September 19, 2019
Two women, three initiatives, many smiles on the faces of children. This sums up the work of Coimbatore-based Arc Foundation, which believes in training the young mind to love books, take up art and craft and manage cleanliness.
A former teacher, M A Aparna, was inspired to start the Arc Foundation with her friend Bharanidharan S at Ram Nagar Coimbatore, to take forward late president APJ Abdul Kalam’s love for children.
She tells The Covai Post, “We founded it on October 15 on Kalam’s birthday in 2015, soon after his death on July 27 earlier that year. We had three major initiatives. The first was to set up Kalam Libraries for Government schools. We found that many students absented from class due to a lacklustre atmosphere. I wanted to change that. The Coimbatore Corporation Commissioner of that time Vijay Karthikeyan helped us. He gave us permission to convert one scrap room in each Government school into a colourful Kalam Library. So we organised volunteers to paint the room with bright colours and stock it with basic level fiction books. It had a good response.”
The libraries were places for children to do art and craft activities and have storytelling sessions. Aparna’s volunteers encouraged the children to read and stack the books on shelves with promises of more.
Aparna says, “Our aim is to set up Dr Kalam Libraries in 83 Corporation schools, 17 Government schools, some orphanages and community centres. We have now completed 83 school libraries. On July 27 every year, we have inter-school and intra-school drawing, singing and other cultural competitions. We send our volunteers to organise and conduct these events at schools with district-level prizes and citations. Besides this, we also give ethics lessons to students, teaching them moral values and life lessons which they may not get at home.”
Novel free school
Arc Foundation’s second initiative is the Meraki India School of Arts and Skills. Meraki is a Greek work meaning ‘putting your heart and soul into something’.
Aparna explains, “It was a novel type of free school, which we set up at a Corporation space in Ram Nagar. We cleared the area, set up a farm, a garden, a pond and a small domestic pet zoo and built 15 rooms for computers, dance, arts and other crafts for underprivileged children. Many children loved coming to Meraki School. However, it is currently suspended due to some red tape. So now, we plan to bring Meraki concept to Government schools.”
Clean city initiative
The Foundation’s third initiative is the Swach Coimbatore or clean city. Bharanidharan and Aparna have been Swach Bharath ambassadors since 2015. There are many divisions within Swach Bharat Abhiyaan. The Foundation was allotted schools.
“We have done lots of things, but specifically we sent volunteers to nearly 300 schools to conduct cleanliness campaigns and nominate deserving children as Swach Kutti Ambassadors. We give them badges, teach them cleanliness, conservation and explain through examples. We rank them as best schools based on their Swach Bharat implementation in categories of private, government and aided schools. Our volunteers visit and judge these schools. We also celebrate World Environment Day and discuss other socially relevant issues,” explains Aparna.