A glimpse of my work in Rotaract during my days as a project chairperson.
After working with the club for roughly over a year, I got my chance to chair a project and it was a small (back then) community service project called “Manusath Handa – Voice of Humanity”. It was 15th August 2019, and I was contacted by the community service team and asked whether I would like to chair a project named Mnausath Handa, without thinking twice I said yes because I wanted to see how I would manage a project. At the meeting with the community service team, we (me and Rtr. Meelan Bandara) got a sound idea about the project. Simply we had to make audiobooks for the visually impaired children at school for the blind in Ratmalana. We haven’t done anything quite like it before but how hard can it be right, that was my initial thought. In this meeting, we were told that we must minimalized the budget to the minimum we can.
Then we met the principal at School for the blind in Ratmalana and from her, we got the idea, for the first time in Sri Lanka to make audiobooks from past papers. Upon meeting the Commissioner of examinations, we got permission to use their papers and answer scripts. Furthermore, we decided that we’ll continue to record articles from the Wijaya newspaper too.
27 past papers and weekly published newspaper articles, with so much content the call for a good, solid volunteer base was inevitable.
So having that in mind we thought on project exsiccation methods, because of the budget constraints we had to think out of the box.
Our first challenge was to come up with a new method to replace the traditional method of recording at a studio while maintaining studio quality. The answer was in our pockets, smartphones. Everyone has it and there’s no special skill needed to use the audio recorder in it, and the volunteers can record at the comfort of their homes.
The next challenge was communication, with so many recordings to be done, effective communication is a must and because we must send the document and collect the recordings too. That’s where WhatsApp came to the rescue; documents can be sent as PDFs through WhatsApp while collecting the audio files.
The papers were broken into small parts of either 10 MCQ questions or an essay question lessening the weight on a volunteer and giving chances to more and more volunteers.
Next came the tricky part, how can we make it easier for the volunteers. More specifically, what can go wrong from their end? So, to figure that part out me myself, and Meelan did some recordings and realized that background noises and mispronunciations were our main problems. No matter what we do getting rid of that was impossible (if not everyone can be a voice actor) so instead of doing it perfectly why not correct the mistakes? That’s what we thought, and we learned audio editing to do all sorts of changes to make the best quality recording.
You might be thinking why go through all this trouble? Well with these new methods a project that had 25 volunteers grew to 150+ volunteers and with their help, we finished over 600+ recordings within 9 months, that’s the difference we made by doing some changes. Thanks to this people were able to do community service from the comfort of their homes by spending 5-10 minutes per week. (Guess we were adapted to the new normal way before the pandemic!)
Simplifying the process, stepping into the volunteers’ shoes, and constantly taking feedback and ideas from the beneficiaries of your project will create a more meaningful and impactful project.
After us, our successors lead the project to the point where it got crowned as the best Rotaract project in the entire world for the year 2020-21. The road to winning the award is also an interesting story but it’s a story for another blogger.