Thursday, December 18, 2014

Our strong women

This is one of our cooks. She's from a very poor background and has struggled with great burdens in her home life, as many Indian women do. She has two great kids -- attestation to her fabulous skills as a mother despite her hardships -- and cares for our kids as if they are her own. She's very close to our older boys, which helps tremendously as they make their way through their teenage years.



The younger woman in one of the photos is our housekeeper, whom we've known for 10 years. She's an amazing and strong woman who left an abusive husband, got her act together, and has transformed her own life for the better.


We and our kids are really lucky to know such women.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Our first-ever NYC fundraiser - Oct 9! See you there!

Please join us for our first-even New York City fundraiser, to be held at the George Billis Gallery (525 W. 26th Street, Ground Floor) on October 9.

Also please see the auction items related to the fundraiser here:

NYC Fundraiser Silent Auction

You can bid on these even if you can't attend our event.


Thank you and we look forward to seeing you on October 9!

Friday, July 18, 2014

We love dosas!

Recently, the kids at our children's home enjoyed yummy dosas. Amazing how a little kid can eat six to eight dosas in one sitting!


Monday, June 23, 2014

Storytelling...

The kids love to listen to stories and to read stories. It's also really nice to see the older kids reading to the little kids.

A few nights a week, an older boy reads a story from the boys' iPad to the other boys. The big boys enjoy reading to the little ones, and the little ones love to hear stories!

Prajwal reading to the boys

Here's Prajwal, one of our older boys, reading a story to the other boys after the evening prayer time. 


Makes for a nice family environment!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Manikanta passes the SSLC exam!

We've known Manikanta since 2006. He lived on the streets of Mysore, where he hung out with his friends Venkatesh, Sreenivasa, Nanjunda, Lokesh, and Harish. When we opened our children's home, he wanted to come to stay with us even though he had never attended school, and he was nine years of age.

Manikanta in 2009
Manikanta had a rough start to his education, ran away from Karunya Mane several times over the years, and often talked about going back to the streets to live because he missed his "freedom." But he stuck with it, and we stuck with him, and today we learned that he passed the pressure-filled SSLC (10th grade) exam. He'll now continue on to 11th and 12th grades (called Pre-University College here, or PUC). 

Manikanta in 2014
We are so happy for Manikanta, who at times seems a bit lost and lacking direction in comparison to our other former street boys who are finding their paths away from the streets a little more confidently. Manikanta also misses his mother, but no none has any idea where she may be. Usually, our other moms or friends on the street have information on one another, but nobody has seen Manikanta's mom for years.

Congratulations to Manikanta!

On another note, to all of the parents out there, we hope that whatever the outcome of your child's SSLC or PUC exams, you are encouraging and supportive. Too many kids are committing suicide over lower than hoped for exam results because of the pressures they face to get high scores and, thus, spots in prestigious colleges -- such tragedies are simply unnecessary.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The end of another school year

School is almost out for the 2013-2014 year! Thirty-six of our kids have finished their exams and are now enjoying their summer vacation. Eight of our kids at St. Francis take their last test today. Everyone is eagerly awaiting results, to be announced in mid-April.

Next year, our current seventh graders will change campuses to attend high school (!). They are really excited, but are also a bit sad to leave the primary and middle school teachers that they've known for six years.
7th grade graduates: Mamatha, Pooja, Prema

7th grade graduates: Vinod and Pavan

Two of our tenth graders start the very important SSLC examinations today. We are crossing our fingers that they do well -- passing the SSLC exam means continuing on to 11th grade. Many students, particularly from poor backgrounds, fail the exam and don't bother to try again. If our two kids fail, they will take the exam again. Today, having an SSLC certificate is required for getting a driver's license and most jobs in India.

Our two 10th graders have overcome many challenges to get to where they are now.

Suma came to us three-and-a-half years ago at the age of 13 after her mother died, and she struggled in school. When she lived on the streets with her mom and siblings, she sporadically attended a government school in the city that had four teachers for 1st to 7th grades.

Suma

Manikanta is a former street boy whom we've known for nine years. On the street, he lived with his friends and sniffed glue everyday. After coming to KM, he stopped that habit but behavioral effects lingered. He works hard at his schoolwork, and we are so happy that he's still in school and hasn't gone back to his former life on the street.

Manikanta in 2009
Sreenivasa just completed his 12th grade exams this week. Sreeni is another former street boy who grew up on the streets of Mysore with Manikanta and their friends. Sreeni first attended school when he came to stay with us at KM in 2008, starting in third grade at the age of 12. He's worked really hard to catch up as best as he could, and has grown and matured into a solid, reliable young man.

Sreenivasa (white shirt) in 2005
Sreenivasa in 2010 (third from left)

Results for the 10th and 12th grade exams will be out in May. We'll let you know how everyone did!

Kids sure grow up quickly!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

PFM and HIV -- An Update

India, with an estimated 2.4 million people living with HIV (as of January 1, 2012), is home to the world's third-largest population suffering from the condition (after South Africa and Nigeria). In India, when a parent contracts HIV, children are often forced to provide for the family by working or begging. When a parent dies, his or her children may be left with no one to care for them. 

Through Project Food & More, Operation Shanti provides support to  those affected by HIV in a couple of ways. PFM provides a monthly care package to destitute HIV+ children who have lost one or both parents and who are now living with a poor relative (usually a grandmother or aunt) who must feed another mouth. Today, the care package is valued at about $20, of which 56 HIV+ children benefit.

