Timbaktu's Children's Resource Center (CRC) is in CK Palli, across the road from Prakruti Badi. It has two high-roofed, well-ventilated rooms and a verandah. One of the rooms is a library. It is very well equipped with different kinds of books in Telugu and English. There are a few desks and chairs and the few times I was there, there were about 5-6 kids reading. Many of these books belong to Subba, who decided to put them there since he believes they would be best used in a library. He suggested I read Totto-Chan and it is an amazing book (More about it here). Children can borrow books – they need to enter it in the register and a lady who works at the CRC keeps track of the books.
The other room has a few computers, material for arts and crafts and science experiments. The verandah is the base for activities like carpentry and sewing, both of which were going on then. The carpentry unit is pretty cool. They were, at that time, making pen stands for an order they had received. About 5 children, Ramudu and two others were involved in the process. The bamboo was first cut, then scraped clean with sandpaper, then burnt to get the darkish shade in, then painted on, and finally varnished. The kids with more experience were patiently explaining what needed to be done to the ones new to this. And all the new ones, myself included, started off with scraping the bamboo. I had a lot of fun with the children, scraping the bamboo clean and then painting on it. They also make these neat chairs with bamboo (Ive also seen them with regular wood). It is a very low chair, essentially just two planes made from bamboo that are connected at a point and the chair has no legs, it rests on the ends of these planes. Well, I sure this is not a great description but the chairs are pretty cool. Some of the older children from Thulir, a resource center for children in Sittilingi, had spent time at Timbaktu to learn carpentry. The chair was a hit in Sittilingi :).
Back to Timbaktu…sewing classes were being held in the summer. There were about 10 – 12 children learning. There was one boy and the rest were girls. In carpentry, all were boys. I asked Ramudu about the gendered interest in arts and crafts. He said all the children are exposed to all kinds of arts and crafts. No one is forced to take up something based on his or her sex. Children are free to work on what interests them. He mentioned some girls were really good at carpentry and they were not around now since it was summer holidays. Fair enough though I think the conditioning that goes on at home and in the community does influence what kinds of activities children choose to work on. If people want such a change, I think it will happen slowly and organically :).
They do some clay work as well. I was shown some artwork of the children. Some of the younger ones who showed up at the resource center were working with clay. Ramudu showed them how to sieve sand and add it to the clay and they started making beads.
The CRC is a great place for children to come and learn something, read books and just have a nice time – its their space. This is the basis for the WAH proposal from Timbaktu to create resource centers in some of the villages they work in.