We discovered in our founding year that distributing books does not guarantee the use of them after a fantastic trip to our first project in Mumbai, India. One month later, we found out that the books were in a closet and the kids were not reading them. The orphanage did not have the resources, expertise, and management skill set to deal with this supply. It was then we realized that this idea had to expand and be more holistic. Our programs have evolved to providing the books, creating great library spaces, and involving role models from the community to spend time reading and engaging with the children. The utilization rate is extremely high with this holistic approach. Constant feedback helps to improve, ensure the books are being used, and impact is being made.
One of our key differentiators is the experience we create by transforming drab, unattractive spaces within an orphanage/children’s home to uplifting, vibrant, inspiring “libraries of imagination”. Bookwallah Libraries are largely defined as “non-traditional” and inspires everyone from the children, to leadership of the orphanage, to volunteers who engage with the children. In the developing world, this type of library inspires individuals who would otherwise not “volunteer” and inspires the community (if there is a school on the ground) to actually visit and utilize the library.An example is a Bookwallah library built in an orphanage that houses children of women who work in brothels. This orphanage is located in a very rural region of Mumbai, India and has a school on the grounds for the local “tribal” community. The teachers and children from the community are now frequently utilizing the library. Bookwallah libraries are also serving as a foundation for additional activities like movie night where show a movie based on a book. Additionally, our libraries motivate local community to “give” when they see such a foundation within the orphanage. There has been new research conducted by University of Salford and Nightingale Associates architectural firm that room design has significant impact on a child’s academic progress over a year by as much as 25%.
Bookwallah’s niche message “sharing the gift of imagination” is represented across everything we do from the distribution of storybooks and chapter books, to the creation of libraries with artwork and murals, to the reading and library activities that sustain the library. We believe this niche message sets us apart from other non-profit organizations that emphasize education or literacy and serves all. Literacy serves as our foundation for a tangible measurement of success, but our ultimate goal is opening up a world, introducing role models in society to children who desperately need it, and making children happy – becoming the Disney of the NGO world.
There are 143 million orphans in the world with over 20% in India alone. We impact boys and girls who are rescued from brothels, victims of child labor, HIV infected, AIDS, or abandoned for societal reasons. Children most people choose to look down upon. We give these children the gift of a library because we believe these children matter. Progress can be as basic as moving up a reading level, but as transformative as getting a silent, abused girl to speak during our reading sessions. We heard from our sources, in the case of India, 94% of the orphans do not attend college. We believe this special group of children can be uplifted and creative and innovative members of society. Bookwallah has three core programs which we believe will yield tremendous impact.