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Making English Easy for Underprivileged Indian Kids by ‘Wordsworth’ Varsha Varghese

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Varsha Varghese a young Indian woman saw that kids from low income homes in India struggle with learning English language lass and the kids from middle class and high class excel in the same. So Varsha thought of bridging this gap. With the aim of  empowering poor children, she started The WordsWorth Project.

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Before starting the Wordsworth Project, Varsha’s life was a smooth and comfortable one. Born in Kerala, Varsha moved to Dubai with her parents where she studied in a reputed school. Varsha Varghese is the only child of her parents. She had always been a bright student and the president of her school’s student council. She led a privileged life. The harsh reality of Indian kids gave her a rude shock when she returned to India to pursue her graduation in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi.

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When she was in the first year of her college, Varsha Varghese realized she did not want to enter the corporate sector. She knew she would rather love working towards helping the needy people. To fulfill this dream she joined an NGO, Make a Difference, as a volunteer teacher and taught kids English over the weekends. But she wasn’t satisfied with this and wanted to make a bigger and better difference. Being a lover of reading books, language was the tool she identified as medium to a better life for these kids. When she noticed that underprivileged children found it difficult to understand the English language, she decided to help them.

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This was the beginning of The Wordsworth Project in 2014. This program was targeted to empower low-income group kids by improving their linguistic comprehension and learning.

“Language literacy is not only essential to function in society, but it also opens doors to magical worlds hidden within books. My co-founders Priyanka Roychoudhury and Rahul Sreekumar had their own reasons for being invested in it and a lot of our initial conversations got us closer to what the project is today” – Varsha Varghese

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The Wordsworth Project works by making enjoyable reading spaces accessible to underprivileged kids. The Wordsworth project currently operates from five places in the Indian capital Delhi—Shiksha Rath in North Campus, The Magic Room in Adarsh Nagar, the Manzil center in Khan Market, an independent space in South Extension, and the Aarohan center in Shahdara. These places are full of storybooks, where poor kids can come and read books either on their own or with the help of teaching volunteers, who also help the kids with grammar and comprehension.

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Teaching Volunteers of Wordsworth Project record the progress of each and every kid to evaluate the impact their efforts are making and make plans for future ahead accordingly. “Progress is slow. Sometimes getting a child to just learn the alphabet is a success story for us,” says Varsha. At present, the Wordsworth project works with 100 kids and has a team of 25 volunteers and nine core members.

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Getting the spaces to operate and to execute the idea wasn’t difficult for Varsha and its other co-founders as they began the project when they were part of the Young India Fellowship. They wanted to find the right volunteers. Varsha says, “Any model with volunteers can be quite tricky. Most volunteers are college students who are constantly seeking new experiences and often do not continue with us beyond a year. So there is a need to consistently recreate the same teaching quality for the children with new sets of volunteers with every cycle.”

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Varsha Varghese wants to work in the space of urban primary education, and is preparing for it with a Master’s Degree in Developmental Studies. As far as the Wordsworth Project is concerned, she wants to do better in what she is already doing.

“True success would be when, in a few years, we would have other college students in other cities replicating our model, and also recreating elements of the project to suit their communities.” Varsha Varghese
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