Thursday, October 30, 2008


The kids at Karunya Mane take karate lessons twice a week, on Sunday mornings and again on Tuesday mornings before school.

The older kids are with one teacher and the little ones do some calesthenics and jumping around with another teacher.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Goodbye to Padma

On Sunday, October 26th at about 3:00 in the afternoon, Padma, one of our street moms, passed away. She was mom to Harish and Devaraj, who live at Karunya Mane.

For more on Padma, please see our post here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Spotlight on a voluteer -- Madam Inspector

Getting locals involved with our work in a significant way is something we welcome. Everyone wins. Our kids get to interact with others in their society, learning from them or just casually socializing, and the volunteers see another side of society that they were not previously exposed to in any meaningful way -- the lives of the destitute, how they live, and most importantly, how they think about life.

When a street mom is so poor that her primary concern is finding enough food to eat for that day -- as is the case with the people we help -- the last thing that she is thinking about is the future, or bathing their kid, or brushing to ensure healthy teeth for the future.

One of our volunteers from the community, Anu, has taken a very active role in the lives of the kids and women. A while ago, she developed an interest in what we were doing and has since thrown herself into our work. She has opened her mind and her heart to our women, how they live, what they think about, and she takes an active role in helping them with the areas of their lives in which need guidance and support.

Anu not only donates her time (and often lots of yummy goodies made in her kitchen), she encourages others in the community to contribute what they can. She shares with us her knowledge, ideas, and opinions, and -- most importantly -- her desire to help the destitute in her country. She admitted that, for a long time, she did not think about why the poor lived the way they do, the problems they faced, and why they were ... so dirty. Couldn't they just improve themselves? Get a job? Find a house? By talking to them and learning about their lives, she soon realized that it's just not that easy.

Anu visits Karunya Mane for her monthly "inspection" and encouraging talks wth the kids. She makes it a fun session, while at the same time instills in the kids the importance of personal hygiene and taking pride in keeping one's area neat and clean.

Anu checking Swarana's ears and Sinchana's teeth

Anu -- and the energy, effort, and dedication that she puts into her work as a volunteer (she also runs a full-time eatery with her husband, treats her employees as family members, and takes care of her elderly parents) -- sets the example for others in society of how to contribute what one can in a most meaningful way.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Project Food and More

In September, to expand our reach and help more destitute children and their families in the Mysore area, we began distributing monthly "care packages" to new kids and grannies in need.

The kids we help through Project Food and More have lost either one or both parents to a debilitating illness, such as HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, and who now live with a grannie or other relative who has taken on the added burden of feeding one or two more mouths. In addition to losing parents to disease, the kids come only from the poorest economic backgrounds, and we visit their homes to ensure that they meet our criteria. Click here to read about some of these families.

During our first month, we distributed care packages to 16 families and expect to receive additional lists of qualifying kids in the coming weeks from our friends at the local clinics.

The care packages contain food goodies (rice, lentils), bath and laundry soap, mosquito coils (to keep away mosquitoes carrying malaria), protein powder, cookies and biscuits, and some cash -- valued at about $25.00 (Rs.1,200). This amount represents about a 30% to 50% increase in our families' monthly income.

Given the dramatic increase in gasoline and food costs -- on the order of 40% in five months for basics such as rice, sugar, lentils -- and the extra hardship in caring for one or two additional kids for some of these grannies and uncles, the care packages are received with open arms.

For more on Project Food and More, for profiles on the kids that we help through this program, and for information on how you can be a "care package" financial supporter, please see our website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Darshan's back...

Someone saw our poster and approached our people on the street, letting them know that he had seen Darshan in the Agrahara area (about a mile from our area) with a street worker.

Everyone rushed over there and got Darshan back!

Mom Kavitha sends her thanks to everyone who was concerned for Darshan, and who sent good thoughts to her family.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Darshan is missing

For readers in India, please please please keep an eye out for little Darshan. He went missing on Sunday the 12th, and was last seen around 1:00 pm near the tea stall, near where mom works on Sayyaji Rao road, near KR Hospital and the Nandini Milk Stand, across from Ashoka Bookstore. Friends looked everywhere for him until late in the night and mom Kavitha filed a report with the police. Posters have been put up throughout the city.

