Imagine a place where play is the encouraged form of learning. This is the world of the Toy Library. For the global organization Worldwide Orphans (WWO), toy libraries are the cornerstone of Element of Play®—a program that brings 15 years of professional research and development by occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, pediatricians, and educators toward the benefit of youth impacted by trauma. Element of Play® Toy Libraries consist of 120 scientifically curated toys, games and books selected on the basis of play value and the contribution to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of the child. Toy Libraries have proven particularly effective in communities experiencing crisis where children lose their opportunities for personal growth and development.
For Summer School, ICA LA will host a uniquely interactive Element of Play® Toy Library combined with a series of education programs. Worldwide Orphans Program Development and Training Specialist, Lois Kam Heymann, will be present daily and special workshops will be open to all in our Learning Space and Annex Gallery. Element of Play® is the opportunity to reclaim the power of play in education, development, and healing.
Worldwide Orphans (WWO) transforms the lives of children and families in communities impacted by trauma, disaster and poverty in the USA and around the world. Under Dr. Aronson’s leadership and vision, WWO launched their innovative Element of Play® program to create sustainable, positive change for children and families by combining play skills for children and workforce development for local adults/mentors. Through developmentally appropriate, expert-curated Toy Libraries and the Element of Play® curriculum, children engage in creative play and experience physical, social, emotional and cognitive benefits. These experiences support child development, promote school readiness, and help heal trauma—with the ripple effect of decreasing abuse and neglect in children’s communities.
WWO provides direct services to more than 9,000 children and adults annually through their Element of Play® programs in Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Haiti, the United States and Vietnam. Over 60 Toy Libraries are currently operating in schools, children’s hospitals, libraries, food pantries, faith-based centers, rehabilitation facilities, childcare centers, orphanages, shelters, and refugee integration centers around the world. In 2015, the organization brought their global experience and Element of Play® curriculum to their own backyard in New York and New Jersey, realizing the issues children face overseas are no different than here in the United States.
Dr. Jane Aronson, aka The Orphan Doctor, is a pediatrician, adoption medicine specialist, and the CEO and President of Worldwide Orphans, a nonprofit organization that provides direct services to orphans and at-risk children in Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Haiti, Serbia, Vietnam, and the US. Since 2000, she has had a pediatric practice specializing in adoption medicine, conducted medical missions to orphanages in over 14 countries, and evaluated well over 10,000 children. Dr. Aronson is on faculty at Cornell University, Columbia University and Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and speaks all over the world advocating for orphans, including Women in the World and the Unite for Sight Global Health Conference at Yale.
Her many recognitions include World of Children; the Angel in Adoption Award; Glamour Woman of the Year; Time 100 Nominee; Honored Alumna of Valley Stream North High School; Hunter College Hall of Fame; and Distinguished Alumna from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. In 2018, she was nominated by CNN’s Anderson Cooper as a Champion for Change and traveled alongside Cooper and a CNN production team to show the impact WWO has made in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. She currently sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of World Childhood Foundation founded by Queen Sylvia of Sweden, along with the most esteemed scientists in the world of child psychology, adolescent medicine, child psychiatry, and sexual abuse prevention.
Dr. Aronson writes for Huffington Post Impact and is available to provide innovative problem solving for children living in adversity. She is regularly featured in the media, including frequent guest appearances on CNN and NPR. She is the author of Carried in Our Hearts: The Gift of Adoption: Inspiring Stories of Families Created Across Continents. She lives in New York and is the parent of two sons through adoption: Benjamin from Vietnam and Desalegn from Ethiopia.