Friday, December 16, 2005

Off On Holiday...

Going back "home" for three weeks after more than a year. Really, really looking forward to Einstein Bagel, Panera Bread, Bertucci's, California Pizza Kitchen, Oodles Noodles, Chevy's....Oh, and going back home, of course.

Thought for the New Year

New years bring new beginnings. If you have already started thinking along the lines of New Years' Resolutions and if one of your resolutions happens to be volunteering for a cause that's close to your heart, I hope you are able to do it.

But if you are strapped for time and cannot volunteer but are considering donating funds to a cause, I urge you to consider Project Why. Charu at Indsight has a post that explains a pledge drive that Project Why has undertaken. Simply put, find out how much a rupee a day could do for a child's life.

Here's wishing you a very happy and prosperous new year and wishing the earth no tsunamis, no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no 9/11s, 3/11s or 7/7s, and less of pollution and littering.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Akshara Update and Thank You!

There has been a flurry of e-mails over the last week ever since I put up this post calling for volunteers. After the dust has settled down somewhat, I am thrilled and proud to report that 35 volunteers have come forward to assist Akshara in the various phases of their Read Bangalore Project.

Thank you to all those who volunteered, thank you everyone that spread the word, and thank you to everyone who wrote in their best wishes for the project.

Crossposted on Everymanscity.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Akshara - First Steps in the Read Bangalore Project

As I've mentioned here and here, Akshara Foundation has undertaken a project in association with the Karnataka State Department of Education for augmenting the reading skills of primary school children (in classes 2 to 7) in about 1,374 goverment primary schools in and around Bangalore.

Once the initial base-line assessments are done (i.e., assessments of the level at which the students are currently reading and processing language), Akshara expects that about 72,000 (of about 1,90,000) children in these schools will need remedial help to bring their language skills to where they should be for their age.

Last Saturday, Bhaskar, Akash, Surjo, Mandar, Kelly and I met with Col. Rajan and Mr. Ravi Kumar of Akshara Foundation to go over what they need in terms of volunteer help. At that meeting they gave us a broad-brush presentation which gave us an idea of the scale of the project, its objective, the number of schools and the number of children involved, the kind of teacher training that will be necessary in order for the project to be successfully executed (about 3,600 goverment teachers will need to be trained to teach the children language skills over a period of 45 days), and an idea of the kind of logistics involved.

Today I had another meeting with Col. Rajan and Mr. Ashok Kamat (a trustee on Akshara's Board) regarding the first steps in this project in which we can we involved. The steps I'm describing below are only those steps in which we, as volunteers, can be involved in. There are various other pieces of the puzzle that Akshara is working on separately.

The work that needs to be completed over the next 3 and 1/2 months can be divided into two discrete steps:

1. Data Collection: There are three kinds of data that need to be collected - School data, Teacher data and Student data. To begin with, the Karnataka State Department of Education will provide Teacher and Student data to Akshara which Akshara is accepting for the time-being.

School data, on the other hand, will be primarily collected by Akshara. This is where we, the voluteers, come in. Starting December 15, 2005, Akshara will need voluteers to go to each of the schools (addresses and directions will be provided by Akshara), stand there at the location with a GPS receiver (which will also be provided by Akshara) and figure out the exact GPS location (latitudes and longitudes) of that school so the location of every single school under the project can be pin-pointed on a map.

The city is divided into 9 education blocks (with 77 clusters), so it would be possible for voluteers to pick an area and go to all the schools in a couple of clusters, for example, rather than criss-crossing the city and going all over the place.

All this work can be done on weekends and holidays (the schools need not be open for this purpose). The deadline for this step of the project is January 31, 2006.

2. Data Entry: All the data that comes in (School, Teacher and Student) will need to be keyed into computers. A couple of you had asked me if data entry can be done at home on personal computers and I confirmed today that that is possible. Data entry can be done at home and the spreadsheets can be e-mailed to Akshara. Alternatively, data entry can also be done at any of the 9 block offices of Akshara where they have dedicated computers for this purpose.

Akshara anticipates that this phase of the project will begin February 1, 2006 and the deadline is 31, March 2006.

What we need to do now is to let Akshara know which of these two phases each of the voluteers is interested in. Please leave a comment on this post with your preferance and I'll tabulate it so Akshara has a clear idea of where they have help and where they need more.

Please comment.

Crossposted on Everymanscity.

P.S. This is the 100th post on this blog. Somehow, seems fitting.

Update 1: Just wished to clarify that after the completion of the two steps described above, there will be follow-up work in the data analysis and assessment areas. Many of you have expressed interest in those areas as well, and there is plenty of opportunity to be involved in that. Thanks.

Update 2: Global Voices has linked to this effort here. Thank you Global Voices.

Update 3: Anita Bora at Just a Little Something links to this post here. Thank you Anita.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Crazy Saturday Evening

It began at 3 pm and ended at 1 am.

At 3 pm, I left to go to the Akshara meeting. It took me an hour and a half to reach Cox Town from South Bangalore. The meeting lasted an hour and a half and then back on the roads for another hour's drive back home. Then off again to my parents' house further south than our house to drop off N for his sleep over.

And then, the car ride of a life time, through the lanes and bylanes and non-existent roads of Bommanahalli and Rupen Agrahara (never knew these areas existed in Bangalore until yesterday), through what I can only describe as Martian landscape, to Airport Road/Maratahalli which we reached an hour and fifteen minutes later.

Finally to the airport from Maratahalli and then back home.

At the end of the evening, V was on a plane, N was at a sleepover with his grandparents, uncle and aunt (my brother and sister-in-law), and I was home alone.

For the first time in the last five years, seven months and twelve days, the three of us spent the night in different places.

Akshara Volunteer Meeting

Bhaskar, Akash, Surjo, Mandar, Kelly and I had a useful meeting with Col. Rajan and Mr. Ravi Kumar of Akshara Foundation yesterday. More about the meeting and its outcome in a short while.

Those who wanted to come but were unable to, don't despair, there'll be plenty of opportunity to catch up and be involved.

Crossposted on Everymanscity.

Peter Weir to Direct Shantaram

According to a PTI report that was carried in The Hindu, Peter Weir is all set to direct Johnny Depp as Shantaram. Master and Commander, Far Side of the World is one of N's favorite movies and I've enjoyed that and many of Weir's other films - Picnic at Hanging Rock, Dead Poets Society, The Truman Show.

Johnny Depp, Peter Weir and Shantaram - a deadly combination to say the least.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Volunteer Meeting at Akshara Foundation

A group of us Bangalore Bloggers is meeting with Col. Murthy Rajan, COO, Akshara Foundation on Saturday, December 3rd at 4 pm.

The purpose of the meeting is to go over the areas in which we can help Akshara in their work. For background information on Akshara Foundation, the latest project they have undertaken, and the areas in which they are seeking help, please see this post on Everymanscity.

If you are interested, please come, join us!

Here is the address at which the meeting will be held on Saturday:

Akshara Foundation,
New 129/1 MM Road cross,
Cox Town,B'lore-5
( close to Frazer town police station).

Hope to see you there!