This year, 10 volunteers decided to develop a tutorial program for the young people who live in the Barry Farms housing project in Southeast Washington.

The idea was to make learning fun by using games to teach reading, writing and arithmetic. It worked, so well in fact that more children were choosing to attend the tutoring sessions instead of going to the Barry Farms recreation center, where a government-sponsored self-help program for youth was based.

The volunteer tutors had been operating out of a house in Barry Farms that the D.C. government had let them use -- but when this conflict arose, the volunteers were told they could no longer use it. The house had to be used exclusively for a girls' club set up to combat teen-age pregnancy.

So the tutorial program, which was probably doing as much, if not more, to combat teen-age pregnancy, was forced to move to the Barry Farms recreation center, where the tutors have to compete for the children's attention over the sound of ping pong and pool games.

Also, the volunteers were told, they would have to reconsider the use of games in their teaching techniques because supervision of games was what the Department of Recreation was supposed to do.

Somewhere, deep down in the recesses of a government bureaucrat's mind, there may be some logic to all of this. But I could not find it. After more than 10 tries to penetrate the D.C. government bureaucracy by telephone, I ended up right back where I started: "D.C. Government Operator {pick a number}; may I help you?"

At this point, though, it doesn't matter to me who said what to whom. The main fact speaks for itself: The volunteer tutorial program, which is sponsored by the Institute for Urban Living, now operates out of a recreation center that has no blackboard, no bookshelves, one table and a few folding chairs.

As for the government-sponsored self-help program, Operating Service Assisting Youth (OSAY), the purpose is to allow youth 9 to 21 years old to take part in recreational and cultural activities. There should be no conflict between this program and the tutorial service. In fact, if there is any service that the youth of Barry Farms need, it is precisely what the volunteers are offering.

Kathryn Cohen, who teaches third and fourth grades at the Owl School in Washington, developed the tutorial program along with Caryn Luadtke, who works for Orion Studios.

Cohen says that despite the inconvenience of holding classes in the recreation center, young people from Barry Farms continue attending the tutoring sessions.

"There is a strong desire on their part to learn," she said. "We have found that the key is making learning fun, using games as part of the teaching process. In many cases, the reason they have not done so well in school is because learning has not been fun."

After so many years of neglect, it is quite refreshing to find that so much is going on in Barry Farms on behalf of the young people that the result is a problem of coordination and cooperation -- which ought to be easy enough to resolve.

I am reminded of my college buddy, Larry Bailey, who is now a partner with the prestigious accounting firm of Peat Marwick. Larry grew up in Barry Farms. Today, he manages the Barry Farms baseball team, and bought all the equipment.

Now if Barry Farms can produce one Larry Bailey when there was no tutoring or OSAY programs, just think of how many more could come out of that neighborhood if the people who wanted to help kids learn to read and write were allowed to do just that.