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These holiday toys aren't for sale

December 7, 2009 |  9:30 am

Toy As parents plunk down plastic this season for the last remaining Zhu Zhu pets and Nintendo Wii consoles at their local Wal-Marts, a new museum exhibition provides some chastening evidence that the best toys are often those that require imagination and ingenuity, not money.

"The Power to Play -- From Trash to Treasure" features more than 100 toys that needy children from around the world have created out of discarded material. The toys were made by children in 23 countries in Asia, Africa and North and South America.

The exhibition,  running at the Museum of Tolerance through Dec. 31, is organized by ChildFund International, an organization that provides education and other aid to destitute children in 30 countries around the world. The organization, founded in 1938, used to be called the Christian Children's Fund. The group said it discontinued its religious education programs more than 30 years ago.

"Some of the toys are generic across cultures, like balls and kites. Others are more unique and reflect a specific culture," said Anne Goddard, president and chief executive of ChildFund.

She said that the exhibition, which is traveling around the U.S., isn't a fundraiser and that neither the organization nor the children benefits from it monetarily.

ChildFund said it has collected about 350 toys from children around the world who participate in its programs. The Museum of Tolerance exhibition features close to 130 of those toys.

The collection includes a go-kart created by a 10-year-old boy named Mahendra who lives in India. After receiving the equivalent of 25 cents from his parents, Mahendra cobbled together the vehicle with the help of his friend Nirmal using bamboo, a set of old wheels and wires.  The vehicle, pictured, can seat one person and is sturdy enough to run down a hill.

Among the other toys are a miniature oil-tanker truck made out of old pesticide cans by 14-year-old Fall Amath Yaya of Senegal; a small guitar constructed from a cooking-oil tin by 13-year-old Oscar Miguel from Brazil; and a push toy made from scrap wire and bottle caps by Ian Kinuthia of Kenya.

The Museum of Tolerance hosted a similar exhibition of handmade toys in 2001 titled "Not Sold in Stores." The museum said the show was so popular that it wanted to work with ChildFund again.

A museum official said that visitors can view items from the show at two locations -- its main building at the southeast corner of Pico Boulevard and Roxbury Drive, and at the nearby Simon Wiensenthal Center.

-- David Ng

Photo: a toy go-kart created by Mahendra and his friend Nirmal. Credit: ChildFund International