During my teenage years, I used to wonder why I need to study material that does not seem to add any practical value to life! Over time, this internal struggle and contemplation transformed into questions like, how do people learn? What is the motivation behind learning? How can we make the learning process more enjoyable? How can people become independent learners? How can we address learning diversity in varied cultures and in a hugely populated country like India? My pursuit for answers to these questions led me to start volunteering work in the education sector during my undergraduate years. My involvement with various educational activity groups and schools led me to practice ‘inquiry-oriented education’, which strives to build problem-solving, critical thinking, and logical reasoning skills.
It was the year 2011-2012 when I was visiting many small villages in Maharashtra and remote parts of India, conducting hands-on toys workshops in various schools. I think one of the most memorable and life-changing visits was to Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. We were a group of 6 friends traveling in the region to conduct the hands-on toys workshops. Over the 2-3 week’s duration, we visited more than 16 schools in the region. We had a great time conducting science workshops and interacting with school kids. The enthusiasm of the kids in all the schools was amazing! We also meet people from various organizations working in the education sector in the state. I saw very closely the harsh realities of the life and hardships with which people live in these areas yet happy and always welcoming!
After coming back, we shared our experience with many of our friends. It was this time during the conversations the idea of planning the volunteer visits in remote parts of India sprung. And our guide and Guru dearest Ponkshe sir were at the forefront to support the idea! As always! The whole initiative was going to be run and led by volunteers. We approached various local organizations in different states and invited them to join the effort. This is how Gyan Setu was started…
There were two things at the core of the idea. Joyful learning for the kids and exposure to the volunteers who will be traveling through Gyan Setu. I feel the program succeeded in achieving both goals.
There were many challenges during the initial phase. In my opinion, the biggest challenge for the program was to maintain the quality of the science workshops. Hence, we formed a content management team. The team designed and developed a detailed workbook on how to conduct the workshop and the content for the workshop.
Now Gyan Setu has developed a lot over these 8-9 years. The idea of building the “Knowledge Bridge” has taken its shape. The team has grown, various new initiatives have been started, more than 500 volunteers have travelled through the Gyan Setu!
Lastly, I would say it’s been an immensely humbling journey with Gyan Setu! The visits to the remote parts of India where development has hardly reached had a deep impact on me. It has kept me grounded and taught me to embrace the ever learner spirit. I know similar experiences have deeply touched all the volunteers who have travelled through the Gyan Setu.
I wish and hope that Gyan Setu's visits will continue to inspire and touch the hearts of many more volunteers and kids!
User Experience Architect, US Bank, USA
As I Live... I Learn