a few of their favourite things

During the recent workshop held in pwhy, a series of qualitative methods were applied to assess the impact of pwhy on children. The methods were applied on a wide section of children: under 12, above 12, kids with special needs, kids not in pwhy. Fun games were organised where questions on specific issues were asked. There was a card game where children were asked to chose pictures and identify those that hey associated to pwhy. But the most revealing game and by far the most exciting for the children was the one called photo mapping. Here a cross section of children were given cameras and asked to shoot pictures of positive and negative aspects of their everyday reality.

The results were stunning and pwhy kids came out winners. Unlike the control group of outside children, our kids had opinions and views, string likes and dislikes and were not shy of expressing what they felt.

One of the most extraordinary and revealing results was the choice many children of the women centre made when asked to shoot their most favourite thing. It was the library and its books. Each kid shot a picture of it. What makes this even more striking is the fact that the library is a very recent addition to their lives as it was set up just a few months back thanks to our dear friends of the om prakash foundation. And yet in such a short time it has assumed a huge part in the lies of these children. It was on the insistence of the children that Sunday at the women centre is library day where kids come and spend long hours browsing through the shelves. When a couple of books disappeared and the coordinator threatened to shut the library down children made sure that the books were found. Since a lending system has been instituted!

Many conclusions can be drawn from this single result. I will leave the more technical ones to the academics and wait for them, but for me it is undoubtedly a very rewarding outcome. I fell under the spell of books when I was very young and nothing could replace the magic of books till date. It was with extreme sadness that I saw children turning away from them with the advent of TV. As the power of visual media grew, books seemed to loose their charm ans slowly took a back seat. I guess the sheer cost of books and the vanishing of the local library had their role to play. In slum India books became akin to school and hence boring, tedious and unexciting. Slum kids never saw real books. And yet when one was able to set up a colourful and large library in the span of a few days, children not only took to them but placed them on the list of their most favourite possession, one they were willing to protect and care for.

We have thousands of books still packed in boxes waiting to be displayed. We plan to rebuild the small mud room we have in Giri Nagar, the one where pwhy began almost a decade ago. The room will be a library open not only to pwhy children but to all children of the area. Unseasonal and unending rains, and paucity funds have delayed the venture but today the pictures the children took tell us that we cannot wait much longer!