Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Most Fun Diwali ever: Celebrations at Dr.PV Rao Orphanage

A week's planning and a lil' bit of practice by some volunteers resulted in our most memorable Diwali in a long long time, on 26th October 2008 @ Dr.PV Rao School & Orphanage.

The fun began from the very beginning :) Ashwin and Uma (Speak Out – MAD volunteers @ PVR School) started off with the story of Diwali (their own version of things :P) and had to be told the right 'story' by the kids and volunteers. Then volunteers from Government Girls Home and Anbu Karangal kicked off the festivities with a dance programme...

A skit titled “Good Boy, Bad Boy” enacted by PVR guys made children understand the importance of being a good student. The group’s miming efforts ought to be commended! The group dance by them was memorable too.  They tried hard but rhythm and co-ordination were hard to spot ;) (Considering they were practicing only just before the programme began and delayed the start with their practicing... it was a decent show). Several solo and group dance performances and song renditions by the volunteers of PVR followed.

The excitement amidst volunteers became contagious and soon children from PVR started performing solos and group dance performances... And what’s Diwali without sweets and crackers!!! After several free for all dance performances to several ‘kuthu pattus’ we finally rounded off the day with sweets and crackers for children and their teacher-volunteers.

The BHUMI team @ PV Rao Orphanage for the Diwali Celebrations

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Infosys exhorts employees to go on 1-yr sabbatical, work for NGOs

India’s second-largest information technlogy services provider, Infosys Technologies, has issued letters to its employees stating they could opt for a one-year sabbatical to engage themselves in philanthropic activities. They would continue to draw 50 per cent of their salary during the period. Infosys crossed the 100,000-employee mark in India in the quarter ended September 30, 2008.

The company said that while the move may have coincided with the global financial turmoil and slowing growth rates of IT firms, it should be perceived as a pure voluntary act by employees who are prompted by altruistic motives and inspired by the example of its chairman and chief mentor, NR Narayana Murthy.

The employees, an internal memo said, need to be on the company rolls for at least two consecutive years before they are eligible for the offer and a panel comprising senior members of the Infosys leadership team will decide each case. “This policy will promote volunteerism among employees and we believe that the value and benefits arising from it will have an impact on community, the employees and ultimately, the company,” it said.

Sources said that the policy came into force only a few days back and the company is working out the finer points like whether the employees will be given any salary or emolument during the sabbatical. However, it is understood that the company is planning to pay some amount of the salary, while the rest the employees can earn from the NGO they are working for.

An Infosys spokesperson confirmed the development: “We introduced this policy almost two months back, which allows the employees to go on up to one year of sabbatical to engage in philanthropic activities. All the employees have been communicated the policy internally.” When asked how much the employees will be paid during that time, the spokesperson said they will be given 50 per cent of the salary, while the other half will be given by the respective NGOs they work with.

“It’s a part of Narayana Murthy’s desire to give back to the society, which is driven by the fact that many employees quit their jobs to pursue philanthropic activities. This would give such employees an option to pursue their hobby while still continuing with the jobs, even if they will be paid a small amount by the company. The employees can go out with a cut in their salaries, even though the final details are being worked out by the company,” a source close to the development told Business Standard.

POSTED from the Business Standard

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Speak Out - Make A Difference is a Global Competition Finalist!

The numbers were so baffling that I had to read them over and over again to convince myself that in fact, they were true, and no it was not time yet to change my specs again….

521 entries from 61 countries… And the MAKE A DIFFERENCE project has been picked as one of the 15 finalists…

After convincing myself, (and reading again), I realized that this was no fluke…

We were finally being accepted for the work that we do…

The Staples Youth Social Entrepreneur Competition’s purpose is to discover and recognise creative, inspiring ways in which young people are changing the world….

And as a BHUMIan, the fact that we got picked from among several hundred deserving nominations from around the world, is a matter of immense pride… If you’re a Bhumi volunteer, I’m pretty sure you’re feeling euphoric too…

Anyhow, the competition isn’t done yet.. Go to http://changemakers.net/en-us/competition/staplesyv to vote for the most deserving candidate….

