A MAD initiative
By V Haripriya
Thirteen-year-old Ashok is the hero of his class. He knows the nuances of computer better than most of his classmates studying in a Corporation High School near Paalavakkam. “I have just finished MS Office,” he declares at an orphanage in Kottivakam, where he is one among several students attending a weekend class conducted by Bhumi, a city-based NGO that has volunteers from a number of the IT companies. Ashok is one of 400 students in the city to learn computer science at the ‘Kanini’ initiative of Bhumi.Volunteers of Bhumi dedicate their weekends to teach the students computer science. Recently, through a tie-up with Cochin-based NGO ‘Make a Difference’ (MAD), they have also started teaching them basics of the English language through activity-based learning, similar to the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan’s project in the state schools.Last week, MAD bagged the Ashoka Social Entrepreneurship Award, the only NGO from the country to do in the internationally-acclaimed award that had entries from 64 countries.When Ergo caught up last Saturday with a group of Bhumi’s volunteers, they were elated at being a part of the internationally-acclaimed award. E. Ayyanar, an employee of CTS and an active volunteer in Bhumi, explained about MAD: “Make A Difference is similar to the Govt’s activity-based learning.Through flash cards, match sticks, drawings and five verbs-per-day method, we teach English to these kids during weekends. Instead of making them memorize the words blindly, we make them understand the meaning and then learn the word. It is really working and these kids have improved a lot.”Kanini initiative: When Bhumi was launched in 2006, the volunteers decided to make computer science education for school student their primary objective. As part of the ‘Kanini’ iniatitive, they set up computer lab facilities in four orphanages and one slum locality of the city.The labs served as the weekend classrooms. M. Aruna, a volunteer working with the Ford says, “We have provided old PCs to all the orphanages we take class. We teach the kids the basics in computer science. Children studying from Std V to IX are our target group.First we make them overcome the fear of using computers. Then slowly we start to make them draw and write alphabets. Its two years we started this and most of the students are now well-versed in MS Office.”Self-financed”There are absolutely no sponsors for Bhumi,” says Dr Prahalathan, president of Bhumi, says. “All the volunteers pay out of their pockets and it is enough to manage our needs. The volunteers are trained by the Teachers Foundation on how to handle classes.We have a monthly orientation class for the newcomers apart from regular updates through our Orkut communities – ‘Make a Difference – BhumiChennai’ and ‘Bhumi, Chennai’. The ultimate aim of Bhumi volunteers is to reach as many children as possible.