The best thing a child can do with a toy is break it.” – Arvind Gupta

Arvind Gupta’s TED talk on “Turning Trash Into Toys for Learning” is an catalogue of innovations inspired by need, powered by creativity, and resourced by, well…trash. No words do it justice so you really have to watch the video. But the Velcro slate for the blind is pure genius.

I particularly his message of taking things apart as a remedy to creeping “black boxism” in the world. But his trash to treasure message was the highlight.

Gupta’s story of “trash into toys” was one I experienced first-hand living in the “Third World” myself. This ‘Failure’ blog stemmed from a talk (“sermon”) I gave at my father’s church years ago titled “Embracing Failure,” but the talk was not my first time at the pulpit. That would be after I returned from a year living in Togo, West Africa and I gave a talk titled “Poor People, Rich Lives.” I recounted many observations about the vibrant and full lives I immersed myself in. I told the story of our “guardien”. He was the watchman for the “Village du Benin” residence area where ex-pat students lived at the University du Benin. He was a kindly, older man who always greeted me with a warm enthusiasm and engaged me with a bit of repartee. He also volunteered to take out my trash for me. This sort of task was well outside his job description and I felt self-conscious about taking advantage or shuffling off unpleasant jobs to local staff. But eventually, given the persistent requests, I relented. A few weeks later I discovered the motivation to his initiative. I saw his kids playing with a number of “toys” cleverly crafted out of some packaging and other debris I had discarded. They were as charming as they were innovative.

One man’s trash is another man’s toy.


Village duy Benin guardien