volunteer Milena Lurie and her friends are working towards ten libraries in
The idea of running a
book drive to create libraries for rural India children may be fate or
it might be serendipity for Milena Lurie. In August 2007 she and her
mother visited South Africa for a short vacation. Interested in the people
of that nation, they held several conversations about the challenges
facing people who had to live under systems of exclusion.
In one evening's discussion of the system of apartheid a family friend
mentioned the plight of the outcastes in India. This conversation came
up as Milena and her mother had mentioned their hopes to visit India
for their next summer vacation.
In following up about
the Dalits, Milena would discover that in India, there is still a struggle to overcome older ideas of caste exclusion, especially for Dalits formerly called "outcaste" or "untouchable."
In a stroke of serendipity,
another family friend mentioned that his daughter had had a really rewarding
experience by collecting books and helping to set up libraries for several
schools in South Africa (through GLP). This gave Milena the idea to see
if she could do a similar project for students in India.
With a positive answere
from GLP, Milena then had to identify where to locate her project. As
GLP already had an interest in the South India state of Tamil Nadu she
decided to follow up on an NGO that had been favorably reccommended to
her. The Integrated
Rural Development Centre (IRDC) is a secular non-profit organisation
that focuses it activities on the rural areas of Gandarvakottai--a
sub-district of some 37 village in the Pudukottai district (click
HERE for map) of Tamil Nadu state in South India. IRDC supports children
from three to five years old in early childhood learning centres and
works with ten local government run primary schools where they provide
supplementary education and coaching with the goal of preventing students
from dropping out from school.
IRDC also runs the Lady
Lynn Joyful Home--providing shelter as well as a nurturing environment
to orphaned or neglected children from the villages of Pudukottai District.
A library for the orphanage's school was created and now Milena is now working towards libraries for ten surrounding schools!
is the FLYER that
Milena used to promote the program. The response was been incredible!
Students from as far away as the El Rodeo School in Beverly Hills, California
all supported the India book drive.
Milena raised the cost of shipping the collected
books to India and she is now fund raising towards the cost to create each school library.
See more about this story in SPAN, magazine of the American Embassy in New Delhi HERE.