Working the “Together We Can” Way!

Kids at play

Akshara Foundation has been involved in an exciting new coalition designed to bring together a group of NGOs to work together to nurture and resource the children of Bangalore for a self-sustaining life.
Initiatied by Akshara, Nowhere and the National Institute for Advanced Science (NIAS), the coalition has adopted a two-pronged approach – to create a means of reaching as many children of Bangalore as possible to improve their life chances, and to share data for advocacy purposes through the Karnataka Learning Partnership.  Under the slogan “Together we can” the coalition, which includes Dream A Dream, Magic Bus, Centre for Education Innovations (CEI), Pratham Books, Arogya World and a host of other organisations, is running a series of Sunday camps in slums around urban Bangalore.

Children in these slums are desperately in need of life skills and mentoring in order to widen their horizons and expand their chances of succeeding in creating a better life for themselves.  Even those children who do have ambitions in life are often unsure how to achieve them, and lack the access to information and advice that will set them on the right journey.

Sunday camps are the perfect setting for several NGOs to practice their interventions on a single group of children – and for eager children to be exposed to a variety of learning opportunities.  The first Sunday camp took place in Ambedkar Nagar, near the Pepsi Factory in South East Bangalore.  We expected 30-40 children – 180 turned up.  Three partners in the coalition participated in this unique even: Dream A Dream, Magic Bus worked with children aged 8-13, and Akshara Foundation used Lego and Duplo to work with younger children.

Dream A Dream’s vision is to empower young people from vulnerable backgrounds through life skills.  One of its programmes uses arts activities and games to build self-esteem and leadership skills.  Through these children learn to value their uniqueness, appreciate their individuality and express themselves.  Working in teams helps build their team-skills, sense of worth, responsibility and discipline.  It develops critical life skills in a fun-filled, unobtrusive environment. The session lasted an hour and a half and the 80 or so children who took part were amazingly responsive.

Magic Bus is one of the largest mixed-gender programmes in the world, aiming to steer children towards a better life with better awareness, better life skills, and better opportunities.  Impact areas include school attendance, gender equality, health & hygiene and sexual & reproductive health.  They held four sessions aimed at different age-groups, all using football games designed especially to help build physical, social, and personal skills.

Akshara Foundation’s ultimate goal is to have every child in school and learning well.  Together with the LEGO Foundation they have created a programme to give school-readiness skills to 3-to-5 year olds, using a variety of games using colourful LEGO bricks.  Children were divided into groups.  The younger ones played games using different coloured duplo pieces, and the other groups built various constructions using teamwork.  The LEGO games were extremely popular, and when the children’s games had finished the mums were to be found playing with the LEGO themselves!

Plenty of lessons were learned in this first Sunday camp, but the most important was that this is an initiative with enormous potential.  The anganwadi played a key role in appointing several assistants in recruiting children and helping out on the day.  Parents, teachers, youth group leaders were all involved, with the eventual aim that they will take over the organization and running of what will be a regular event.  The most positive outcome was the reaction of the children, who flourished in an atmosphere of possibility and group play.

Next camp is planned for Sunday 11th August, if you would like to take part, or just come and watch, please contact Francesca on +91 95 38 303949 or email
Otherwise, watch this space for more updates.

Now, why do people run for a cause?

A wonderful guest post on why people run for a cause by Mala Kumar of Pratham Books!

The kid who ran for a cause!

Why do people run for a cause? Sounds good to say you’re running for a cause, of course, but really, why do people do this? And how does it help a cause? A quiet and anonymous donation does benefit a charitable organization. On the other hand, saying that one is running to help raise funds not only benefits the organization monetarily, but the organization too gets to be known by a lot of people who may want to support it in many different ways. Runs lead to awareness. And so it was my pleasure to run for Akshara Foundation, to raise funds for its preschool programme.

