A team of young, fresh minds has stepped up to create libraries for underprivileged students. Here’s a look at The Keni Project.

“Tinkle comics and Harry Potter books are part of our daily lives, but for underprivileged kids, access to books that are not school-related is very difficult,” says P.S. Nandini, a Std. XII student of Sivaswami Kalalaya Senior Secondary School, the brain behind Project Keni, which, to its members, is the well of wisdom.

The objective of Keni is to set up libraries with second-hand books and increase the reading habit among the economically backward students. Through reading and learning sessions, it will also help underprivileged children to improve their communication skills.

Winning start

Change Makers Conference (CMC), an annual event organised by The Debate Club, was held at Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram in July 2013. At the conference, each contestant had to come up with a socially relevant problem and work out a plan as a solution to the same. Many rounds later, Project Keni was announced as the winning entry. The winner was also given Rs. 30,000 as funds to initiate the project.

Nandini along with Sanjana Ganesh, Dravina Sreenivasan, Meera Viswanathan, and K.S. Jayaraman formed the core team of Keni.

Initially, there was a lot of apprehension, but once the team jumped in with both feet, there has been no turning back. There is a huge necessity for books and nurturing the reading habit in kids, says Sanjana. Apart from inculcating the reading habit in children, Project Keni has also been actively involved in team-building activities such as theatre production. Children are given story ideas and asked to do everything from scripting, production and direction among other things.

Keni has been up and running since the past month-and-a-half and the response has been overwhelming, Sanjana remarks.

“The school has extended its support toward the cause and the teachers are never shy of encouragement. They let us use the resources and even the alumni association has extended its massive support.”

Student-powered

In the first book-drive organised by both Keni and the alumnus association of the school, the students managed to get 240 second-hand books and 450 grams of newspapers. All the proceeds from the newspaper sale go towards running Keni and maintaining the books.

Project Keni is a completely student-run initiative. Its volunteers include students from Stds. X and XI from Sivaswami Kalalaya SSS.

“We haven’t started accepting volunteers from other schools as we want to have a controlled framework till a nice rhythm is set,” says Sanjana. There is a need to focus and plan before taking in volunteers from outside, but for now, there are about 10 volunteers for every 25-30 kids.

If you would like to contribute to the growing collection of Keni, reach out to them at: facebook.com/thekeniproject/info

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