Vazhai – Be a Mentor, Be the Change
In villages, children are sent to schools by their daily wage labor parents just until they are old enough to become laborers’ themselves. These children are deprived of the opportunities for learning which are usually available to city bred children. Apart from money and education, they need guidance, advice and support.
VAZHAI believes that these children too should be able to dream of a better tomorrow. We work to create a real foundation for those dreams through “Mentoring” in Dharmapuri and Vizhupuram districts of Tamilnadu. A few friends set up Vazhai, an NGO, in Dharmapuri in 2005. They chose students from Standard VI onwards in the surrounding villages, and encouraged them to study further.
You may ask “Why the name VAZHAI is chosen?”. Mugund says about the reason behind the NGO’s name. He says it stems from an old Tamil adage, “Vazhai adi vazhaiyai”. It is like the young sapling that grows beside a fully-grown plantain tree.
In villages, many students drop out after Standard X either because they’re not interested or they fail. We are also from villages so we know what they go through and how tough it is to study. We picked children from classes below ten and began to help them so they continue studying. We make a difference in someone’s life, hoping they will do the same.Mugund K
Vazhai selects the students at the beginning of every academic year. List of students satisfying the basic criteria of Vazhai are collected from government schools in Ananthapuram (Villupuram district) and Eriyur (Dharmapuri district) of Tamil nadu.
The selection process looks at the children’s financial background and family support, and selects the most deserving based on the number of volunteers. Every girl is assigned an ‘akka’ and every boy an ‘anna’.
Workshops are the real platforms for mentoring where the mentor and the ward meet. These workshops are conducted with an interval of about 2 months on weekends (6 workshops – a year). Workshops are structured with contents on academics, personality development and life skills. These workshops are designed by Vazhai with the help of experts, wherever necessary. It is necessary for every mentor to attend the workshops.
What possibly makes Vazhai different is that it is not just the students but also the founders and most of the volunteers who are first-generation learners. The mentors participate in the bi-monthly workshops held at Dharmapuri and Vizhupuram, and monitor the child’s progress over phone calls and letters, getting the children to open up and becoming a support system for them.
Reading and writing Tamil is mandatory for volunteers. The letters have been a great way to bond and the mentors write puzzles for the children to solve by the time they meet.
There are many NGOs for children in Chennai so we wanted to focus on smaller villages in Tamil Nadu. Unluckily, the number of female volunteers is not too high, so we are unable to take more girls into the programme. I started off as a volunteer five years back and It is a great feeling getting an inland letter from a child!Mujeebudeen