Thursday, December 10, 2009

Big Nanjunda

We've known big Nanjunda now for over four years, and first met him on the streets in 2005. He lived there with his mom and grandmother. Mom passed away in 2008, and his dad lives somewhere in Bangalore but is rarely seen.

Nanjunda has come a long way from his life on the street. While at Karunya Mane these past two years, his behavior has improved tremendously -- especially this year, as he has started to take his studies seriously and is now first in his class. We expect that he will be able to skip 7th grade next year and start in 8th, which will help him catch up.


Nanjunda has also stepped up as a leader for our little boys, ensuring that they form proper lines when walking to the bathroom at night before bed, and when going to meals.

Getting ready for school.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Morning chores

The older kids at Karunya Mane do their share of daily chores around the shelter in the morning before school, and help keep their home as clean and tidy as is possible (with 43 little ones running around). They wash the bathrooms, walk the dogs, clean their personal areas and our office, and make sure the little ones are ready for school.

Monday, November 23, 2009


Deepti, a homeless street woman who came to us a few months ago, needed significant medical attention. A few years ago, Deepti was kidnapped and taken to a brothel in Mumbai, where she was forced to service numerous men each night. She managed to run away late one night, and make her way to the police station. She spent a few years at a shelter in Mysore, but somehow ended up back on the street.

Deepti has AIDS as well as tuberculosis, and a chronic infection in her cervix area. She is undergoing medication for her conditions.

Deepti takes her medicines regularly, and we're so excited because she is finally gaining weight! TB patients usually undergo significant weight loss before treatment, and HIV patients often experience wasting syndrome. Deepti was about 30 kg (66 lb) when she first came to us. After about a month on the TB meds, they begin to gain weight. For Deepti, that process took three months. She's just about finished with her TB treatment, and now weighs a much healthier 38 kg (84 lb).

Let's keep hoping that Deepti continues to improve and begins to enjoy a more peaceful and happy life at Karunya Mane.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Venkatesh, artist and athlete

Venkatesh recently won the top prize in an art competition at school. Just a few years ago, Venkatesh lived on the streets of Mysore with his mom and siblings and was in our street program. He enjoyed drawing and painting back then, and he still does today.

Getting a bath from mom in 2005, and doing some painting in our street program.

At Karunya Mane, Venkatesh takes twice-weekly karate lessons. He is also a great cricket player and all-around athlete, and recently won several prizes in athletic events at school.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Karate with the little ones

At the same time that the big kids get their karate lessons on Tuesday and Sunday mornings, the little ones also have a lesson with the karate teacher.

Although really early in the morning (rise and shine at 5am), they do seem to enjoy their lessons!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Harish and the big guy

During the physical education period at school, a teacher plays outdoor games with the kids. Here, you can see Harish taking on his PE teacher...

We're guessing that Harish ran circles around poor teacher, who seemed a bit out of shape!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Jumping rope

The kids are on their Dasara holiday from the 18th of September to the 2nd of October.
During the break, they have a daily schedule, with the normal bath/prayer routine in the morning, followed by breakfast and chores. They also continue their tutoring classes, so they don't forget what they learned in school, and spend the rest of the time playing games and engaging in some really fun outdoor activities.


Prema and Manikanta helping Shanti



Sharath going to ride his bike

Nanjunda during the daily cricket gameVenkatesh

All of the toys and games for the kids were donated by generous supporters of our work. Thanks!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What do the little ones do all day?

Wonder what the little ones do all day?

To start with, four of our tiny tots, Mohan, Lalitah, Gowtham, and Darshan, attend pre-nursery school from 10:00 am to 12:30 pm each day. Adarsh, the fifth little one, is two years old and starts school next year.

Lalitha, Gowtham, and Darshan

First they take a bath and eat their breakfast. Then they get ready for school, by brushing their teeth, getting dressed, and combing their hair. Next, they get a ride to nursery school since they are small and it's a little far for them to walk.

At 12:30pm, they return for lunch, a little nap and playtime, and then tutoring with Vaibao! Vaibao spends 15 minutes with each teaching them to write the letters of the alphabet. He also sings songs with them and tries his best to get them to sit still for a few minutes.

Darshan seems to be listening intently to Vaibao.

Then decides that showing teacher his toy cell phone is more interesting!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Darshan wants to show you the Dasara elephants

It's almost Dasara time in the city of Mysore, and the big, gentle elephants are out every day on their practice walk, preparing for the city-wide parade in a couple of weeks.

