Thursday, December 18, 2008

Deepam on 'The Hindu'

The Hindu has a story on Deepam in today's 'NxG' paper. Madhu, the journalist has written a good piece on the group, touching upon all aspects. The photo is from the 1st class we had at Perungudi in May 2008. The online version can be found here

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Teaching in Govt Schools

Hey Guys,

This story should settle the debate on 'teaching in Govt Schools' - I heard this from someone ( who teaches physics for class 11 / 12 at a Govt School in Coimbatore ). One of the most wonderful stories about a government official.

This one is about Karmegam, the C.E.O ( chief educational officer ) of Coimbatore , probably between 2007 and 2008. He was officer incharge of Government schools in this region.

  • He worked most days from 9 am to 1 am 
  • He would do random checks on Govt schools - Once he went to a rural school, as a saree-vendor. Teachers rushed in to take a look at the stock, during school hours.. no prizes for guessing on what happened after..
  • He made sure all govt schools had computers installed. He even gave away laptops to the schools - All the HM ( headmaster / headmistress ) were to email daily reports on teacher attendance , students performance and many more to the education dept
  • Daily reports were emailed out to schools - reports on checks done on schools by the 'flying' squad. He would land up in schools unannounced and would check on the class and the students. He would never tolerate any negligence of work. He took people to task on the spot ..
  • He brought in a 'teacher rating' system for the govt schools - All teachers would be graded relatively , across the region. The bottom rung were dealt with severely. 
  • He held an exam across the govt schools in the region, to test students' capabilities. The ones who were unable to meet the basic criterion were provided with extra coaching, to bring them up to speed
  • He would meet with most of the teachers personally, to understand the issues, through a townhall meeting !! All the non performing teachers, were dealt with in front of the entire teaching community!!
  • Whenever he was offered a gift, he would look for the nearest kid in the school , to give it away !!! When he was offered more than a lakh, as a reward for his efforts, he just donated that money for a non profit foundation :)
  • And this is the best... he sent his kids to a government school !
With more such people , am sure Deepam will have to look for a new cause to support !!!

P.S The person who mentioned this, was one of the teachers who met with him personally.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Weekend Notes..

I spent my last weekend at the besant nagar beach, playing frisbee for the Chennai team at a National Tournament. This post is not about that. But about the interesting event that happened during the games..

Some of the kids who we teach at Olcott School and at Nalamdana centre, wandered near the playing field. With the games being held under the lights and the Saturday evening attracting a lot of crowd, i spotted a couple of our kids at the game watching us play. No doubts on who and which team got the loudest cheers and support from these kids!!! and at one point, when we were trailing the opponent team, these kids were rooting for us and during the breaks they were with me, 'offering support' !!! 

I continue to benefit from these little kids. As Ram pointed out the other day, it would be arrogant if i claim that am 'giving back', as i seem to be the one who is benefitting!!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Children's Day 2008!

The Deepam volunteers had a small surprise planned for the kids at Olcott High School and Nalamdana Centre on Children's day.After a chain of mail and contributions of ideas and resources from the volunteers, we decided to give each student a goodie bag. Each goodie bag had a notebook and pen ( Paras from Infosys wanted to give away these as a homage to his grandfather),pencils and an option of either a tennis ball or watercolor (KK's idea)

Thanks to everyone at Deepam for making it possible. We owe the smile of the kids to each one of you :)

Friday, September 5, 2008

The little Joys!

The greatest satisfaction and happiness comes out of making some real impact with the things we do - Ever since i quit my regular job, the need to make a real impact is what drives me largely, to do things that i do now.
So, when Meera , an active volunteer at Deepam, e-mailed this on our e-group, it was a huge boost to the small effort a bunch of us had made thus far at Deepam ( Despite, me knowing that Meera was being a bit nice to us :), given her talents )
Here is the mail
Subject : How Deepam landed me ( Meera ) a scholarship
The interview went well, but there were a couple of determining factors. Here's how - 
Interviewer- So Meera, your work ex all seems ok. Also, we sometimes need to use complex software which is unknown to us. Right from our faculty, to the staff and students, we might need some instructing to use the software.
Have you ever had a chance where you taught people to use new software or technologies? 
Meera -This is really exciting. I, in fact really love teaching, especially computers/software. 
' I gave them a brief gist of Deepam and what we do here. I told her that we are a small group working to make literacy for lesser privileged children a reality. That we, apart from teaching them to use computers,also try to work on so many concurrent things like building their english, trying to get materials ready,and setting up a system for them, give certificates, encourage them to questions, read up on news.. etc '' 
She ( Interviewer ) was very impressed. 
Finally, this is what she ( Interviewer ) said - These kids, am sure are smart, and catch these software and concepts real quick. If you can teach lesser privileged kids, you surely need to stretch a bit more and be patient with our faculty and students here, and I'm sure you can teach them too. This is a really good job you are doing here. 
This came from the head of the department! Considering that this department is a behavioral science department, they were all the more impressed, and knew the impact of such voluntary work in the society. They told me they'd keep me informed about the position after the weekend. But, they gave me a call 30 minutes after the interview and told me I got the position. I was elated. 
The Deepam factor sure gave me a definite edge over the others.
I know working in Deepam gives immense satisfaction, but additionally for me, it helped in landing me a job + assistantship :) :)  "
Thanks Meera!!
It is wonderful having you with us!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Yaaay !!