Darshan may have been taken from Mysore, so if you are out of the city area, please do still keep an eye out for him.

Darshan is three years old. He recently got his head shaved at the temple, and here is a picture closely resembling what he looks like today.

If you know anything or think you've seen Darshan since Sunday and if you are in Mysore, please tell our street moms in front of KR Hospital near the Nandini Milk stand. You can also email us at info "at" or call 99645 76830 (Kannada) or 99009 09428 (English).

Thank you for your concern.

Friday, October 10, 2008

More abuse

In September, Shelly, one of our moms, came to stay at our shelter after being abused by her husband. He often demands money from her and if she doesn't give it to him, he beats her. The abuse has been going on for a while now, and each time it happens, we encourage her to go to the police to file a complaint. Until now, she hasn't wanted to do that.

This time, tired of the abuse after all these years, she wanted to go to the police, so we took her to the Women's Police Station, which handles such matters. They did the require paperwork, then told us that the first step is to bring the husband in for husband-wife counseling. Of course, the husband would not voluntarily come into a police station, so we had to devise a plan -- the next time he showed up at KM to find her, we would keep him occupied as the police made their way to the facility.

The day after filing the complaint, the police managed to capture him, and ... during counseling, Shelly was adamant that, after years of abuse, she wants nothing to do with him. Her two kids are growing up nicely at Karunya Mane and she expressed that she also wants a better life for herself. Husband, of course, wanted her back. She could not bring herself to press charges and put him in jail, but she did say that she wanted nothing to do with him. The police let him, with the warning that the next time she complains, he'll be thrown in jail.

After Shelly went back to KM, husband has constantly asked us to tell her to return to him. We've explained to him that such a decision is her choice, nobody else's, and he'll just have to be patient to see what she decides in the future.

Since then, Shelly has shown no signs of wanting to return to him. She stays at Karunya Mane and recently took a job as a house cleaner in Gokulam, a wealthy suburb of Mysore where many yoga students stay while in India. She's quite happy to be earning an income so that she can pay back the money she borrowed from her friends, and enjoys being productive again. We hope that she continues to work there, as it is steady work with good pay.

Another unfortunate aspect to Shelly's story is that many of her women friends on the street refused to take her side. Instead, they blame her for her husband's current misery and for breaking up the marriage. They have told us to send her back (we constantly explain that we can't do that), and claim that, "he did not hit her all the time, just sometimes. So why doesn't she return to him?" and that "he has no money, she should come back to him." They also want their money paid back immediately and we explained that it will take time for her to repay them, but that she has every intention to do so. The women refuse to ask the husband for repayment, claiming that Shelly took out the loans, not him -- even though everyone knows that she did so only to give the money to him and avoid being beaten.

We can't guarantee that Shelly won't return to her husband, as many women in India have the belief that they are nothing without a man around, no matter how he treats her. But she now has a couple of good examples of women who have put their foot down against abusive husbands -- Mary and Kamini -- so we hope that she finds her way. We encourage her to continue to work for her earnings, to take care of herself and her health, and to not forget the horrible things that he did to her.

Lunch visitors

A few Saturdays ago, a group from a family foundation came to Karunya Mane, as they wanted to serve lunch for the kids. The food was delicious and plentiful.

Enjoying ice cream!

After lunch, several young IT professional related to the foundation played a few games with the kids and hung out for a while.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tulsi plants

All Hindu families worship the sacred tulsi, or basil, plant. It is also a medicinal plant and is planted in the courtyard of Hindu houses. Women worship the plant twice a day. In the morning after bathing, women go to the tulsi plant outside the house. They offer water to it, raising a small copper or silver urn toward the sun and pouring water while chanting the "navagraha mantra," a chant of the names of the sun, moon and the planets. The tulsi puja ends with holding a few leaves of the plant in the palm and pouring water over the leaves. This water is drunk from the palm and is supposed to strengthen the immune system.

On the Tulsi Puja day in the Hindu calendar, the plant is adorned with flowers and gooseberry branches.

Karunya Mane tulsi plant installed and cared for by the residents