Preparation for the run involved talking about it, posting my intent on Facebook, going easy on the fatty stuff, and imagining the wind on my face when I ran with all the awesome people of this wonderful city. The actual physical training for the race was not much. It helped that the marathon trainer Santosh Padmanabhan of Runner’s High gave us some interesting tips on running, one of which is that if you can walk and talk without much effort, then you’re good to jog.

And amazingly over 22,000 people came out to run at the TCS World 10K Marathon on May 19, 2013. The atmosphere at Sri Kanteerva Stadium was infectious – everyone smiled at each other, people waited long enough to read each others’ banners. Young and old, fit and fat, first-timers and veterans stepped out together to run with a common goal – that of hope. The high-octane music inside the stadium, the fever, the ooohhhs and aahhhs of runners around me who spotted either actor Rahul Bose, or brand ambassador Puneet Rajkumar, or Maria Mutola, three-time World Champion, the hoots, whistles, wise-cracks and the crowds – unforgettable!

 I had a great day too – also because I met a very smart young boy. Running alongside his father, we assumed that since children were not allowed to participate, he would have joined his father at Cubbon Park at some point. The father and son slowed down to a walking pace, to be in step with us. “Did you walk all along ?” we asked the little one with awe. “No!” he said and ran ahead. “Ah, thought so…too long for a little boy,” I said. “No, he meant he did not walk, he ran!” said the father.

Krishnan Chatterji, we could not find out your address, or the preschool you probably go to, but for me, you carried a message – that if one runs along with someone doing good, you do good too. And that’s why I chose to run with Akshara Foundation.

Welcome to our new colorful and cheerful office !!

2012 has been a great year for Akshara Foundation. There has been a lot of excitement around our programmes, community events, volunteering events and many other such activities.

One such event was moving into a new, spacious office. Though our current office is very close to the older one, it is more spacious. We occupy the ground and the first floors while our friends at Pratham Books sit in the second floor. 

To make our work environment more appealing and encouraging, we decided to add a splash of color and give a make-over to the office. The once empty walls and pillar are now filled with colorful, attractive paintings. The idea was conceived by Megha Vishwanath of the KLP team and all of us at Akshara joined in to create this transformation. Here’s what Megha has to say:
A little splash of color welcoming you into your work day can never hurt, can it?! And on the contrary it’s that pleasant distraction for those who like to stare at something during those moments of deep or vacant thought. Having moved to our new office in early August, we decided it is no more staring at the white ceiling but staring at this vibrant pillar here in Akshara’s office.

The pillar was perfect for the build up of a horizon – all the way from green grass to blue skies. But the fact that one can go round a pillar lent to our imagination an interesting challenge. What goes round and round? Our very colorful answer turned out to be – “The carousel”! It’s one of those fun experiences – you put a coin in it, it takes you up and down, round and round and makes you feel all happy at the end of it. And what joy it brings to children! There were other elements a kite and a festoon that brought to the pillar the sense of a merry fair – an escapade and a moment of being a child again!

Under the staircase, in keeping with the theme, we had the larger than life expressions of some of the elements represented on the pillar as well – a dandelion (inspired by the KLP logo), clouds and the sun, a butterfly and colorful kites! 

While they fast disappear in the rest of this city, we decided to paint ourselves a line of trees – in different sizes and shapes all the way leading upto the pillar. Half a dozen little ones from a nearby Anganwadi graciously left us thumb-prints for the fall colors of the foliage. And that’s what will make these trees special for us! Note there’s an owl along the way – one of our colleagues insisted on having one – to negate the myth and superstition around this beautiful creature – and in the true spirit of co-existing with nature as splendid as it is!

A true collaborative effort, it had so many of our colleagues standing funnily sometimes, squatting, kneeling and in other unusual yogic stances to bring ourselves some happy times and reminder of who the benefactors of all our work are really!

Our office address is:
No. 621, 5th Main Road,
OMBR Layout,
Bangalore – 560043
Karnataka, India   

Do visit us at our new office and experience a great colorful, enthusiastic and cheerful work atmosphere !!