Check out MAKE A DIFFERENCE, COCHIN's Voting Made Easy section for more detailed info on how to vote…

Three Cheers for everyone at MAD Cochin & MAD Pune as well :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Speak Out: Flash Card Games

1.Crisscross Bingo:

Materials Required:

1.Bingo board - a grid with:
Rows - Verbs from the verb set assigned;
Columns - Subject (I/He/She/It/We/They)
2. Pair of dice –
Verbs and Subject on each

How to Play:

Step 1: A child rolls the dice

Step 2: He/She makes a sentence with the combination

Dice 1: He; Dice 2: Walk
Sentence: He walks to school

Step 3: On the bingo board, the child needs to write his/her name in the grid that corresponds to He and Stand. The first child to make a straight line (like cross and naught) is the winner.

The dices and board are available on:

2.Memory game: Cards placed face down.A child tries to match a picture with its corresponding flash card.Kids were so excited that they decided to complicate it further by shuffling the order after each chance!! So it took some time to finish the game.

After making a right pair, the child has to say the substitution chart with actions for that verb.

3."Stop!! Thats mine!": This game is played one at a time. A child is given a picture card. The remaining cards (9) are put down one after another by the moderator. The child needs to hit and say STOP when his/her picture's flash card is put down.

4. "Make your pair": Picture cards (P) should be separated from flash cards (F) and shuffled. Every child is given 1P and 1F.A child starts the game by putting down a F card.The next child, picks it up, chooses to retain, drops another/same F card.The game goes on till one manages to find his/her pair.

NOTE: The picture card should be retained throughout the game!

During all games, children were asked to make sentences with a subject(he/she/you) + verb.

Cross posted from the BHUMI, Chennai Blog

Training for Speak Out Volunteers

Make a Difference (MAD), Cochin has played an invaluable role in shaping Speak Out. While BHUMI identified orphanages to start this project at, MAD brought The Teacher Foundation (TTF, Bangalore). The aim was to equip Bhumians with methodologies, ideas, and tips to make these English classes interactive and energetic. Little experience in teaching made this training mandatory for all our Speak Out volunteers. BHUMI will always be grateful to MAD for bringing one of the best and experienced trainers in the country.

Due to a large strength, the trainers decided to split the group into two batches (of 30 each). The two-day training programme was nothing like long, monotonous lectures. Volunteers were on their feet throughout the session, playing every activity that we would be taking back to our classrooms. In the 8-hour classes, volunteers dirtied their hands with fabric paint, composed jazz tunes, mimed short plays, and actively participated in group discussions. This way they were able to relate to the possible outcomes of implementing these activities with their batch of children.



Feedback from a few volunteers:

“I honestly thought it would be some kind of theory session where someone would teach us how to teach! I had loads of fun and felt really childish after a really long time!! Plus learnt and lot and got a better perspective to the classes.”

What the training could have offered in addition: “A syllabus, in the sense, in school we were taught nouns first and then verbs and so on. So, a certain order alone can be given. Otherwise, it was great! :)”
- Uma Sekar, Volunteering at Dr.P.V.Rao School

“I expected to get a lot more ideas on teaching and handling overactive kids! It would be great if we got a syllabus from TTF or we could have a discussion with them about how much our children know and we can accordingly get a syllabus for each standard.”
- Deepthi Ravichandran, Volunteering at Avvai Home

“I hoped the training will be fun, because I was apprehensive that it was two full days, also being weekends. But, the class was actually lot of fun as well as learning! It was a good experience; It gave me an opportunity to learn the teaching methods.”
- Karthik Venugopal, Teach India Volunteer, Avvai Home

Unfortunately, we had a few practical difficulties in implementing this system. Most of our children, both from lower and higher classes, lacked basic knowledge in the subject. A small percentage of children (age no exception!) had problems identifying alphabets. Such a scenario compelled a change in the direction we had planned to adopt.

In addition, a syllabus was necessary to take structured classes. Two teachers with decades’ experience – Ms. Malathy and Ms. Prema, were introduced to BHUMI. The first workshop conducted by them provided volunteers with not just more tools but also a syllabus that revolves around ‘Drilling and Repetition’. The academic year has now been split into terms (3 months each). Starting from simple present and past, the course would gradually roll out into a more advanced one. Care has been taken to ensure that volunteers retain the original ‘learn-through-activities’ system.

Every term ends with a feedback session to discuss problems faced by volunteers during the term and syllabus for the next. The terms to come will start focussing on content from school textbooks, so that children start experiencing the benefits as soon as possible.

