Pratham 12:29:00 PM
We can find a ray of hope in the darkest corners of the world. It is one of these dark corners where we met Asha Dolhare, a volunteer with Pratham’s Library program.
As we moved from one house to another during a Library review visit in a village in Talasari we encountered many ignorant parents who had little knowledge about the whereabouts of their children in the evening. “He goes to that house to do some homework”, father of 10 year old Kalpana replied. She has been attending Pratham’s library program every evening. It starts getting dark after 7 pm. There are no street lamps and children would study under a mere light bulb in one of the houses. Their only source of light evaded them due to power cut at 6.45 pm. Some children continued reciting tables while others decided to wrap up their activity sheets and head home in the darkness.
“I would like you to meet one of our volunteers,” said Kanchan, a CRL who was accompanying us in her set of villages. We set off to the volunteer’s house in pitch darkness. As we walked passed scattered huts in the village we could see a faint white light from a crack in the door of a house some 100 metres away. As we approached the house we were greeted by someone who looked like a girl in her teens. A few children appeared from the darkness and followed us to the house.
“She is a volunteer with us,” said Kanchan. “She conducts library in the evening. About 8-10 children or more come to her verandah and work with our activity sheets,” she added.
“What is your name?” I asked. She smiled. We were at her doorstep but we were not aware of her name yet. “My name is Asha Dolhare. I live here with my husband and 2 children.” Asha replied. Her daughter clutched at her hand and gave us a meek smile. She invited us in her house. The source of light was a battery powered bulb. She is a tailor and supports the family by stitching blouses and kurtis during the day. This is when we noticed that Asha has a slight limp in her right foot.
We were complete strangers for her but she is more than eager to share her story with us. Asha attended school till 10th grade. It was on the last day of her examination that her father passed away.
She did not receive her certificate. The family’s financial situation compelled her to quit school and get married. Today, at 30 years of age, Asha has a beautiful family and she is as instrumental in supporting the family. Her children attend school and her husband works at a nearby ‘company’ like most of the other residents of the village.
Asha helps her children with their homework. She met Kanchan one evening and was informed about the library program. She liked the concept and requested to be a part of it. She took the initiative of gathering children from neighboring houses and distributed activity sheets. She loved solving their problems and helping her own children with topics beyond their school syllabus. “The stories and puzzles are enlightening. At times I get engrossed in solving them,” she said. Her body language was that of confidence and excitement. She asked us questions as well. She expressed her desire to complete 10th grade and enroll for a course in nursing.
“My husband supports me and he wants me to fulfil my dream,” she added. She sits with the children every evening with her own study material. She is preparing to attempt the pending subject to pass through 10th grade. “It is encouraging to see children absorbed in their books and sheets at a time when they usually wander in the village. They are my motivation,” said Asha.
Volunteering for the library gave Asha a sense of purpose and a boost to her ambitions. She not only makes time for studying but also works with the children encouraging them to explore possibilities.