Chimbel and Literacy

Posted by Helen 
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Well we’ve been in Goa for over a week now and as you’ve come to expect, we’ve hit the ground running.

Last Saturday I was invited by Bookworm to visit their literacy project in Chimbel. This is the poor area on the outskirts of Panjim, the State capital of Goa. Not to put too finer point on it, Chimbel is a big sprawling slum, housing a lot of the lowest paid who service the infrastructure of Panjim. Most are not Goan but are immigrants from other, mainly Northern, States so a high proportion are Muslim, speak other Indian languages and are illiterate.

Bookworm sign at Chimbel

Bookworm, through MOP (its Mobile Outreach Programme), is taking literacy, story telling and books to the kids of this environment. Over the past few months, Sujata (our friend and passionate educator from Bookworm) and her team have rented an indoor space in Chimbel, a room above a shop, as otherwise when the rain arrives all work must stop. They’ve created a library cum classroom where on Thursdays and Saturdays they hold reading, storytelling and art sessions.

Time for Art

And I am pleased to tell you that Helping Elsewhere has been able to pay for the rental of the room for this year and also for the next! Because this income is now steady, Bookworm will also be able to look for more suitable accommodation – the current room is above an off-license which means some families will not allow their children to attend.

Helen and 'Reading Aloud'

So on Saturday I arrived with Sujata and Niju as an exotic novelty from the land of Manchester United and Chelsea! Indeed when we got the atlas out most of the kids knew where the UK was because of football! Paradoxically, they had more problems finding India – because India is ‘very big’, it must be represented by the large land mass that is Africa! I held part of the ‘reading aloud’ lesson and one of the boys read me his Hindi book whilst simultaneously trying to translate it into English for me. Wonderful.


The concept of a library and the lending of books is very alien to these children. Most homes have no reading material except for the sheets of newspaper that their shopping is wrapped in. Some do have a Holy book though, even if they can’t read it. Culture and learning is thus generally still passed down by word of mouth alone in the age-old manner. These Chimbel children are the first generation to have some form of systemic education and are, through Bookworm, starting to understand slightly wider issues such as ‘Borrowing’.

community reading

Slowly, slowly the idea is coming…


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