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There is a 12-year-old boy called Yellapy, who is an orphan and is staying in Jalahalli. He has been on the street for the last one year after his parents died. His aunt used to take care of him, but Yellapy had to move out on to the street, as she could not look after him. He started taking whitener daily, a substance used by large number of children for getting a kick. He started working on daily wages in the market and earned anything between Rs.50 to Rs.200 per day. He spent 50 % on his daily earning on the drug he was addicted to, 30 % on food and the remaining on watching films.

The Akshara volunteers talked to him and persuaded him to attend the Community Outreach classes. He has been regular since then and has picked up both Kannada and Mathematics. Besides, he has also stopped inhaling the whitener. He is keen to go to a formal school. The volunteers spoke to YMCA and they have enrolled him in to the boys hostel. He will formally join school once he has learnt the basics.

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Rajyashree is an eight-year old girl who was born dumb. Her parents tried to put her into school but she was terribly shy and too scared to take part in class activities. She learnt nothing as the teacher could not spare the time to give her the special attention she needed. As a last resort her parents requested their local Akshara Balwadi volunteer Praveen, if she would accept Rajyashree in her class.

After spending a year at the Balwadi, Rajyashree is a different person. Since she can’t sing the nursery rhymes she acts them out while the rest of the class joyfully sings along! She is the teacher’s helper since she is older and helps to manage the younger children. She can write the entire alphabet on the blackboard and performs willingly for visitors and for her overjoyed parents. Her parents are elated with her metamorphosis from a shy, unsure child to a young, active and outgoing girl. Akshara volunteers are now trying to find a special school for Rajyashree that can cater to her disability.

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This is Hajira, a five-year old resident of the Vijnapura slums. Hajira’s duties extend well beyond that of a child. Both her parents are labourers and spend most of the day away. Hajira looks after her four year old brother Khadir Pasha and the rest of the household when her parents are away. Hajira and Khadir never went to school as their parents were of the opinion that it would result in no good. The Akshara Balwadi volunteer had to spend days convincing them to send their children to her Balwadi.

After weeks of perseverance the parents agreed. Today,Mubin Taj, the Balwadi volunteer goes to their house every morning and picks them up to bring them to school. The parents are indifferent to the Balwadi and never bother to bring the children themselves. Despite the odds, Hajira and Khadir are prospering in the Balwadi. They love singing the nursery rhymes and learning about animals. They look forward to those two hours in the day when they are free from responsibility and can really be children. The Balwadi volunteer is trying to ensure that Hajira goes to a good school next year

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Meet four-year old Nasir Pasha. Nasir was a troubled child plagued by deep seated fears and anxiety. His feisty spirit was never properly channeled and would often result in destructive behaviour or fights with other children. His parents were extremely worried about his conduct and brought him to the Akshara Balwadi in Vijanapura hoping that it would help him develop social skills and deal with his fears.

Today, just a few months after entering school, Nasir is one of the most-popular boys in class. He is friends with everyone and most of his destructive habits have ceased. His parents see a visible difference in his behaviour at home as well. Nasir loves to learn and is developing a hungry thirst for knowledge.

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Asifa is a four-year old girl studying in one of the Vijnapura Balwadis. She was spotted by an Akshara volunteer playing on the road by herself. When they approached her parents they learnt that both the mother and father worked and did not have the time and money to enroll her in school. Asifa is now an eager participant in her Balwadi class. She knows all the nursery rhymes and can even spew out the English alphabet. She is bubbling with enthusiasm and creativity. Her parents are thankful to Akshara and they hope that she will attend a good school in a couple of years.
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This is four-year old Saqlain. He hated school and when he attended his previous play school he would cry if his mother left him. In fact, on the first day he attended the Akshara Balwadi he cried for two hours. After a few months spent in his new Balwadi he comes running to school everyday with his bag on his back and refuses to take it off. His mother cannot believe how independent and self sufficient he has become. Saqlain is an active class-participant shouting out the right answers and singing aloud his newly learnt nursery rhymes. He especially loves puzzles and games that the Balwadi teacher gives him.
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Sadiq Pasha is a 13-year-old boy who has never gone to school and didn’t know how to speak. Since his mother’s death when he was younger, he has stayed at home. Now he attends a nearby balwadi regularly and has learnt nursery rhymes. He sings them on his own.

The change in his behaviour is visible, especially to those around him. He seems happy in the balwadi class, though neighbours narrate how he is scared of dolls when they are brought to class! As a first time learner at his age, Akshara’s balwadi is helping him become more confident.

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