A Community Initiative – Books for All
“Never failing friends are they, with whom I converse day by day”…Truly, nothing quite in the world gives pleasure and a warm snuggle like the smell of new books and the bright eyes reading them. And a treasure of books in form of a library is like a storehouse to explore and learn about the world sitting at one place.
A healthy reading habit can transform a person and eventually access to books and reading material can transform a community. But sadly, many children, youngsters, men and women in rural India don’t have access to this repository of knowledge and learning.
To change this scenario, a group of young people from a small village in Maharashtra set on the path to transform their community’s thinking and successfully made the dream come true of having a library in their village. This is a story from a small village, Menda, falling under Garada Gram Panchayat in Nagpur, Maharashtra in Diocese of Nagpur. The village has around 84 household populations consisting majorly of schedule caste families.
The youth in the village are energetic and want to do something for their village, but there is always a resistance from the elders. At the community hall in the village, whenever there are meetings, the whole community gathers for discussions and it is the elders, also members of the People’s collective known as Manaviya Hakka Sangharsa Sammity (MHSS), who usually decide what is to be done for the village. The youth of the community are not encouraged to participate actively in the meetings and are mostly expected to keep quiet. They feel reluctant to talk in front of the elders, as in many occasions the elders have been dismissive of their ideas and thinking. For this reason, there has been tension in the village because the youth feel that their opinion is not heard and no one gives them any attention or motivation. The elders feel that the youth do not know much and their ideas are not important.
During one field visit in the village, the DBSS/NDDA staff felt this growing tension in the community and to address it, a discussion with the SBSS and DBSS staff was held and a strategy was developed in a community meeting.
In the community meeting, everyone was given an opportunity to share and discuss about the different issues pertaining to their village. The youth were reluctant to speak at first in front of the elders fearing that they will be rebuked for their ideas. However, the DBSS staff encouraged them to speak. During the discussion, the youth group suggested that they wanted to have a library in the village as the children and the youth have to go to other villages to read books because they don’t have a library yet in their village. The DBSS staff gladly acknowledged their view in front of the gathering in order to boost their morale.
The elders also seemed to be pleased with the idea and with further detailed discussions; a plan to open a community library was initiated. Later in another meeting, the land for construction of the library was allotted by the elders near the community hall, which is in the center of the village, so that it is easily accessible to everyone.
The construction was started through community contribution and after months of working together, the village library was finally completed and inaugurated on 27th July 2018 in the presence of all the community members.
The books for the library will be collected by the staff from DBSS/NDDA and SBSS which would be carefully scrutinized for community’s right use. Efforts would also be made to run book donation campaigns to mobilize people at large to donate books for the library or contribute some amount to buy new books, especially for children.
Earlier it was decided that it would be a library only for the children and the youth, but after further deliberation it was decided that the library would cater to the whole community and therefore, likewise books, magazines and reading materials would be brought to the library. Through this library, the community elders, both men and women, can also keep themselves abreast of latest news, happenings around the world; information regarding modern agricultural techniques and government programmes which directly benefit them. For children and youth, it would have story books, books on value education, activity oriented and general knowledge. Good novels, dictionary and encyclopedias would also be kept in English, Hindi and Marathi languages.
The idea to build a library also proved to be a good option for youth mobilization and for bringing the community together for a common cause. The young often feel that the old knows nothing and the elders feel the youth are unwise. But both the knowledge of the youth and the wisdom of the elders are required to build a home and a community. A right balance of this gives birth to fresh new ideas with a backing of wisdom and worth. NDDA Nagpur saw a good entry point to bring about a positive change and unity in the community. Efforts would continually be made to engage the youth actively for ideating a beautiful and prosperous community.