It started as a casual talk after a club meeting. We wanted to do something different, innovative and enjoyable. Literacy is a nationwide key Rotary project, so we decided why not! And thus happened our road trip,” said Rtn Jawahar Ali, team leader and President of RC Calicut Metropolis, D 3202. Eight Rotarians of the club (Rtns Jawahar Ali, KT Vikas, Satish Kumar, Anees Ali, Baju Sebastian, Mithun Kumar, Russel and Sherin Abdulla) had just returned from a road trip undertaken in two cars to spread literacy among the marginalised community living in remote villages.
Bharat Yatra — an 11-day road trip covering 5,300 km — was flagged off on November 26 from Calicut. The cost of the trip (Rs 2.2 lakh) was raised by the team.
Many schools lacked basic necessities and we passed on this info to the nearest Rotary clubs for necessary action.
Rotary India Literacy Mission (RILM) logos, slogans and messages were splashed all over the cars. “We distributed brochures on Rotary’s literacy mission to everyone whom we met along the way. Most of the communities in the villages and towns had no idea what Rotary was all about. Polio vaccination worked well for an introduction as it was a big PR activity,” said KT Vikas, the team coordinator.
They visited government schools in remote villages and interacted with the students, explaining Rotary’s T-E-A-C-H programme in detail. Many schools lacked basic necessities such as toilets, drinking water and furniture, and “we passed on this information to the nearest Rotary clubs, adding those schools to Rotary’s ‘Happy Schools’ project. Connecting with the people from the lower strata and visiting schools in villages were the highlights of this trip,” said Kumar, the only Hindi-speaking person in the group.
A meeting in Bangalore with District Literacy Committee Chair V R Ramesh “enlightened us on the successful smart classroom project, where software was designed with the State Board syllabus and projected in Government and Government-aided schools,” said Vikas.
The team was overwhelmed by the reception they received as Rotarians. “We couldn’t believe it,” exclaimed the coordinator. “Just imagine, our team walking into a hall and the entire group of Presidents of District 3030 giving us a standing ovation! We felt very special.” But more was to come. “In Gujarat, we were welcomed with the famous khadi garlands, in Jaipur with the traditional turban and aarti.” The Zonal Literacy Coordinator in Nagpur, PDG Sanjay Mishra, presented them with “fresh Nagpur oranges early in the morning before we started out for the day’s journey!”
Most of the communities in the villages and towns had no idea what Rotary was all about.
At Delhi, they visited the Rotary International South Asia Office, and interacted with the Regional Head Rtn Vinod Bhola, TRF Manager Jayashree Raveendiran and DG Sanjay Khanna of District 3010.
Bharat Yatra was an “experience of a lifetime” for the team. A journey with no hick ups, just a “fine of Rs 300 for over speeding!” Well, if nothing else, their enthusiasm to usher in total literacy was on display!