Bakul Learning Initiative for School Students or BLISS as we call it is what we get when we combine the movement for volunteerism with a socially useful cause like inculcating the habit of reading amongst children. The Bakul Children’s Library, located at 16, Satyanagar in Bhubaneswar has laid down a roadmap for setting up children’s libraries with the objective of encouraging people to come together for the change that they want to bring in their immediate environment and hence their societies. One of the most important developments in the last few months has been the donation of 2,00,000 books written in the English language from the publishing giant Pearson Longman. Bakul took it upon itself the task of distributing the books amongst children who ‘need it the most’. As a beginning, the volunteers at Bakul decided on identifying specific slums in the city of Bhubaneswar, and where State government run upper primary and secondary schools function, for the initiative to begin.
However, the distribution of books provided by Pearson amongst the schools came with a disclaimer, mainly because the challenges were many.
1. The children amongst whom we wanted to distribute the Pearson books written in English were not very well versed with the Enlgish language in the first place.
2. For children to start using the books that we would otherwise distribute, we needed to carry out an intervention with the active participation of volunteers (more and more of them), through whom we engage children with activities such that they reach a level where they could find utilization of the books.
3. Since the Bakul intervention was more pedagogical than advisory, we set a time frame for the intervention to bear fruits. Currently we have a time frame of October 2009 to December 2010.
4. Considering the time frame that we propose, we need volunteers and their engagement with children to be consistent and sustained for over the entire period of time.
5. We need to regularly churn out ideas and activities that would keep the children learn with fun, and at the same time keep our volunteers motivated.
With these challenges in mind, we started off our intervention on the 31st of October 2009 with one school (Sikharchandi Vidyapeeth, upper primary school) near the Sikarchandi Slums of Patia, Bhuabneswar. Currently BLISS is on in two upper primary schools in Patia. We shall add three more schools to our initiative by the 21st of November 2009.
KIIT School of Rural Management, KIIT University