INITIATIVE Deepam’s aim is not just to make children literate but also to hone their overall development. MADHUMITHA SRINIVASAN
Plain literacy just isn’t enough; it’s computer literacy that is the need of the hour, felt Ram Vishwanathan, an IBM employee. And so Ram, Karthikeyan Vijayakumar, founder of Excedos, and a peer group formed Deepam with the main aim of teaching underprivileged children the basics of computer and helping them with the overall development of skills and personality.
*Bridge the divide’ and *Pass it on’ were the other contenders for the name, but they thought that *Deepam’ was better because they were, after all, “enlightening the children” with knowledge. Thus Deepam officially took off on April 26 this year with a bunch of volunteers who started taking classes at Nalamdana, a self-help group, in Perungudi.
“We take classes at places like government schools that might have computer lab facilities but are not able to provide time exclusively to teach the students,” says Archana Chauhan, an employee at Frost & Sullivan. But at places like Nalamdana’s Besant Nagar branch where they currently teach, apart from Olcott Memorial High School in the same area, the volunteers make use of laptops donated by its members and use the local community hall for the purpose.T
he volunteers at Deepam are professionals from diverse fields — IT employees, counsellors, businessmen, doctors and even some NSS groups from colleges. They teach the children (between Std VI and X) basic computer applications such as MS Word, MS Excel, Internet search applications, e-mail and MS Power Point. These constitute just 40 minutes of a two-hour session.
The rest of the session is dedicated to shaping their general knowledge, English skills and personality. During this, the kids are lectured to or invited to talk on any topic of interest, given assignments like finding out the international timelines and given a new word to learn every class.
The current 60-strong members of Deepam volunteer their time in turns every Saturday afternoon when the classes are conducted. At the completion of every course, the children are awarded a certificate each. So far about 60 kids have been through the course every month since April and some of them even keep in touch with their mentors via e-mail.
This self-funded group sees financial support pouring in from co-workers, friends and also peers in the US. Ram, who is also the founder of Chennai Runners, organises runs to collect funds for Deepam.
Now if you have the interest and the time and resources to spare, you are more than welcome to join them in their endeavour to create tech-savvy, well-informed citizens. Else if you have old laptops or computers in decent working condition that you can donate, please do so. For more details about Deepam or to volunteer your services, contact Karthikeyan at 9884217276 or Archana Chauhan at 9940314495.
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