Marak quit her job as a school teacher to start The 100 Story House, a rustic children’s library, last year. Being an insurgency-ridden part of the country, the library serves as a positive outlet for the children of this disturbed region.
While working as a school teacher, Marak realised that there was no place for children to find books in the area. The library in the school wasn’t up to date and local markets didn’t have good quality children’s books.
Marak now works as a consultant career counsellor and uses the money she earns to maintain the library. She has collected over 800 books through friends and family, and has spread awareness about the project through Facebook.
The library has become a space where children from different ages and communities can get together
“I would order books from Amazon, save up for construction, buy planks and paint them myself, with whatever money I made,” she tells SheThePeople.TV.
After four months of hard work, Marak opened the library on 23rd April last year. But it hasn’t been smooth sailing. She talks about how kids don’t have reading habits, and how the political environment has left a sense of negativity in the air.
“There are days when we felt like giving up. Even though it has been two years since things have settled down, the environment is still so negative. You can’t develop a feeling of security overnight. There used to be five-six days of bandhs, camp raids, kidnappings,” she says.
However, parents aren’t comfortable sending their children to the library on their own, even though the area is small enough for them to easily travel on their own. They fear that their children will get kidnapped, and they are not always able to bring their kids to the library.
Many children have expressed a desire to come to the library but are unable to do so since they live far from the library, she says.
She hopes that the minivan will solve this problem.
“My husband and I are both school teachers and do not make a lot of money to afford this vehicle. With your help though, I believe we will be able.”
Many of the parents have expressed their desire to pay for a service that will pick and drop their children, and a few parents are helping them with funds for the van.
However, Meghalaya is known for the fake NGOs through which some people take advantage of the political situation, says Marak. Many people have had bad experiences. And we always tell people to contribute not in cash, but in kind, she says.
“My husband and I are both school teachers and do not make a lot of money to afford this vehicle. With your help though, I believe we will be able. This van will not only serve to ferry children to and fro from the library, but it will also be a symbol of peace and hope for a better tomorrow for these precious children,” she says.
The library has become a place of fun, learning and refuge for the 60-80 kids who do visit it regularly. Activities such as storytelling, workshops on personality development, communication skills, free counselling and career guidance, recycling, are conducted at the library.
Few children play outside anymore, says Marak, referring to the political instability in the region. So the library has become a space where children from different ages and communities can get together.
Though Marak’s father is from the region, she grew up in Pune and Kodaikanal. She has always worked in the education field, and has even worked at a publishing house in Delhi. She decided to move to Meghalaya to contribute to the region. “I decided to come back when the situation here became bleak, so that I could work and help here,” she says.
Marak wants to spread the reading movement to other places in the region. She wants to get children from villages reading, and to provide them with a space to come together and share information. She has spoken to many friends who are planning to set up their own libraries, even if it is just two shelves in a shared space.
“This is a community project. We have just planted a seed, everybody is nurturing it. We always wish somebody would come and implement changes, why can’t we be that somebody?” she says.