"Every day do some writing & whenever you can keep reading"

Observations from Dr. Vikram Dutt

(A recognized authority (in USA and UK) on Paraplegic Legislation, visiting faculty in U.K. and U.S.A. universities. He is called upon to evaluate working of NGOs in India and on behalf of Home of Hope, California.)
On Feb 12, 2008 5:38 AM, vikram dutt wrote:
My visit to Akola and Pune -
I have had some of the most exciting days of a fairly eventful life in the voluntary sector!
Best things first:

1. HOH is funding an independent project called 'PaanPoee' which is taken from a poem by Sumant Pendharkar's grand-uncle and Padma Bhushan awardee, a wonderfully gifted Marathi poet… Kavi Yashwant; the word means 'Gyan Piao' or the watering place - for those thirsty for knowledge. WOW!

2. These books are carefully carried in water proof satchels which have been innovatively designed so that there are no zips (only straps and plastic buckles) for long lasting use.
3. The books are stored in steel almirahs, where available, so that they are safe.
4. The selection of the titles are done by Mr and Mrs Pendharkar, personally. The selection includes books which are requested by the readers (like Abdul Kalam's Wings of Fire and Kiran Bedi's I Dare) and cover topics like biographies of leaders like Vivekanand (now you know why Sumant's elder brother is named Vivek), Bhagat Singh, Netaji Subhas Bose, Gandhiji, Bhagat Singh to classics like the Panchatantra. A Register is carefully maintained and each book, in true library-science style, is labeled.
5. As of now, the Panpooe library has about 1000 titles and about 8000 books (since the same titles could be in multiple libraries). Till HOH's contribution of $2000, all the expenses were borne by the Pendharkars' themselves.
6. PaanPoee works alongside VRDC, a 26 year old NGO which has an extremely innovative method of spreading awareness and literacy leading to self-confidence among the women and their children. They select village women who may be just 10^th pass and then train them through a six month course. These trained teachers then influence thought and action in their respective villages and communities. They belong to many religions and castes.
8. TQM? They have it all….
Sumant's parents are visionaries. HOH is on a roll in associating with such people. I wonder why Sumant was playing down the great and marvelous role that his parents have played and are continuing to play!

Regards -- Vikram
Report from Dr. Nilima Sabharwal, Pathologist, Kaiser Hospitals, USA and Founder: Home of Hope, California
My visit to the Village-Library Movement ‘‘PaanPoee’’ Villages on 24th March 2009
“What an amazing, elderly couple named Nirmal and Sharad Pendharkar ….the Founders/Brains of the ‘PAANPOEE’ LIBRARY MOVEMENT.
‘PaanPoee’ means…free fountain - of Knowledge!
This started 8 yrs ago…with just 25 books in a cloth bag…. sent to a village.
Who would have ever imagined?…that these 25 books in a cloth bag would mushroom into an uncontrollable …epidemic, called READITITIS
I can’t find any other way to describe it! Like Vikram Dutt said…. It is MIND BOGGLING!
One has to experience it to understand it.
About Nirmal and Sharad Pendharkar
They are the parents of HOH committee member, Sumant.
What a Dynamic energized couple…specially the mom, Nirmal. They started this humble project, 8 yrs ago in their home, with their own personal funds. They started by selecting books of rhymes, stories, pictures for village children...to hold, handle and gaze at! They put this in water proof canvas bags which was the birth of the portable library…with NO infra structure!
All FREE!! They were surprised at the response. .The kids LOVED it, the parents Loved it…The Grand Parents LOVED it. There was an unquenchable thirst...they wanted MORE and MORE!
It was unstoppable….out of control! ‘PaanPoee’ reached over 80 villages with over 4000 books.

Last year HOH joined this movement….and thanks to HOH...added another 800 books …reaching out to 40 centers…to up to 250 villages …WOW!

Today I visited 3 villages, in the outskirts of Pune to witness this phenomenon….First hand

My visit to Somatane I was impressed by the tiny tots...all holding books. There were books…books everywhere!