PFM also supports destitute women who have been abandoned by their families for being HIV+ with a monthly care package and assistance for medical expenses. This month, Saraswati (name has been changed to protect her privacy) was admitted to the HIV clinic, emaciated and nearly unconscious. Although medical care for HIV+ patients has improved significantly over the years, she was not given the second-line ART medication when she needed it last year after her CD4 count declined, and she subsequently fell very ill. Mom is now in the ICU ward at the clinic, literally fighting for her life. We are assisting her two children, aged 16 and 18, with the medical bills and some difficult-to-obtain ART medication. 

Saraswati's two teenage children have stopped attending school to care for mom -- one stays with mom at the hospital and the other works to earn some money for food and other basics. They have no other family available to help them. 

Your donation to Operation Shanti's PFM program will help us continue to assist women like Saraswati and children who continue to experience stigma and abandonment by their families. On this auspicious day in India, Maha Shivaratri, we hope and pray for Saraswati's recovery.
For more on PFM, please see http://operationshanti.org/project_food.html.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

First Ever Photography Class

In December 2013 and January 2014, the kids at Karunya Mane had the chance to learn some basic photography techniques from one of their friends who visited each Sunday for a couple of hours.

Here are a few of the pictures they took --


Friday, February 7, 2014

Pavankumar S.C.! Boy wonder!

Pavan came to Karunya Mane in June 2010. He lived with his mom in a poor village near Mandya. As a single parent with significant health issues, mom had difficulty raising her only child. Dad abandoned the family a long time ago.

Pavan in 2010
When Pavan came to KM, he had been attending 6th grade in a government school in his village. However, when we tested his reading and writing abilities, we found that he could not even write the Kannada alphabet. 

Pavan and mom in 2012
We enrolled Pavan in the nearby private school that our other kids attended and put him in 4th grade even though he should have been in 1st. Like all our other kids, Pavan got tutoring everyday after school for two hours.

Pavan was also malnourished and very skinny when he came to Karunya Mane, so we gave him extra nutrition, including milk, eggs, and multivitamins.

Over the past three and a half years, Pavan has demonstrated that he's quite a smart boy and just a really good kid. He is well-mannered, listens to his elders, contributes to a positive environment at Karunya Mane, and participates actively in all of his extracurricular activities. He's often selected for school performances, like the one below (that's him at the top of the pyramid).

Pavan in a school performance
And, now, after three years, Pavan is ranked in the top 5 in his 7th grade class! We are very lucky to be able to care for a great kid like Pavan, who came from such abject poverty and is proving himself to be quite an accomplished boy.

Pavan in December 2013
Our house mothers provide written evaluations of each child every year. On Pavan's recent report, the house mother noted that Pavan is very special and, with good guidance and support, will grow up to be an upstanding young man in society.

Give a kid the opportunity to achieve his or her full potential -- it's the most wonderful thing you can do!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The love of a teacher

One of the challenges that we've had in the past is finding the appropriate staff, including house mothers, to help care for our kids at Karunya Mane. For one thing, it's not an easy job (for parents with two or three kids, you know what we mean -- think about taking care of 44 kids at once). For another thing, many shy away from working with street or slum kids. Moreover, anyone could simply "do" the job and be a passive, warm body in the room to monitor the kids.

It takes special people to be effective house mothers and actually make an effort to improve the lives of kids like ours (or any kid) -- not just materialistically by providing them with what they need on a daily basis -- but also by taking the time to teach each of them good life lessons, values, and ethics, 24/7.

We are lucky to have two such women. They are incredibly positive influences on the lives of our boys and girls.

A few days ago, our boys' house mother had her birthday. Surya, one of our ten-year-old boys, left a birthday card for her on her bed as she slept. When she awoke, she said it was the first thing she saw and she read it. She wept out of happiness.


Translation
(left page)
Dear Teacher,
You are always my teacher.
I am always your student.

(right page)
Respected Teacher,
   Wish you a very happy birthday.
You are the teacher who has given me education and knowledge. You have taught me that we should always be merciful towards others, we should love all, we should not hate anyone. Your wish is that I should become a good human being and take care of all and that I should make a name for myself. I will behave as you wish and make you proud one day. I will see to it that you will become very happy on seeing me and my success.
    Respected teacher, I can never forget you. I think of you every second.
Surya J.

We share this card with you in honor of all of the great teachers, parents, and caretakers who dedicate their lives to improving the life of a child or children. Thank you so much.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sponsoring

If you are a sponsor of one of our kids at our children's home, or you are considering being a sponsor, communicating with your child can be a lot of fun and satisfying.

A couple of years ago, a group from Canada on tour of south India came to visit our kids. When they returned to Canada, several of them got together to sponsor five of our kids -- Harish, Prema, Sowmya, Surya, and Shwetha. Harish's sponsors correspond with him a couple of times a year, and such a connection with a sponsor makes a big difference in Harish's life, whose parents both passed away.
The Canadians' visit
Sowmya, Surya, Shwetha, Prema, and Harish

A couple of months ago, Padmanabha's sponsor came to Mysore to practice yoga. While in Mysore, he met Padmanabha. It was a fun day for all of the boys -- not just Padmanabha -- as they got to show off their karate and yoga skills to the sponsor, and all had a great time. 

 
For our kids to know that people are out there helping them out of the goodness of their hearts is a huge thing for them! We thank all of our sponsors who are supporting our 44 kids at Karunya Mane!

Right now, all of our kids are sponsors -- as some of the sponsorships come to an end and are not renewed, we'll let you know!