Books tend to bring out the best in people and make greater communion with people even though they have so little in common. The stories we read have no boundaries in bringing people together despite their different lifestyles and culture. It’s the sort of reading that makes deep connections and creates space to reaffirm your faith in life, in others, and most importantly, in yourself.
Ralithi was an expedition taken by the Rotaract Club of the Faculty of Science, University of Colombo to connect the hearts and souls of people around the world with captivating literature. It was convened for the 3rd consecutive year, igniting young minds all over the creation.
The objective of this project was to improve the literacy of underprivileged kids locally and internationally. This year we took this project to a new level with good intentions in mind, as we turned our written story books into audiobooks for blind and visually impaired children.
The project officially commenced during the first week of September after the creation of the official Ralithi POC WhatsApp group, planting the seed of a beautiful project that would bear its fruits in the coming months. The team, consisting of 9 members, was led by the two project coordinators – Rtr. Darshika Wijesena and Rtr. Sera Wijenayake.
To highlight the focal community of our project and to bring greater awareness to our objective, we created a post to commemorate World Sight Day which fell on the 12th of October.
As the initial step, we announced a short story and poetry competition titled ‘Atramentum’ – meaning ‘Ink’ in Latin – where the Rotaractors from Sri Lanka and overseas had the opportunity to participate and win a prize for their talented work. The submissions of short stories and poems were adjudged by the past editors of the club and the winners were soon announced and awarded their well-deserved prizes.
The short story submissions were then compiled into books with the consent of the authors and illustrated with the help of an illustration team who volunteered to help bring the characters of the stories to life. Seeing the books take form brought smiles to all our faces knowing that they would be read and enjoyed by countless children in Sri Lanka and abroad. The designed books were then printed and bound and made ready to be distributed to deserving children.
The project also took another noble undertaking which was crucial in fulfilling our objective of supporting the blind and visually impaired communities: creating audiobooks.
Short story books that were written in previous years under Project Ralithi, were selected to be converted into audiobooks. Once again, a team of volunteers was called who were willing to lend their voices to narrate the stories. The recording of the narration of these stories was carried out at the Science Faculty Library. The audiobooks came out more beautifully than we could have imagined, taking us far into the world of imagination and wonder, a testament to the creative talent of the members of our club.
Audiobooks are able to let anyone, especially those that are faced with challenges with reading including those who are blind and are visually impaired experience the joys of listening to a good story.
Then we elevated our efforts by creating the Ralithi Digital Library, a platform where people can access our eBooks and audiobooks easily and freely. Our primary focus was on blind and visually impaired children, but we wanted to share our collection with everyone in the hopes of inspiring a love of reading. To bring to reality this vision to make our stories more accessible for anyone interested in enjoying them, either visually or through narration, we decided to create a Digital Library – a repository of stories created by Rotaractors. First, we created a library for the books that had been written under Project Ralithi during the 3 years and uploaded them to the Kobo ebook website making it easily accessible to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Soon after, we took to publishing our audiobooks as well and making an audiobook library. This too allowed anyone to access the audiobooks we made with ease, allowing them to be transported to a whole new world of imagination, letting the mellifluous narration guide them along the way. We went ahead with making audiobooks for the short story books that were written in the previous years which were Melody of Awurudu, Grandma’s Recipe for Life, and Mom’s Best Menu Revealed.
Our team also decided to launch a fundraising campaign to fund the publishing and printing of these books called “Book Boost” and we were able to successfully collect the required amount by the generous donations of kind-hearted individuals both within and outside the club. We then took the important step of printing our storybooks. By doing this, we made our content even more accessible to children who may not have access to technology, and we were able to reach a wider audience.
At long last, we were able to print the books successfully and dispatch them via registered mail to international Rotaract clubs who partnered with us for the project on the 23rd of February, marking the completion of the project Ralithi.
All in all, we were able to accomplish much more than we thought was possible. Despite having just 9 members, we handled an extensive project while facing numerous challenges and hurdles. None of this would have been possible without the unwavering strength and dedication of the team whose commitment and love for the project knew no bounds.
By Rtr. Ravisha Gamage