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Vidyamritam: Volunteers who Teach Children Lessons on the ABCs of Life

If schools equip us with the means to earn a livelihood, what prepares one for life itself? For Sreelakshmi Nair the definition of education is not confined to text books – it means being able to face the curveballs life throws at you. These thoughts led to her founding Vidyamritam, an NGO that focuses on teaching

If schools equip us with the means to earn a livelihood, what prepares one for life itself? For Sreelakshmi Nair the definition of education is not confined to text books – it means being able to face the curveballs life throws at you. These thoughts led to her founding Vidyamritam, an NGO that focuses on teaching underprivileged and financially backward children the life skills they need to face the world head on. An English faculty member at L’ecole Chempaka (Silver Rocks), Sreelakshmi started Vidyamritam in 2012 with the motto ‘Inspire, Empower, and Liberate’.

As a passionate volunteer who has worked with children since her college days, the NGO became an extension of her profession. She took a detour while living in Australia, working as an HR professional. On returning for good, she knew it was high time to stay true to her first love – teaching. Once she took the first step, like-minded individuals were drawn to the initiative. “Now we have seven core members and about 60 volunteers,” Sreelakshmi said.

Classes are held on a weekly basis at Mahila Mandir and some government schools. “Most of the students at these institutions may feel tongue-tied in situations outside of their environments. Starting a conversation with a stranger and grooming themselves can all be a challenge. Our organisation tries to impart such skills,” she explained.

Volunteers are trained for a period of six months apart from a one-month orientation program after which they will be sent a lesson plan. Real life scenes are recreated to apply the lessons taught. For example, a mock market will be enacted in class so that children practise basic math.

Vidyamritam has also been organising summer camps for the inmates of Mahila Mandir since the last four years. The themes vary every year, from Environment to Girl Power and Science & Technology.

“Topics such as personal hygiene and self-confidence are covered. They are unaware of many things that we assume they know. These students may also not know how to work in groups. Technically, there are many students in the 10th grade who do not know what a motor is. Scientists from ISRO have visited to take classes related to the field. We aim at educating students with 21st century skills before they go onto face life’s realities.”

Vidyamritam has also set up four libraries in Thiruvananthapuram at various primary schools. ‘Book Buddy’ boxes were placed at different venues in the city where one could drop books. It received a huge response.

“One of the greatest blessings of this organisation is that we haven’t had to go in search of volunteers. They come to us at the right time, even from outside the State and country,” she said adding that in the future, it is hoped to be able to pay the volunteers stipends and push to make volunteering a part of the education syllabus.

To get involved with Vidyamritam, contact +91 90723 01986

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