I am currently working with a school in a remote village of Uttarakhand, as an India Fellow. Due to summer holidays at school, I was free for a month and could use this vacation with my family and friends to hangouts and have fun – Masti, as we call it. But, I opted to make a better use of time, and volunteered with an organization during the holidays. Anjali, a colleague, told me about a project where I could learn, grow and contribute. She gave me a brief about the place, a library and an activity center for children.
On my first day as a volunteer, she accompanied me to the organization’s workplace. We met a passionate, lovely and enthusiastic couple, Jaya and Atul, who are managing this library and activity center.
To give you an introduction about them, Atul is a civil engineer, and Jaya has worked for many non-governmental organizations. In their 50s, after having spent a long time in big cities like Kolkata and Ahmedabad, they decided to come back to their home state, Uttarakhand. In the beginning, they volunteered with Chirag, a well-known organization in the region. After a few years, they settled permanently in a nearby village Seem, and built a magnificent house there.
They started a library and activity center at their own house and named it “Happy Children’s Library”. Today, about 60 children come there from four surrounding villages. Most children are from financially poor backgrounds whose parents are work on farms, and send their kids to nearby government schools. After school, these children typically help their parents with work. This library is the only place where they can spend leisure time in peace, have fun and learn while enjoying.
This library and activity center has computers, more than 500 books in different categories, puzzles kits, learning tools, educational games and more. Effective and creative, activity based teaching methods of this center make it more pleasant and engaging for children. Things like storytelling, songs and poems, essay writing, quiz, science exhibition, cultural programs, meeting guests or visitors etc. make teaching and learning more joyful.
Apart from everyday activities, these students get exposure in terms of visiting famous schools and going to adventure camps. Here, when children make mistakes, they are not beaten up or intimidated but are politely told about it. I found most of the students were sincere and disciplined, which is amazing, because a lot of people tend to believe that students need to be punished and made to feel afraid, or else they will neither realize their mistakes nor improve. Such an environment is helping in the holistic development of children. It is making their life more colorful.
There are millions of children in the world who are struggling for good food, clothes, shelter and basic primary education. On the other hand, there are millions of young people who walk away from their dreams or ambitions because of lack of resources and opportunities. This small institute is giving a ray of hope to some of those children, who when grow up can walk towards their aspirations. It is an initial platform for the children living nearby to develop wings to fly high into the sky. I hope that the children who spend quality time here remember the learning and knowledge and put it to good use throughout their lives.
About the author: Ghanshyam Sharma is working with Udyam, an initiative to promote social entrepreneurship, in Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, as a part of his India Fellow Project.