“Knowledge should become our capital asset.”
– Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam (11th President of India and the nation’s beloved youth icon)
Dr. Kalam believed that every child should have access to books and library as a matter of right. Continuing on his missions, the Kalam Library project is providing opportunities to create a nation of lifelong learners. The Kalam Library Project is a flagship initiative of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Centre that aims to ignite the young minds of India with the power of knowledge. Children in the lower income strata do not have access to reading books, other than a few course books. Moreover, very few avenues for interactive learning, experiential knowledge creation, customized learning and mentorship are available to such children. The project addresses these challenges by operating more than 80 Kalam libraries across 14 states in India. The mentors of the project are some well-known people from various backgrounds of the industry and society, including Srijan Pal Singh, CEO of Kalam Centre and former OSD to Dr. Kalam. Mr. Singh also co-authored 3 books with him.
What is the model?
These libraries are all in remote areas, villages, slums areas, under-resourced schools and children observation homes. Their operations are based on a simple low/zero-cost model in which the libraries are administered by a network of volunteers. The donor contacts the volunteer to collect books, who dispatches them to ambassador after documenting them. The ambassador updates his database and then sends the books to various libraries for readers to read. Besides new books, many have been stocked with second hand books from citizens. Eventually, the ownership of the library is passed onto the community. Some of these libraries are digitally integrated with a computer setup to ensure that every child has access to knowledge in the form of books and digital content. Kalam Libraries across India serve also serve as interactive spaces for various capacity building workshops for students and teachers and creative events related to sports, music and art.
Kalam Library Project in Gujarat
Charmy Pandya and Bhavya Pandya, two young members of Kalam Centre’s vast outreach and volunteer network, regularly organize a lecture series called “Kalam Kehte The” on the thoughts, dreams and missions of Dr. Kalam in Ramdevnagar, Ahmedabad. One of the objectives of these workshops is to create awareness about social causes amongst children, who become brand ambassadors of promoting the message within their communities.
Started on 15th October 2019 as a tribute to Dr. Kalam on his birth anniversary, their first session included interactions on various topics such as India Vision 2020, India of My Dreams, From Missile Man to Smile Man, and Small Aim is a Crime. This was followed by a drawing and essay competition to inspire creative thinking along these themes. Charmy conducted the second session of the lecture series at Mehta Thaker School in Sabarmati and shared Dr. Kalam’s thoughts on ambition and handling failure. The session ended with an interactive question and answer round with the students.
Charmy has also been instrumental in starting 4 new Kalam Libraries in Ahmedabad and Rajkot alone, including 2 new ‘digital’ libraries.
In the words of the young changemaker
About how she first got involved with the project, Charmy said, “I came to know about Kalam Library Project during ‘Kalam Livable Planet Conclave 2016’ which was organized in Lucknow. During the two days of the conclave, I met many distinguished persons and learned more about Dr. Kalam dreams and vision for India. After coming back from the conclave, an idea came in my mind to open Kalam Library in Observation home for the juvenile delinquents.”
Further speaking about the challenges she faced in implementing her idea, she explained, “I faced many difficulties in explaining this project to the management of the observation home, to get permission, to get funds, to collect the books etc. But after doing hard work, I succeed in setting up my first Kalam Library in Observation home for boys, Ahmedabad. After this, three more Kalam Libraries were opened by me in Rajkot in Observation and Children’s home.”
When asked about her future plans with the project, she replied, “I have learned many new things while working in this project. I have also developed in-depth knowledge of Dr. Kalam’s vision, mission and dreams. I aimed to open Kalam Library in all observation homes of Gujarat to help the juvenile delinquents to enlighten their young minds and to get them in mainstream.”
Such noble initiatives undertaken by the bright young minds of the nations surely require recognition and appreciation, which is why Charmy has been appointed as an honorary ‘Under Secretary’ of Kalam Centre’s youth leadership team. Borrowing words from Dr. Kalam, ” We will win, win, win, with our mighty will.“