By Seema Korumilli
All people may be created equal, but only the fortunate grow up equal.
When my twin brother, Suraj, and I were first starting out with our nonprofit work, this was a lesson we learned early on. Only the lucky get to grow up equal — meaning, not everyone is born with the same access to opportunity. Growing up in suburban New Jersey, inopportunity was a foreign concept to us; however, when my brother and I went to visit our ancestral village in India, we felt like criminals who were lucky for being born in the right family, in the right place. It was this awakening that led us to start a global nonprofit organization, and give people just like our Indian neighbors access to what they ought to have: a fighting chance for a healthy, happy life full of opportunity and open doors.
Suraj and I founded Literacy Movement 4 More (LM4M) in 2013 to promote literacy around the world through the construction of libraries and provision of other crucial educational materials such as technology and school supplies. We focus on literacy and education because they are the great equalizers. By giving someone the power to read, we can give them access to a new world full of knowledge, skills, and the chance to control their path and make a better life for themselves.
So far, we have built seven libraries in four different countries spanning three continents. Our team collects donations of books, technology, and school supplies to construct libraries for institutions that need them the most. The books we donate are mostly geared toward readers between the ages of two to 12. Many are picture books and young adult novels, which help with developing fundamental reading analysis skills necessary to intellectual growth; however, we donate everything from dictionaries to college-level textbooks to give the communities access to as much knowledge as possible. The technology that we collect and donate-laptops and tablets- are stocked with digital libraries and educational applications that aid in the development of critical cognitive skills. LM4M also believes students shouldn’t have to worry about a lack of school supplies getting in the way of education; we use funds to purchase new school supplies for the children’s institutions we partner with.
Our organization has also worked with educators, administrators, and students here in the United States to implement specialized literacy-focused programs in public schools supported by LM4M. Our most popular program is an incentive-based reading program where students receive prizes for filling out a certain number of reading logs per quarter- students who read the most number of books in their class receive a “grand prize”, such as a pair of headphones.
Our goal now is to establish a solid relationship with Northeastern and the extensive innovation and civic engagement ecosystems here in order to cement LM4M in Boston. We’ve already begun working with the O’Bryant School right here in Roxbury, and just completed a presentation circuit collaborating with Panagoula Diamanti-Karanou, a visiting lecturer, to raise awareness in Northeastern about our organization. Together, we presented at the Greek consulate about LM4M’s work with the N.U.in Program in Plagiari, Greece.
Our road so far hasn’t been easy. Being young and passionate isn’t enough to make meaningful change- we’ve needed dedication and a stubborn work ethic to get the resources and connections required to even begin tackling illiteracy and poor education across the globe. Any time we feel overwhelmed or tired, we always try to remember what caused us to take up the mission in the first place, and the little victories found in the smile of a child who can finally read for herself. We remember our little village in India, and the all the children we’ve met. These memories carry us forward. Literacy Movement 4 More is the culmination of our demand for change, and we hope to continue transforming communities around the world with the help of those who support us.
Seema and her brother, Suraj, are both student entrepreneurs currently in their first year at Northeastern University.