I met the teacher Swat Pataki…who carries these cloth bags full of books and walks for miles to remote villages. The villagers welcome her as a HERO! She reads to the villagers. The villagers who can read…literally devour the books. It is treated like a gift from the Gods! She stays up to 3 hrs…but it is not enough …they want MORE! Some beg to keep the books for a day, for which a meager fee of Rs 10/yr is charged. Some young kids are willing to pay this from their meager earnings!

My visit to BAALWAADI (Hut School) in Dhamane Village

I entered a Baal Waadi school...which is a basic hut! … The kids were sitting on the floor. I asked them to read. And they would NOT stop! They were barely 10 yrs old. I interviewed them and actually got a “complex”… I felt very “unread” compared to them. They all rattled off…so many names of books…

Nirmal and Sharad take great pains in finding quality books on every subject….specially inspirational leaders. ..like Obama! The books are updated.

I was impressed by the simple, primitive method of keeping track and monitoring the progress of the child.

After the book is read, the child writes a brief book report. This is kept on file.

I got to read some book reports ...and I was just blown away!

A 10 yr old boy had written….”I learned that Goodness comes from inside…and by doing good to others...it brings goodness...”.So profound! For a 10 yr old village boy

Some kids are so inspired by the inspirational leaders…and want to become like them. They gave speeches, quoting these leaders.

I can go on and on…. I am totally amazed at this phenomenon!

These kids have NO distraction…no TV, no video games, no cell phones, computers….NOTHING! They have soft copy books…that’s all! They hold it and gaze at the pictures… that are just bare bones. Caricature .rarely in color!

After seeing this… I can say with confidence… these 10 yrs old Baal Waadi kids are more well-read than any10 yr old kid in the US or City kid of India.

This is truly a miracle!!

My visit to Zilla Parishad, Wadgaon

The kids and teachers amazed me with their creativity…and ability to create from nothing! They are true poster child of recycling and conservation. They use broken bangles, pencil shavings etc …amazing art work!

Again there were stacks of books….. everywhere. It is like an infectious epidemic…because I felt like sitting with them and reading!

How can HOH EMPOWER this Project?

I feel HOH can make major difference thro the

Mobile Van Project.

They have recently (last month) rented a van that can carry up to 1000 books, in addition to toys. This Van can go to up to 30 remote villages /month and reach up to 5000 kids/month. This will cost $2500 -$3000/yr. They cannot afford this

The advantage of rental is… there is NO maintenance. No repairs, no driver fees …nothing.

The human portable system

Here the teacher carries cloth bags of books and can only reach 10 villages/month…reaching to up to 500 kids /month!

If HOH can sponsor the Van Rental for $3k/yr... the books can reach to 5000+500= 5500 kids/month

Imagine EMPOWERING 5000 more kids every month!

The human portable system will remain… the Van will not replace it. The Van is just an addition to reach more villages and kids

They shared with me… it would be a God Send… if HOH sponsored the Van Rental for $3k/yr

This is one area …where HOH can get a BIG BANG for its BUCK! (my 2 cents)

I am writing this journal on the train back to Mumbai.

This trip has been an awakening for me. I also did not realize the extent of the DYNAMIC ENERGY in the villages of India….that is just waiting to be tapped into.

It is sad that the villages are forgotten, left behind and don’t exist on the map...and in most peoples world view!

I can’t forget those kids…..they are so pure, untouched with a zest and unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They have pure, unadulterated motivation and enthusiasm….

It took rare souls like the Pendharkars to recognize it…..Bless Them! And Bless HOH for connecting with them.

The PaanPoee Project has a team of Passionate, younger people …who will carry the torch.

I met them…..Sunanda Navale, Sushma Sathey, Anjali, Salunke, Bharthi Bhide...... All these women seemed very motivated and energized. Some are visionaries…like Sunanda, who recently visited Banglore to do some special course in Library Management and Organization. Anju has taken Computer courses and is very tech savvy.

The Pendharkars are not alone…they have managed to ignite the spark in many younger women……who seem to be as charged as them.

They told HOH…not to worry…. The legacy of PaanPoee will live on for ever!