Cross posted from the BHUMI, Chennai Blog

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Learning from the learner group

"Teachers should encourage students and children to ask questions and develop the spirit of enquiry, so that they blossom into creative citizens.”
- Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Until a few years back, I found children annoying! Their constant need to talk, urge to ask questions, eagerness to know minuscule information put me off.

Nevertheless, today I think for hours on how creative one can get to make ‘Speak Out’ classes interactive, special, and memorable!

An unforgettable incident at one of our centres, Welfare Education Trust [Pallavaram] - One day as I was narrating Cinderella, Sudha from my class stopped me to ask "Akka, if the spell broke at midnight, why is her shoe still in good shape? That should have disappeared too!?!"

I was perplexed. Having read the story innumerable times, never have I given this a thought!!

Questions are no more maddening! They are enlightening!

Cross posted from the BHUMI, Chennai Blog

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why does BHUMI do whatever it does?

Why does BHUMI do whatever it does? Why Education & the Environment?

It's a question lots of people have asked me... Why not clean the beach? Why not fight politics? Why not feed needy children? Why not fight corruption? The list is endless as are the ills that plague this country...
Obviously there are a lots of things a young group of individuals as large as ours can do to Make India a better place but why the focus only on Education and the Environment?

The answer is quite simple, 'We believe that these under-privileged children whom we work with are the latent potential India will need for the future and if we don't act against climate change there simply is no future for India or the human race'

Lastly one of my fav quotes... I think it explains a lot :)
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margret Mead

Cross Posted from The BHUMI, Chennai Blog

Monday, September 1, 2008

BHUMI's Speak Out

“I am running late to work, AGAIN! And my 6 foot tall – stern faced – I can’t smile boss is not going to pardon me this time! Stuck in a traffic jam that is as long as a giraffe’s tongue. I see a mason’s daughter by the pavement making a beautiful sand castle. If only she could afford Education!! Sigh… Will the current situation ever change? Will India see a few more Kalams and Bedis? Would “India, Superpower by 2020” be a dream forever?

Oh, the signal just turned green. Now, vehicles are gonna crawl like ants! If only Batman’s utilities were applicable in the real world. Sci-fi has never impressed me, nevertheless…”

Such writing would make this blog usual!

Welcome to BHUMI!

From a small group of friends teaching at a school in 2006, BHUMI is now a guild of 250 students and young professionals. While educational projects target children of all ages, our environmental and societal initiatives focus on improving the current conditions of the local community.

Our volunteers hope to share their personal experiences and special BHUMI moments on this blog. Kicking off with how our English Teaching programme evolved.

Successful completion of KANINI (our e-literacy initiative) at Anbu Karangal and SOS Village in 2007 meant extending this to more orphanages. That was when I learnt about HOPE Foundation. HOPE is an international organisation that provides shelter, personal and medical care for AIDS affected adults and children.

Even though the children took time to open up, we bonded within weeks. During the course, I learnt that children here did not have answers to many questions: why am I at HOPE, why do I need to pop in capsules day and night, why do I feel drugged all day, how does it feel to be with ‘family’, and many more.

My outlook with respect to the World and its People changed. I realised how one’s hasty decision/action can change the life of another (unintentionally). Tears trickle down every time I think about the quality of life such boys and girls, in contrast to us, lead.

Unfortunately, their level of English was a barrier in proceeding further. That was when BHUMI started discussing the possibility of teaching our children English.

Make a Difference (MAD) an NGO based in Cochin has been teaching destitute children English for the past two years. With assistance from their team, “Speak Out – Make a Difference” started taking shape. Effective campaigning at colleges and workplaces brought in more volunteers.

Now Bhumians are actively teaching at three orphanages and one community centre in Chennai. Trained by The Teacher Foundation (Bangalore) our volunteers are now well equipped with resources from the Cambridge University to make this journey of learning English as interactive as possible!

If you want to be part of this initiative, visit us at www.bhumichennai.org and register!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Project Kanini: Hidden Gems of PVR Orphanage

Though Speak Out classes have begun on time this year, Kanini's start was delayed due to the time taken to repair the computers donated to BHUMI by Satyam Computers.

Kanini's roll-out began this Independence Day weekend at Anbu Karangal and PV Rao Orphanage & School. After Ayyanar and his team gave a short introduction to computers, the 15 students of class 10 were allowed to work on the computers. All of them were 'touching' a computer for the first time in their life!

