Despite India’s expanding economy, millions of the country’s children do not have access to basic education. One of the primary reasons for this is discrimination - in gender, income level, religion and status.
“This bias denies children their fundamental right to education,” says Abhishek Singh, an IBM employee and On Demand Community Excellence Award winner. “It leaves them illiterate, unprepared to break the cycle of poverty and participate in the country’s economic prosperity. If this generation is not empowered, the nation as a whole cannot flourish and develop.”
For the past year, Abhishek and other IBM volunteers have been working with students at the Kadesh Children’s Home, a non-profit organization in Bangalore that helps children who have been abandoned or orphaned.
Under Abhishek’s leadership during IBM’s Celebration of Service, over 100 IBM volunteers are devoting weekends to the students of Kadesh Happy Children’s Home. To help bridge the knowledge gap between the public and private schools, Abhishek organizes lessons in science, math, English, and other subjects, providing a fun-filled learning environment for the children. Other activities, including a summer camp program, help develop their interpersonal skills, computer literacy, and make the children aware of various career options. Abhishek hopes to get financial support to continue this project through a Celebration of Service grant.
A driving passion to help children
Abhishek’s passion for helping children was very evident before IBM’s Centennial year. He has been working with another non-profit organization, Aashayein Foundation, and some government-run schools to develop similar grass roots programs for other children deprived of education due to their socio-economic backgrounds.
Because 95% of the government-run schools in India do not have access to the Internet, Abhishek needed to adapt On Demand Community solutions to meet the Indian conditions. IBM’s On Demand Community is a global community that combines the skills of over 200,000 IBM employee and retiree volunteers with the power of access to innovative IBM technology, training, and support. Unable to use MentorPlace, an online mentoring tool, he read the teacher’s guide on the web site, modified the handouts, and personally mentored students. He checked their progress and updated it manually on a weekly basis.
Although the schools where Abhishek volunteers cannot utilize an online English literacy software called Reading Companion, he used the program’s authoring software solution to create English storybooks for the students to enjoy with the use of a simple projector.
Abhishek, with the help of IBM colleagues, also conducts a “Joy of Giving” drive at IBM sites to collect stationery, book bags and sports equipment so the children have a better learning experience and have access to many of the same materials enjoyed by private school children.
Making a difference
When Abhishek started teaching, most of the students could not speak English; many had trouble reading English and there was high student absenteeism. After just one year with the Kadesh Children’s Home and two years with the Aashayein Foundation, Abhishek has seen the children improve in attendance, demonstrate better reading fluency, and show more interest in science and technology. Abhishek has also built relationships beyond the classroom with children, principals and teachers. To help children from different non-governmental organizations (NGOs) showcase their talents, he conducted a cultural competition at IBM and also celebrated the traditional Holi “Festival of Colors” with the children.
Based on his volunteer hours, Abhishek was able to secure a $5,000 technology grant in 2009 to empower the Aashayein Foundation to run their projects.
Grass roots efforts offer hope
Our education sector needs to become more accessible and flexible,” explained Abhishek. “We need to work together to improve academic education while teaching soft skills and engaging students in activities for well-rounded personality development. Working at the grass roots level to accomplish this will help develop children’s independent thinking, making them smarter individuals, ultimately resulting in smarter, more self-sustained communities.”
Father Dr. Victor Paul, the founder, managing trustee and principal of the Kadesh Happy Children’s Home, expressed his appreciation, “I would like to thank Abhishek and the entire IBM team for supporting us. The children are really encouraged and blessed with activities like the summer camp and visits to museums. .I hope the IBM team will continue this association with Kadesh and conduct many more teaching programs to benefit the children.”
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.