Saturday is busier than any weekday for Gowdhaman, who works as Systems Analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland. This is because he travels to Arunavoyal village—about 42 kilometers from Chennai —to teach children spoken English and extra-curricular activities every Saturday.

Gowdhaman is engaged in social work along with his former colleagues Madeena and Leelavathy, for over three years. While he was working for William’s League, it was an email that triggered the volunteering spirit in him.

“We received an appeal to support the educational expenses of Arjun, the son of a housekeeping staff Mr. Srinivasan. We learnt that Arjun stood first in class and his family could not afford his educational expenses. I volunteered to fundraise for him and mobilised Rs. 3000 from my fellow staff and remitted the fees on time. A copy of the bill was shared with the donors via email and this encouraged me to help more children and offer my services to the society.”

“On another occasion, a visually impaired person wanted to pursue her teacher training but could not afford Rs. 15,000 as fees. I mailed an appeal to my contacts in India as well as abroad and mobilised the funds. This incident made me realise that everyone wants to extend their support for a good cause, but do not know how. There were two sets of people – one who can only make a monetary contribution and the other who can volunteer his/her time and service,” said Gowdhaman.

Madeena, Leelavathy and Gowdhaman helped the visually impaired students to write scribes during their free time. At once such instance, Leelavathy helped a visually impaired student to write his examination at CSIM. She learnt about the courses that was offered and discussed with Ms. Latha Suresh, about their volunteering efforts. Ms. Latha advised her to enrol in the short term course and learn to effectively coordinate the social work activities.

“I shared this information with Gowdhaman and Madeena, and all three of us decided to enrol for the Social Entrepreneurship Outlook Programme in July 2009. What was common amongst us is our helping nature,” said Leelavathy.

Gowdhaman says: “We wanted to register a trust for a very long time, but were not confident to start one until I enrolled at CSIM. I have registered a Trust named ‘Compassion’ during September 2009, for which I am the Founder and Managing Trustee. Madeena and Leelavathy continue to volunteer their time to teach the children at Arunavoyal. Compassion Trust has a policy to extend 70 to 80% of the financial support that is sought for. The intention is to make the beneficiary participate and take ownership in the activity they engage in. At instances when they cannot afford to fulfil the entire need, they are referred to other donors for support.” “Our objective is to extend educational support to the under privileged children in rural areas who lack support from any other NGO. We mobilise funds from our friends and pay honorarium of Rs. 600 a month to Ms. Madhumitha, the teacher who manages the tuition centre at Arunavoyal.”

“Around 30 volunteers are associated with the education programme and in this five of them take turns to visit the village every week. Children are provided training on spoken English, sports and other extra-curricular activities. Play way method is used for teaching and children enjoy the word building games and sports. Those who were finding it difficult to read English can now write more than 200 words. Real-time inspiring stories are also narrated to the children .Weekend assignments are given and the children are encouraged to use the community library.”

“English classes are conducted in the morning and games are organised in the evening. During examinations, children are advised on how to manage stress and plan their study. The children are good in sports and have the potential to excel at the district and state level. What they lack is proper guidance. Around 30 children attend the weekend classes regularly and more than 65 children participate in sports activities. All the program activities are recorded so that it will help the volunteers replicate the weekend program in other villages.”

“When I attended an interview at Google, I was not selected as I was over qualified for the position. My aim is to see that the children in the rural areas are as competent as the urban children in education as well as communication skills,” he said.

“Children’s are very friendly with the volunteers and like to spend more time with them. The confidence level of the children has increased and I am very happy to see the change in them. Initially, I wondered if the city volunteers would be able to adapt with the village children. But now, I am amazed to see their performance,” says Madhumita.

“We want to improve the level of education of these children. They learn very quickly and are obedient. This motivates us and we want to help them more. We will continue our good work forever,” says Madeena.

“I like the Word Building game and I can identify many words now. I used to hesitate to speak English, but now I am confident to speak the language. A lot of competition and games are organised which is really encouraging,” says Jayakumar, a student.

If you wish to know more about the trust, please contact Mr. Gowdhaman at 9884056355 or email gowdhaman@gmail.com

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