The Kanini Syllabus starts of with MS Paint, which allows the kids to learn mouse handling and also have some fun at the same time. The kids started working with a bit of help from the volunteers. Within 30 seconds one kid had drawn an India Map (more or less!) I don't know how many of you could have managed stuff like this within your first few minutes on a comp... I'm sure i would've struggled quite a bit.

As they gave finishing touches to their first drawings on a PC all of us were pleasantly surprised...

It left me thoughtful, What would've these children become with a normal family, childhood, education & facilities like a computer?

Another reminder that Children are a precious resource, they lack opportunity, not capability! Another wake up call for us as BHUMIans to work faster and better to bring more and more under-privileged children into our supplementary education programmes. The future is bright!
Can u spot the Happy faces of the volunteers among the children? :)

Cross Posted from the BHUMI, Chennai Blog

Monday, August 4, 2008

Think Green

Climate change is the most agonizing challenge being faced by the humanity today. In a country of a billion population and a majority of them being dependent on the limited natural resources for the basic survival, the problem of climate change assumes a much greater significance. When the Himalayan glaciers, that feed almost 40% of the humanity (India and China), face the threat of a complete melt down due to increasing temperature, the agriculture that survives purely on the rivers fed by these glaciers would collapse resulting in the worst socio-economic crisis our country has ever faced. If the worst has to come, the perennial rivers could well become seasonal rivers, fed only by the monsoon, in the coming next three decades. With a 7000km long coastline, the threat of sea level rise poses a danger as grave as the melt down of glaciers. Severe shortage of food and drinking water, continuous failure of agriculture leading to collapse of a civil society is already being felt in some countries of the world. The need to address the issue of climate change is now at its highest point given the fact most of the extreme climatic events, like the break down of Larsen shelf, shrinking Greenland ice etc, are pre-dating the predictions of the scientific community. The only comforting point is that we might be just able to avert a crisis and stabilize the climate in its present form so that we may have just enough time to figure out ways to mitigate the problems and work towards a more sustainable earth. This is not all about climate change but a brief overview of the prospective dangers posed by climate change.
Every individual is a stakeholder in this process and the least anybody can do is to be aware – of the causes of the climate change, the individual’s contribution, ways of reducing the strain on environment and creating a more sustainable environment.

The Initiative:

Think Green is the initiative which is going to primarily focus on creating this awareness among the people of Chennai, to begin with and subsequently extending it to other parts of the state. The Program aims to produce a strong group of committed youth leaders who will carry the message of Climate Change, Leaders who will initiate and lead grassroots climate groups in their work, schools, colleges and communities. Alongside generating awareness, we envisage to take up a project in the form of a fieldwork to demonstrate that we aren’t just armchair philosophers but we would also engage in direct action to demonstrate our commitment for the cause.

The Program:

The time frame for the program is set at six months to one year and has three divisions.

1. Getting ourselves ready
2. Making presentations
3. Field Project

Getting ourselves ready: Most of us know about climate change but in order to make presentations that sound credible and convincing, it is important that we equip ourselves with authentic data and scientifically proven facts to back our claims. Enough material will be provided to the participants. The participants are expected to do some basic research into the subject and make a Power Point presentation. The culmination of this stage would be a one-day training session in which the participants would be provided with more perspectives and ideas that could be used to fine-tune their presentation. The training session will be held in roughly a month’s time.

People working for the same company or studying in the same college or even a group of individuals could team up to simplify the work and make the presentation more effective by doing independent in-depth research.

Making Presentations: Every group/individual is expected to make at least one presentation a month in schools/colleges/workplace/community or any other place of their choice. While Bhumi would actively look out for prospective places where presentations could be made participants are encouraged to identify places where they would be more comfortable.

Field Project: This is a relatively tricky assignment of the three. Nevertheless, this could be the most effective way to spread the message and drive the point home. The project could be anything from a tree plantation drive in the neighbouring community to campaigning against the usage of low grade plastic in residential colonies or sensitizing people in the office to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels by encouraging them to use public transport or forming car pools. Every group or participant is expected to submit a draft proposal one the eve of the training session.

People who want be a part of this program please fill this form. All fields are mandatory to have a rough idea and generate a pool of ideas to proceed with.