as the other ­supplies sent to underprivileged communities.

"There are several drives to send basic supplies, books and uniforms at the moment, which are necessary," she says. "But at the same time, children need to be exposed to creative avenues, and building blocks are a fantastic way to do it."

Lego is a Danish company that has been involved with several research papers on the effect of construction toys on imagination and promoting Stem (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education. Such blocks can be used for science projects, building robots, practical maths lessons and encouraging creativity among children.

Kharazmi created the first box by initiating donation drives in six schools in Dubai, asking parents to donate blocks through flyers and social media alerts.

“I reached out to my network of mums and spread the word at different schools here. There are always people who have leftover Lego. Lots of people turned up with the five small pieces.”

She says she doesn’t mind ­driving around to pick up the blocks, as well. “Some people find it hard to part with their Lego sets, too. That’s why I say give five pieces, which will hardly be missed by the kids. In fact, now that my children have seen pictures of how happy the children in the Philippines are, it has begun to mean a lot to them.”

Kharazmi, who has already filled another box for shipment to the Philippines, will resume collecting bricks for the next batch after the summer break, and is planning to conduct ­similar drives in Oman and ­Denmark this year.

"I want this to be a continuing effort and would like as many people as possible to join in," she says. "I would also like to send these boxes to other countries and am always looking for ways to connect with schools that can use our support."