Am very happy to post this one - One of the Sneham ( Infosys ) members Mr.Nandakumar donated a computer last week. We installed this computer in our classroom at Uroor kuppam area in besant nagar. A big thanks to him - since the computer was in good working condition and came with a table as well, it can be put to use from the next class onwards.

Here is the photo of the computer installed in the class room.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Connect

The Connect is a 'high' - Like the dancing the right moves to the beat , timing the ball perfectly well with the cricket bat , Pacing a 15 km run well over the course and sprinting to the finish, picking the right song for that car drive at night, packing the right "to-do's" in a day - never too much or little , business meetings going the way we'd prepared for and many more.

Yesterday i found a few more connects and high's during the Deepam class at Olcott School.

  • The kid we taught at the school trying to reply in English - His Tamil response and the sentence being translated and formulated in English by him ( and the joy on his face when we said he was right !! )
  • This other kid ( after being "talked to " by me ) going back to his computer and working along with his team mates and helping them with tricks of using Word processor
  • The class listening to Basu teach them and stopping him to ask questions !
  • Kids coming to class on time and finishing the 'home work '
The little joys on saturday afternoon !

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Deepam on Times of India!!!

It was nice to see Deepam featured in the Times of India paper on 14th July 08. The big goal for our group is to positively affect 1000 kids by 2010. Media mentions such as this will surely help us gather more support in the goal chase !

Here is the online article. If you want to know more about Deepam, please go to

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Congratulations ! Volunteers of the Month- June and July

Congratulations Meera and Mohan - You Truly Inspire Us !

Volunteers are the lifeline for "Deepam". As a not-for-profit volunteer organisation, we have limited funding available for recognition, although we have so many volunteers who are deserving.We have a group who works together on a regular basis and meets every week.We decided to recognize such efforts in front of the people who they volunteer for." Deepam" decided to recognise their passion to impart computer knowledge ,build self confidence in the kids at a grass root level by providing them a small certificate.This is a very small memorabilia in comparison to all the work they put in behind the scene and also on the field.

For the month of June - hands down Meera won this certificate.Knowing Meera for the last three months has been a great pleasure.She has been one of those volunteers who would never bother how far the class was and ride her scooty all the way ( sometimes more than 30 km in the hot afternoons) to be there to guide the kids and solve all their queries.The kids wait eagerly for her to enter the class and you should see some people rush to be a part of her group when she starts teaching them.A very patient , humorous confident girl, she is also a great translator for me when I am stuck with some words I would like to express in Tamizh.She volunteered to choose and purchase the Classroom teaching CD's and is also one of the lead volunteers we could bank on :)

Kudos to your enthusiasm and continued dedication.You truly deserve to be our first " Volunteer of the Month" awardee.

The Volunteer of the month for July was unanimously voted for Mohan.Punctuality is one word that defines Mohan amidst most of us at Deepam.He would be there almost 10 minutes before the session starts and interact with the kids.A very passionate runner he also helped us and still helps us run our classes successfully at Nalamdana,Besant Nagar.A very patient teacher he helped the kids learn internet tools and is currently helping us teach Microsoft Word to them.

A big bow for all your help and hope your journey at Deepam continues....

To become a member of Deepam and help the kids learn and have a brighter future-Join us now.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Deepam- How it Changed "ME" :)

One of Life’s important lessons learnt from the kids who have been a part of Deepam

I suspect that the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention. And especially if it's given from the heart. When the kids are talking, expressing, there’s no need to do anything but receive them. Just take them in. Listen to what they're saying. Care about it. Most times caring about it is even more important than understanding it. Most of us don't value ourselves or our love enough to know this. It has taken me along time to believe in the power of simple saying, "I'm so sorry," when someone is in pain. And meaning it. These classes have helped me do that. They have been an eye opener for me in more than one way.

When I was volunteering one of the classes at Nalamdana Perungudi I remember one child who used to have serious doubt on every sentence I was teaching them about MS Word. Initially I got a bit frustrated but later understood that the kid genuinely didn’t seem to have much knowledge and hence was inquisitive to know more. This incident was an eye opener and I learnt my lesson of being patient, listening patiently and again answering patiently.

I have even learned to respond to someone who needs help by just listening to what they have to say. In the old days I used to reach for the tissues, until I realized that passing a person a tissue may be just another way to shut them down, to take them out of their experience of sadness and grief. Now I just listen. It works the same when people are excited with something that has left them happy. Listening to all the good things they have to share and being there beside them is the best gift one can give another. I have been quite a talkative child and now teaching at Deepam has helped me to listen to all the queries, all the stories that the kids have to share. It has also made me change to certain extent at my workplace where I have started listening before I opine on something.