During Dasara, the kids get two weeks off from school.

Little Darshan showing you the elephants

Friday, August 28, 2009

Fundraiser in Gokulam

If you're in Mysore, please join us for a fabulous fundraiser dinner sponsored by Anu's Bamboo Hut! Friday, September 4, at 6:00pm. And meet a few of our cute kids who will be attending.

(click on the link for a larger view)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kumari and life changes

Kumari, one of our long-time street moms, has been staying at Karunya Mane as she suffers from lung damage. After a recent ten-day stay at a local hospital to recover from a serious case of pneumonia and hypoxia, she came to KM to live. During her first month after being discharged from the hospital, Kumari needed to be on oxygen, and it was a challenge for her to adjust.

While on the street, Kumari sold vegetables or made flower leis, and she worked hard to earn decent wages during the flower season. She was one of the first women we met on the street in 2005, and she did her best to care for her kids even in that challenging environment. See a brief interview with Kumari in our Operation Shanti Introduction Video.

Kumari helped us tremendously through our Street People Program, referring orphans and other destitute children to us and trying to ensure that the other women in our program behaved properly. Kumari has always been reliable, a straight-talker, engages in no drama or B.S., and only cares about the well-being of her kids.

Kumari at KM with little Mohan, her 3-year-old son, and little Adarsh

Kumari, little Nanjunda (nephew), and Sumitra (daughter)
during a visit with grannie Rachamma

The doctors say that Kumari's lungs won't improve and the goal is to prevent them from worsening. A clean-air environment can help immensely. Unfortunately, the pollution in the city would be too much for her lungs.

Her condition has improved a bit, and she doesn't need the oxygen as much, but her right lung "crackles" when the doctor listens to her breathing, so we are encouraging her to stay at KM. She can watch her kids -- Mohan, Sumitra, Prema, and Venkatesh -- at KM grow up, attend school, and enjoy their childhood.

Monday, August 17, 2009

... on the way to orange belts ...

On the way to getting their orange belts -- the kids had a Sunday session with other karate students of the school, practicing what they've learned. In a couple of weeks, they'll be going for their orange belt tests, an all-day event with hundreds of other kids taking karate lessons.

Sharath and Harish

Asha and another student

Lokesh and Sreenevasa

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cute kids coming home from school

... in case you were jonesing for some cute kid photos -- here are some of our kids returning from kindergarten class.
Vishnu, Sumitra, and Shweta
(can you believe that Vishnu is in kindergarten???)

Anusha and Vinuta

little Pooja and Swarana


Imran and little Vishnu again

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Hope and improvement

Over the years, we have lost HIV+ women who had also contracted tuberculosis. HIV and tuberculosis is a difficult combination for many reasons, including the toxicity of the medications needed to treat each illness.

One of our street women, Deepti (her name has been changed to protect her privacy), was recently diagnosed with AIDS, and a few weeks later with tuberculosis. Like the other women who died, she was emaciated and could barely eat -- weighing a mere 30 kg (65 lbs). Like the other women we lost, she had a fever for weeks and frequent vomiting and diarrhea. Like the other women we lost, we admitted her to the local HIV clinic, where she started on antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Soon after starting on ART, she developed lumps in her lymph nodes. Testing revealed that she had tuberculosis, and she was started on anti-tuberculosis treatment (ATT). But, unlike the other women we lost, her ART medication was changed to accommodate her need for ATT.

Fortunately for Deepti, the doctors today know better how to treat patients with both AIDS and TB. A few years ago this was not the case, and doctors hesitated putting patients on ART when they were already taking ATT for their tuberculosis. Today, these patients have a better chance of survival.

Deepti was discharged from the hospital and, unlike the other women we lost, her health has improved dramatically -- she has gained a few pounds, can eat a full meal now, looks 100% healthier and happier, and is ready to get on with her life. She still has a long way to go, and we hope that she has many good years ahead of her. Since she has no home, does not want to live on the street, and her family has shut her out, she'll be living at Karunya Mane.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Little Girl" by Deborah Crooks

A friend of Operation Shanti donated a song to us. We've used it here:

Thursday, July 16, 2009


A recent visitor to Karunya Mane asked us, aside from fundraising, what our biggest challenge is. Often, the answer is, sadly, the parents.

