Published: 13th November 2020
This Library in Lucknow will bring the joy of reading to children of female sex workers. Here's how
An initiative by Aazaadi Foundation International, this library is expected to come up by the end of November 2020. They have already crowdsourced many books for it. This is their inspiring story
Books can mean different things to different people. They are gentle friends, fierce teachers or even loyal companions. At the Library of Hope in Lucknow, books are everything and so much more. Aazaadi Foundation International was started in Lucknow about one and a half years ago by Sayed Raza Hussain Zaidi, Ritika Rachel Wilson and Harshita Ahuja who work with children from observational and shelter homes plus female sex workers and their children on their mental health through workshops and sessions. While conducting a donation drive during the lockdown in Lucknow, they realised how the children of sex workers, who were already growing up in a toxic environment exposed to drugs and child prostitution, weren't able to uitilise their time well. Hence the idea of the Library of Hope dawned on them.
The founders | (Pic: Aazaadi Foundation International)
Give one, give all
"On October 30, we invited people to donate books for our library for which, a room in Para, an area in Lucknow, was given to us by a sex worker," shares Harshita. Till date, they have received between 150 to 200 books and they are quite the assortment — books by Sudha Murty, Dr Kalam, Munshi Premchand, the Panchatantra and so many more, all for children between the ages of 8 and 17. "This library is not just a place filled with books, it will have a projector and the provision to take online workshops," she says. They don't want to be a substitute for mainstream education, but with the help of their advisory board, on which are clinical psychologists, researchers and those who have experience in experiential education, they have developed a blueprint for the first three months. They want to start off by providing storytelling sessions and more. Down the road, they want to provide vocational training to children between 16 to 17 years old.
Books they received | (Pic: Aazaadi Foundation International)
For every book donated, Aazaadi Foundation International is attaching a bookmark with the donor's name and a message. There will also be a barcode scanner given to the donor with the help of which one can keep a track of who read the books and so on. "We are thinking about developing one report every three months where we will inform the donor about what the child learnt from the book they donated. All these to keep donors engaged and let them know that their donations are really helping," says the 26-year-old. There will also be a permanent coordinator at the library — a graduate from the same area has already volunteered to be one, and she will manage and issue the books.
More bookmarks | (Pic: Aazaadi Foundation International)
Yes, more and more
While this library, where 50 children can be accommodated in a socially-distanced manner, is gearing up to open its doors officially by the end of November, the founders have plans of opening many such libraries. "The purpose behind starting Library of Hope was to give these children, who are already stigmatised by society, space where they could read and explore. They battle with low self-esteem and self-confidence issues as well. We wanted to help develop their emotional quotient," says the alumna of Amity University from where she pursued her Master's in Counselling Psychology. The eventual plan is to start online sessions for female sex workers and bring in a few stitching machines so that they can have a financial back-up during these times of Corona.
For more on them, check out instagram.com/aazaadinet