This simple thing has not been that easy to learn. It certainly went against everything I had been taught since I was very young. I thought people listened only because they were too timid to speak or did not know the answer. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well intentioned words.

Thanks to Deepam I have started listening ……..

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Its time to dream again...

New beginnings throw open immense possibilities - They let us dream . Last weekend , we saw a new beginning at Deepam - Deepam is partnering with Sneham ( the corporate social responsibility wing of Infosys ) to take the computer education to more kids. We had our friends from Infosys at our class in Besant Nagar on Saturday and straight away, they outnumbered our volunteers . We had 13 volunteers at the class on Saturday . It was great to see our little class room packed with kids and volunteers !!!!

Along with Sneham, we are going to start off our 3rd program next week, in Besant Nagar.

Thanks to Amreetha and Vijay for taking the initiative to bring Deepam with Sneham, Infosys !

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Volunteer of the Month

We are not even at the end of June but this month's ' Volunteer of the Month ' is a very easy decision.

When we stepped into the class this afternoon, the person's name was on the lips of the children - wondering why the person didn't come today. Goes to show the influence the person has had over the kids since the start of the session at Besant Nagar.

And the person also didn't shy away from initiatives - Along with Archana, she brought the idea of introducing some knowledge games to the kids. Importantly, made sure the idea got implemented - taking time off during a weekday to go hunt for the games , bringing them over to the kids and getting them to play :)

Thanks Meera ! You are our Volunteer of the Month !!!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Class at Besant Nagar !

Deepam started off its 2nd computer program at Besant Nagar. Thanks to Nalamdana, we have a clean place (with a great view of the sea ) where we teach the kids, at the Olcott Kuppam area.

Start Date : May 24 , 2008
Place : Olcott Kuppam, Besant Nagar
Class : Saturdays - 2 PM to 4 PM
Duration : 4 Months

Ram lead the class, taking the kids through an interesting path, trying to get the kids to open up and ask questions. He began by getting the kids to talk about the dreams and openly encouraging the kids to go after the dreams.

In a subtle way, he was making the kids think , leading them into areas they have never been before - the master at work ! It was a lesson for not just the kids - for us volunteers as well !! From thirukural to tamil movies, civil engineering to animation, input / output devices to MS Paint, the kids were taken through an interesting session.

The kids then had their "hands-on" session - they let their creativity free on MS Paint. It sure was a happy feeling to see the kids hooked on to the laptop, exploring MS Paint - they probably know more tricks with the tool than many of us do !!!

Personally, the class is a source of great joy . The times spent with the happy kids just whizz past ! Every time in the last 2 weeks, i had gone on near empty gas ( late night work .. ) but came out of the session charged up. The kids' energy levels rub off on us !! Their smartness keeps us on our toes . The class' also serve as a way to discover myself as a person - it teaches me to be patient all the time . This is a class where learnings happen both sides - both the volunteers and the kids learn :)

If you guys have the time, just feel free to drop in during the class.


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Highly 'Nalam' after Nalamdhana ;-)

Yeah really.I felt very good about myself and the team at the end of the first set of classes at Nalamdhana. So did the kids, they seemed pretty excited in getting certificates and seeing it all being made 'official' with a test :)
These set of kids were very bright and bubbly, and it made us happy that we could sustain their interest for a long time. In fact, some of them were asking for more stuff like Photoshop, and some wanted time to play games!
While talking to some of them on their dreams and ambitions, it was heartening to see that many of them had clearly decided what they wanted to do in life.There was even one who wanted to be a marine engineer. And those who wanted to become computer engineers had their set of questions for me.. where do you work? How much do you earn? When I didn't divulge that, they were making guesses..Is it more than Rs.4000?.. What do you do at work? Do you play any sport? When I said I did play sport: I can't believe you play sports.. You seem very quiet! :)
All of them did great in the tests, I just hope we can come up with a plan sometime to probably donate old computers so that they could be in constant touch with whatever they learnt.
These weekends spent at Nalamdhana were great fun and a learning experience for all of us volunteers. Hoping to continue..!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Course Completion at Nalamdana :)

The Basic MS Office course was completed at Nalamdana yesterday.It was real fun teaching this bunch of enthusiastic kids and a very good experience for all of us.An individual test was conducted for them on one of the MS Office programs before we presented them with the certificates.

Volunteers: Meera, Amreetha,Nanditha,Karthik and Archana

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Deepam Certificates

The Deepam Certificates for the students will be distributed at Nalamdana on the 11th of May between 12.00 pm to 12.30 pm.It would be nice to have all our Volunteers present at the venue on Sunday.This will mark the successful completion of our first computer workshop :)

Monday, April 28, 2008

Deepam off the Blocks!

Saturday 26th of April 2008 was certainly a big day for Deepam - it took close to 3 months for an idea to see the light of day. Deepam is finally off the blocks - With a bunch of passionate volunteers in place, Deepam partnered with Nalamdana to teach MS Office to kids.

Place : Nalamdana , Perungudi - Chennai.
No of Students : 15
Volunteers : Namratha, Ebin , Nanditha , Archana , Ram Prakash and KK

Here are some photos taken during the class.