For P. Chakravarthy, a slum-boy and now a Class X student of Home for Poor School in Teynampet, speaking English and touching the keys of a computer would have remained a distant dream had he not received free English and computer training for two years from the young volunteers of Bhumi. “I did not know a word in English or anything about computer two years ago. Now, I can speak English and operate a computer, thanks to the volunteers of Bhumi,” says Chakravarthy.

Bhumi is one of India's largest independent youth volunteer non-profit organisations, Teynampet, comprising students and professionals under the age of 30 who work for imparting free education to underprivileged children.

“We work with children in orphanages, slum and village community centres educating and mentoring them for a better future,” says Dr. Prahalathan, vice- president of Bhumi.

The voluntary organisation is the brainchild of three young professionals, Dr. Prahalathan, E. Ayyanar, a software engineer and N. Hari Shankar, mathematician, who started it in 2006, on the 59th Independence Day, with the aim of serving the country.

“During the first few months, we went to an orphanage to teach children, though without any focus and model in mind. As the response of children was overwhelming, we realised that the approach must be focussed and structured,” recollects the 29-year-old Prahalathan.

“Thus from 2007, we taught English and computer education as these were the prime demands of children,” he adds.

Bhumi saw a steady but overwhelming growth over the years both in the number of volunteers and children. “We were only three friends in the first few months teaching 50 children. When the message spread across, more people started volunteering. Today, we are more than 400 volunteers, teaching over 1,000 children across Chennai, who study from Class V to X,” he says.

These volunteers hold classes in the orphanages, homes for children and rooms made available by NGOs.

Being a non-profit organisation, Bhumi depends on the contributions by its members and volunteers for its activities.

“We started computer education programme, Kanini, at Anbu Karangal in 2007 when one volunteer gave his only computer to teach the children and in the same year we received two more,” he recalls.

Witnessing the success of its initial programme, Bhumi began expanding and added co-curricular activities to its fold of programmes.

Other programmes

“Programmes such as ‘Dronacharrya and Ekalvya', for career counselling ‘Joy to the World', for connecting children with employees of several MNCs, ‘Little Einsteins', for improving mathematics and science were started in the subsequent years, besides ‘Siragugal', an art, science and cultural talent carnival,” says Prahalathan.

Bhumi has given a ray of hope to underprivileged children such as Chakarvarthy who now has a fixed goal of becoming a doctor which he might not have even heard of, had he not received the free education from these enthusiastic volunteers.

However, Prahalathan is humble in taking the credit of giving hope to these children.

“Although children have gained a lot from Bhumi, we cannot claim it is only we who are behind their achievements,” he says. “We understand that there is much more work to be done and there is a long way to go. We have to change today to see a change tomorrow,” he says with a smile on his face.

To reach Bhumi, dial 98408 68441 or log on to bhumi.org.in

(The writer can be reached at mirfarhat.67@gmail.com)

Bhumi, an NGO, provides free English and computer training to poor children.