After graduating from SRM Institute of Science and Technology (formerly known as SRM University) in Chennai, Chandan Jaiswal, founder of “Need A Read”, was working as a software engineer in Bangalore. However, soon he became dissatisfied with his job, quit, and returned home to Jamshedpur, Jharkhand. To keep himself busy, Chandan began teaching underprivileged children in a small Hindi medium school through an NGO called Koshish.
Chandan immediately recognized a major problem prohibiting the children from receiving a proper education. “I noticed none of the kids that we were teaching had any kind of reading material,” explained Chandan. “This struck my mind. When I inquired about this issue from kids and their parents I learned that they couldn’t afford to buy books. Education was far out of reach for them. And here we were, trying our best to educate them.”
Understanding that this was a problem that needed a prompt solution, Chandan began discussing with the school’s English teacher on ways to address it. Eventually, he came up with an idea that he called the “Need A Read” project. The project would work to supply under-stocked or non-existent school libraries with books by collecting used, unwanted, or excess books from schools and colleges. Collection campaigns would take place close to these areas so that students, when finished with a book, could donate to “Need A Read” instead of selling them back or throwing them away. The collected books would then be distributed to select underprivileged schools.
With the idea in mind, Chandan went about setting up collection stations. Through the initial collections, he was able to set up two libraries in Jamshedpur. His early success prompted him to begin hiring volunteers to expand the initiative. He set up a website that would allow him to collect and organize books using an online database, and to recruit additional volunteers.
With the help of his volunteers, Chandan has expanded his operations to Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Delhi, and is currently looking for more cities to set up the organization. “I’m in talks with AIESEC (the world’s largest youth run organisation) of which I’m an alumnus,” noted Chandan. “AIESEC chapters are present in many cities, so through this it will be easier for me to scale. AIESEC has a lot of members who can support this initiative, which will help me sort the crucial problem of lack of man-power. Also I’m looking for a partnership with Teach for India with the idea of supporting them with the reading materials for the schools they are working with.”
For his change making initiative, Chandan was recently awarded the Grand Winner at the Leaders of Tomorrow Contest 2013 at ISB Hyderabad. Through “Need A Read”, Chandan hopes to achieve his vision that “one day all children will have books needed to attain an excellent education.”
Chandan left us with a few inspiring words for aspiring change makers and social entrepreneurs, “The first and the foremost thing I would advise anyone who wants to make a change but doesn’t know how to do it is to give a try. Don’t just keep talking about the issue that you see in the society, take the initiative alone, give it a shot, and I guarantee you everything else will fall into place automatically. As the saying goes, God helps those who help themselves.”
Visit Need A Read to donate books or find out how you can help.