Many of our kids have at least one parent, a few have both parents, and several no longer have parents. The parents are unable to properly care for their kids, being destitute themselves, are often single moms, or are moms with a deadbeat husband who drinks whatever earnings they have.

Most of our kids have endured abuse, either physical or emotional, at the hand of a mom or a dad. This happens not necessarily because the parent doesn't care or wants to abuse a child, but because the parent was abused by his or her own parent, and knows no other way.

Little Nanjunda's story is heartbreaking and, at the same time, filled with hope.

Little Nanjunda, now eight years old, lived on the streets of Mysore for most of his short life with his mom and grannie. His dad left his mom years ago, and his mom begs on the streets to earn money for their food. She used to abuse Nanjunda quite badly at times, hitting him and often throwing him on the ground then stomping on him, and speaking to him very roughly. Grannie helped take care of Nanjunda, and she often fed and bathed him.

Nanjunda's mom did not stay in one place for very long. Instead, she went back and forth between the streets and her boyfriend's home in a village about an hour away. When she and her boyfriend argued (usually resulting in her being injured by him), she and Nanjunda returned to the street. A week or so later, Nanjunda would find himself back in the village when his mom and her boyfriend made up.

Last year, grannie wanted Nanjunda to live at Karunya Mane, so that he could start school and have a nice living environment. He was already seven years old and, given his mom's unstable lifestyle, had not yet started school. In May 2008, Nanjunda came to live at Karunya Mane, and both mom and grannie were satisfied and visited him once a month on Sundays. Nanjunda loved school and his after-school tuition sessions, and often talked about learning English so he could fly on an airplane to America.

little Nanjunda (center) with Pallavi (right) and Apu (left) in 2007

Then, mom's boyfriend, who has an uncontrollable temper when drunk, started demanding that the boy be released and returned back to his mother and their shack in the village. They arrived at Karunya Mane one day, jumped the gate, and stole the boy away.

Nanjunda stayed in the village for the next few months, missing the rest of his school year. Then again this May, we found mom and Nanjunda back on the street -- it seems that they were kicked out of the village. After a few weeks, mom asked us to take Nanjunda back at Karunya Mane, as he desperately wanted to live there again and continue school with all of his friends.

After reporting our process to the local police (as a way to discourage mom from causing trouble in the future), little Nanjunda returned to Karunya Mane, and is now back in school.

We are well aware that mom may reconcile with her boyfriend again in the future, come to Karunya Mane and cause a scene again to get her son back. We'll do what we can to keep the boy with us, as his safety and future are most important.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

two FABULOUS weekends -- shopping and sharing

In June, the kids at Karunya Mane enjoyed two incredibly amazing weekends.

The First Weekend
One Sunday in June, a very generous and kind man, Paul from the US and his family, and Sharath, Shemi and Saraswati from the Ashtanga yoga shala in Mysore, sponsored a shopping spree for the kids!

Paul wanted to take our kids shopping to buy whatever clothes and toys that they wanted! Sharath suggested Big Bazaar, a mega-store in the heart of the city. And even though our kids have come a long way in terms of good study habits, cleanliness, and overall excellent behavior, you have to remember that--just a couple of years ago--our kids were the kids who stood outside these stores, begging and selling their trinkets. They could never have imagined stepping into a store like this.

But this particular Sunday, all 43 kids at Karunya Mane went shopping! Words can't begin to describe their day, which began with a visit to KM, then a drive to the store...

... getting organized into groups outside ...

... and then, after figuring out how to get on the escalator for the very first time in their lives and then staring forever at the incredible quantity of toys and dolls and cricket bats and cute clothes and more, buying stuff...

... if that wasn't enough, afterwards there was chocolate for everyone!

Jeevan: mmm, yum

Before parting ways, Paul and Sharath had a few words for the kids...

... telling the kids that they got some great gifts today, and that everyone must ...

... share their presents with each others, because that is what we do, we share what we have.

Big Bazaar graciously offered lunch to all of our kids in their employee lunchroom.


We wonder what Prema was thinking as we drove away...

The Second Weekend
During the second weekend, our kids decided to give some toys--four big bags full--to another children's shelter, since their kids had no toys.

And Asha, our oldest girl, donated the 50 rupees she had in her pocket to help buy some snacks for them.

Asha, Lokesh, Amita, and Sharath came along to deliver the toys and visit with the other kids.

We hope your June was as full of fun and sharing as ours.

third photo courtesy Mysore Mitra.