By Jane Baker Koons, consultant to the Arcot Lutheran Church School Project
When the Rotary Club of Elmbrook, Wisconsin, USA, learned the Yercaud TELC School in Tamil Nadu, India, needed a new library it jumped at the opportunity to help. The school, for children from tribal villages, is one of 97 administered by the Arcot Lutheran Church (ALC) School Project in south India.
With the Elmbrook club’s support, the school created a library and trained teachers in reading motivation techniques. I can’t imagine another school in India where students chattering about their library books sprinkle “Wis-con-sin” into their Tamil conversations and shiver in mock horror when learning about snow and sub-zero temperatures in that part of the United States.
The excitement I’ve seen when new library books are delivered is palpable. Children immediately start reading out loud and calling out to each other. “‘I have a book on penguins!’ ‘Here’s Kabir the Weaver-Poet!’”
The Rotary Club of Yercaud has contributed school supplies, uniforms, food, a water filter system, and funds to cover fees so students can participate in district reading competitions. Members of the Bangalore chapter of the International Fellowship of Motorcycling Rotarians have also pitched in, delivering much needed warm sweaters. In addition, the Yercaud club arranged for international volunteers to create garden and playground areas, along with other improvements.
To address the school’s problem of overcrowding, the Tamil Nadu government supplied matching funds for a new classroom building. The school’s headmaster and Yercaud Rotarians developed a proposal for constructing the building, and the Elmbrook club provided seed funding, which spurred contributions from the Yercaud club, ALC School Project and teachers, former ALC students, and friends in the local community. The new building, with its big windows, bright colors, and a library, has made the school a standout.
District education officials were so pleased with the project that they joined the Rotarians in helping to provide the school with a toilet block and showers.
What a difference two Rotary clubs 9,000 miles and 11½ time zones apart have made in these children’s lives.