DHARMA CHAKKRA CHILD FOUNDATION LIBRARY ~ Weedagama, Sri Lanka
The Dharma Chakkra Child Foundation Library is located in the Dharma Chakkra Children's Home in Sri Lanka. Established in 1998, the home provides housing and education for approximately 100 orphaned boys as well as for boys from unstable homes. In 2008 a second children's home was opened exclusively for girls. The costs for clothing, food, health care, education, etc. amount to approx. $35 usd per child per month. The Dharma Chakkra Child Foundation is raising the fund to meet the expenses.
Feedback submitted by Nia Murphy:
The books were put in the children's shared library. Dharma Chakkra has two hostels, one for the girls and then another, about 200 metres away and behind a wall, for the boys. The library is in the boys' hostel. When I was last at the home the library was open in the evenings for the boys to use freely. Since then they've decided to shut it except at weekends when they have library time and English classes.
I was told the books were used by the English teacher during these classes. However it was felt the books were a bit difficult for some of the children at the home, many of whom are still struggling with Sinhala, the local language. This is mostly true of the boys but the girls, who unfortunately have less access to the library, are at a higher standard. In hindsight I think a donation only for the girls' hostel might have been a good idea. This was my mistake.
The overriding feedback was actually about the visuals: that the books showed children things they don't normally see in 'normal' (read affordable) English or Sinhala books. Many of the books they have in the library are very old and extremely out of date. The affordable English books on the market in Sri Lanka are often things like The Radiant Way, which is a very dated old English sort of publication with smiling white children in high socks. Very simply, seeing children in picture books with brown skin is a rarity. So they were particularly excited about this, and the fact the children were seeing worlds not too dissimilar to their own but ones not normally presented in children's books.
They also mentioned things like the fact the books were hardback and 'beautiful' (most of the books in the library are paperbacks and as a result don't last very long). And the fact there were so many books meant that the teacher could actually give them copies while speaking about the book (they have only one copy of other books in the library and their English lessons tend to be based more in their text books and reading from the board than from books).
The books as a whole were well received also because they were simply such good quailty books, which are hard to come by and afford for a place like Dharma Chakkra. They really apprecated that these were something very special. Though with that came the usual worry about how well the children will look after them. I've seen a lot of hoarding of good quality toys and clothes that have been donated in the past, for fear of them actually being used and getting worn out as a result; I was slightly concerned about this. But the fact there were more than one seemed to reassure them though - perhaps it make them seem a little less precious than if there was just one?
Biblioburro went down very well, as did Rain School;A Child's Garden slightly less so - I wonder if it was a little close to home.