A life dedicated to help poor children focus on their future and realise their dreams
About 40 km from Chennai, at Aranvayal village in Thiruvallur district, a Parliament is in session and the members have gathered in the precincts of the local temple.
The Speaker permits a discussion on the issue of a faulty switch board on a street lamp post. The member who raised the subject says that the lives of residents in the area are in danger, as they are forced to manually connect the wires to switch on the light.
The Children’s Parliament at Aranvayal started by Logammal has been in the forefront of social action since 2006 (Photos: H K Rajashekar)
“It is a dangerous situation. Someone might get electrocuted,” the member expresses concern and welcomes suggestions to find a solution to the problem.
“Let’s ask our PWD minister to write a petition to the panchayat ward member, and ask him to replace the switch board,” says a MP.
The suggestion finds favour with the other members and the discussion shifts to choosing a date to submit the petition. A member suggests the following Sunday, but another shoots down the idea citing a local temple festival that day.
As the discussion continues, the lone adult in the group Logammal Arumugam, who has been a passive spectator until now intervenes and suggests that it would be easier to get the work done before the temple festival on Sunday.
Members unanimously accept the suggestion and move on to the next item on the agenda - to chalk out a plan for celebrating the ‘Joy of Giving Week’ in October.
Members of Ambedkar Children’s Parliament at Aranvayal display a maturity far beyond their age and take up local problems affecting the community and find solutions to them, with some help and guidance from Logammal.
These child parliamentarians act far beyond their age and try to find solutions to problems facing the community
Logammal, 39, who belongs to the same village, started the Children’s Parliament in 2006 when she was working with Pasumai Trust, an NGO that provided literacy education to child workers at brick kilns.
“I learned about the children’s parliament in one of the meetings I attended and started the programme in Aranvayal. There was good response from the children and we introduced the concept in couple of other villages too,” says Logammal.
She quit the NGO in 2010, but continued with the forum, which has many success stories to its credit that the children recount with pride.
In 2006, the child parliamentarians organised a rally in the village demanding the shifting of the government run liquor shop from near the bus stand, where tipplers were causing nuisance to women and children.
A similar campaign at the neighbouring Ondikuppam village also brought relief to the public, after the local liquor shop was shifted to a new location following the children’s demands.
Sasikala, a former prime minister at the Children’s Parliament in Aranvayal, who is now doing her final year B.Com, recalls how a few years ago they had approached the panchayat to clean a community toilet for women and children that remained unusable due to poor maintenance.
They even collected funds and started a children’s library in the village. Recently, they replaced a faulty tap in a public tank for drinking water by collecting Re.1 from the local residents.
For Logammal, who remains single, the children she works with are her greatest joy. “I have helped in setting up about 50 children’s parliaments around Tamil Nadu. The children bond with me well. I forget myself when I am with them,” she says.
Logammal acts as a life coach, motivator, and mentor for the kids
Logammal says that her objective of creating children’s parliaments is to mould every child into a change maker. “They should be conscious about the welfare of the community and should be problem solvers when they grow up,” she says.
She wants to guide the children so that they have good education, something that her parents could not give her.
“My father was a daily wage labourer. He could not send me to college after I had finished my schooling.
“I want to ensure that each child sets realistic goals and that they complete at least a vocational course if their parents are unable to send them to college,” says Logammal, who acts as a life coach, motivator, and mentor for the kids she works with through the child parliaments she has set up.
In 1993, after her schooling, she joined Ecomwel, an NGO, as a volunteer for an adult literacy programme. Later, she joined the organisation as a full time worker and served there as a community health worker till 2006.
In this period, she did her BA Sociology through correspondence and also a one-year diploma course in social work. In 2006 she joined Pasumai Trust, where she worked till 2010.
She is now associated with Neighbourhood Community Network, a Kanyakumari based NGO that is said to have pioneered the Children’s Parliament concept in South India.
They have helped her to take over the reins of an organisation ‘Voluntary Health Association’ through which Logammal hopes to continue her social service among children and extend her field of work to health related issues in villages.
This Article is part of the 'Unsung Heroes of Tamil Nadu' series
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