Bakul Foundation is a movement for volunteerism in Orissa. It is an attempt to pool together the big and small individual contributions of individuals interested in social and environmental development of the state. It was launched with more than a thousand people coming together to contribute to set up a children's library in Bhubaneswar on April 1, 2007. The success of this campaign can be seen www.pledgebank.com/bakul-library.
The Bakul Library Programme
The first Bakul Children's Library, set up entirely with small individual contributions and without any funding, is regarded as one of the best children's libraries in the country with over 8000 books including some of the most engaging educational resources for children available in the world.
Many artists joined hands and helped make it one of the most attractive libraries in the country. To see images, visit http://www.bakulfoundation.org/Library_Photos.html. Bakul organizes diverse activities like storytelling sessions, film screenings, theatre and art workshops, interactive learning sessions through multimedia etc. to draw children to the library and to help them cultivate their interests. It has been organizing "Once upon a time...: stories and storytellers from across the globe" every Sunday in which a storyteller from a different country comes and tells stories from that country and about that country. Read reports on it in The Telegraph here and in The Hindu here and in Orissa Daily here Bakul had also organized a children's theatre workshop that led to a Musical production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Read about it here
The library is FREE and with the best collection of books for children in the State, Bakul is trying to break the distinctions that schools create. It is providing disadvantaged and advantaged children equal opportunities to build their own capabilities. Children from a slum school, a tribal hostel, a hostel for children of convicts and an orphanage regularly come in groups to the library.
At present, Bakul is running a second library at the YMCA Refugee camp for victims from the Kandhamal violence. Every day, the children read books and engage in activities with the help of Bakul volunteers. Bakul is holding regular classes for the children with volunteers as the refugees wait for normalcy to return to Kandhamal. (Read Reports of this work in The Telegraph here and in The Hindu here)
The Bakul Arts Programme
The Arts Programme started concurrently with the Library Programme with the creation of the library as an aesthetic space that develops a sense of aesthetics among the children and adults visiting the library.
The First independent Arts programme though happened on 14 November 2007 (Children's Day) when about 70 children from 12 different schools, came and painted a 200 ft long public wall, which became the only Children's Art Wall of Bhubaneswar. See http://www.bakulfoundation.org/Art_Wall.html. This was an attempt by the children to beautify their city. This activity was much publicized and it has been taken up by the State, which started getting public walls painted all over the city after the first Bakul Public Art Event. Read about it in The Hindu here and in The Telegraph here.
Bakul also organized a Film Festival on the Great Masters of Contemporary Western Art from 20-23 December, 2007. Films on David Hockney, Allen Jones, Anish Kapoor, Francis Bacon etc. were screened. This was at the initiative of Birendra Pani, who picked up these films when he had gone for his show in London and thought that the students of art in Orissa would benefit a lot from the exposure. Professor Ellen Spitz from the University of Maryland gave a Public Lecture at Bakul on January 7, 2008. She spoke on how illustrations in children's books shape the imagination of children. Read about it here
For the first time, twenty two contemporary young Orissan artists came together for a Group Show in March at the Mon Art Gallerie in Kolkata. This was organized in aid of Bakul and as an important activity of the Art Programme. Read the Review of that Art Show by the renowned Art critic Soumitra Das in The Telegraph at http://www.telegraphindia.com/1080309/jsp/calcutta/story_8995845.jsp and in Matters of Art here.
From October 2008, the famous sculptor and Public and Community Art expert K P Soman is shifting base from MS University Baroda to Bhubaneswar to work on the Public Art Project of Bakul. The mission is to take art to the common man/woman and to start a debate on art and the themes artists engage with in the public domain. As the first initiative, on October 2nd 2008, about 200 children made kites with their messages and images of peace and non-violence and hung them from trees on Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Bhubaneswar.
Bakul Environment Programme
As the main mission of Bakul is to mobilize individuals as agents of change, it has been working to sensitize the general public in Bhubaneswar and the youth and children in particular to take up the cause of the environment and climate change in particular. On April 19 and 20, Bakul in association with Toxics Link, organized an Environmental Film Festival in Bhubaneswar. Read about it here. On August 22nd, Bakul again in association with Toxics Link organized a workshop on Climate Change and E-Waste for school students.
The mobilization that led to the start of the library has already become an international case study in social entrepreneurship. The Bakul story has been podcasted by Idealist.org, which is probably the largest network worldwide in the non-profit sector. Listen to it here (you might need to download Quicktime to listen to it) The Bakul story has also become a case study in IIM Calcutta, XIMB and in a Delhi University undergraduate textbook as well. There is a special feature on Bakul in India Together, the most prestigious magazine on the development sector in India. Read it here. The Sunday Magazine of The New INdian Express also did a Special Feature on the Bakul LIbrary. Read it here
1. We plan to set up many more libraries in the state of Orissa with the support of the communities. But we do not want every library to be a replica of the other. We shall try to set up libraries keeping local socio-cultural specificities in mind. Through those libraries, we shall try to promote the reading skills and a reading habit among the children in the vicinity of the library.
2. With the keen involvement of children's writers and illustrators in the Bakul team, we are trying to create illustrated storybooks for children in Oriya following the best practices in Reading Facilitation.
3. Our motive is not just to create institutions and resource material (such as children's books) as manifestation of volunteerism. We want the institutions we set up and the helpful resources we create to further foster and inspire the spirit of volunteerism among the beneficiaries of the process, leading to a movement for volunteerism.
You can check further about Bakul at www.bakulfoundation.org