Saturday, September 27, 2008


In India, the Dasara festival is as big as Christmas in the West. Dasara, offically a 10-day holiday, is celebrated on the occasion of Navaratri, a holy day that commemorates the triumph of good over evil. It is also when kids get a three-week vacation from school.

The last day of all the celebrations is called Vijaya Dashami. On this day in Mysore, a huge and very grand procession goes through the streets of the city, with an idol of the goddess Chamundeshwari riding in a golden seat atop an elephant.

Here is little Sowmya during our morning program, watching the elephants practice procession walk up and down Sayyaji Rao street.

At Karunya Mane during the vacation, the kids will watch the procession on TV. Also scheduled for them are trips to the zoo, GRS Fantasy Park, and the Infosys campus.

Friday, September 19, 2008

First report cards...

The kids received their first report cards a couple of weeks ago, reflecting the first three months' performance at school. Highlights:

Pooja received straight A's!

Venkatesh received all A's except for two B+!

Prema, who fought chronic ear infections for years that affected her learning, received straight B+'s!

Manikanta and Kaleem received a couple of A's, mostly B's, and one C+ (in English) -- so they're getting extra English tutoring on Sundays.

Considering this is Manikanta's (age 9) first time ever in a classroom, and that just a few months ago he wandered the streets and sniffed shoe polish with his friends, we're quite pleased to see him make such efforts in school.

The rest of the kids did equally well, with the majority of the grades being A's and B's, and just a few C's.

Our three older kids, who all were put back to 5th grade, struggle a bit more with their schoolwork, as it is the first time in their lives that they have had to really study... but their teachers say they work very hard and are interested in their schoolwork.

Considering that for some this is their first year in a structured school environment, and that the others are still overcoming their years of developing bad study habits while living on the streets, the kids are showing great effort in their schoolwork. KM, with its excellent staff and after-school teachers, and healthy and structured living environment, seems to be having a positive effect on the kids. A good start.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A new name for Baby

Baby came to us this May (see post here) and has become a real joy to have at Karunya Mane. At about 20 years of age (she doesn't know her birth date), she's a very pleasant and cheerful woman, is well-mannered, and helps out however she can around the facility.

Given a difficult and unfair early life, Baby never got an education. She did learn to write her name in caps -- BABY -- but was never given the chance to go to school. The people she worked for said that she wouldn't have been capable of going to school and learning. It is what "they" say here about many of the lower class/caste destitute kids who work in their homes or in their shops.

We don't believe in such thinking, and as proof of the human spirit's desire to improve oneself, one day while getting a checkup from a doctor, Baby told him that she wanted to stay at Karunya Mane and get an education. He relayed this information to us, and Baby now attends tutoring class every day at Karunya Mane, and is quite the avid student.

Baby and Reeta have become good friends while at Karunya Mane, taking tutoring class together and hanging out. A few days ago, Reeta gave her friend Baby a most amazing gift -- a real name: Sandhya. Sandhya, an auspicious word in Sanskrit, means "twilight."

Sandhya and Reeta with their teacher

Sandhya is healthy and she's gained noticeable weight at Karunya Mane. In addition to her educational efforts, she participates in group activities with the kids, including birthday celebrations, karate class in the mornings, and arts and crafts on Sundays. We suspect that after years of being someone's unpaid servant -- basically from the age of 10 to 20 -- Sandhya is finally getting the chance to enjoy a childhood. Unfortunately in India, being forced into child labor at an early age is more the norm than the exception for over 100 million children in the country.

Sandhya at Sunday arts and crafts

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Art with Lise and Tom

Sunday art continues with our current volunteers, Lise and Tom, and Crystal. They've been engaging the kids in all kinds of creative activities...

Tom with the kids while painting hand puppets. Vishnu (in orange shirt) had a great time painting his little white cup red!

Sumitra concentrating...

Vishnu showing Arvind how to clean the brush in the water cup.

Manikanta, Jeevan, and Lise

If you'd like to donate art supplies to Operation Shanti's kids in India, please see our friend Tracy's blog here (see bottom of page) for sending art supplies to her. She's holding a donation drive in anticipation of her upcoming trip to India in early 2009 -- and plans to carry with her a suitcase full of supplies for the kids (as she carried a suitcase full of shoes for the kids in January 2008!).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Family visits

Every couple of Sundays, Jeevan's mom -- also Asha's aunt -- visits her son and niece at Karunya Mane.
Jeevan is four and attends nursery school with the other kids. He's a happy, mischievous little boy who loves when his mom visits because she brings him all kinds of yummy snacks. He was quite malnourished when he arrived but he's now gaining weight and his asthma doesn't act up as much in our cleaner environment.

Asha has had a tough life -- see more on her at our website here.

This past Sunday, little Nanjunda's mom, Mangali, visited her son at KM. She doesn't visit him often, and she is usually wandering from her husband's house to her mom's house, to the street. Before Nanjunda came to KM, she used to drag him wherever she went, and last year he missed out on school because she never stayed in one place long enough to enroll him.

Nanjunda, who just celebrated his birthday on September 1, was very happy to see mom. He sometimes wakes up at 1am, crying for her.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Krishna's birthday

The Hindu god Krishna (flute-playing, blue-skinned, lover of Radha) celebrated his birthday this year on August 30. In honor of Krishna's birthday, the first graders at the kids' school dressed up as Krishna and Radha.
Manikanta (left) won first prize for his outfit, and Devaraj (right) won third prize.

Divya and Pooja as Radha

Prema as Radha

Shanti as Radha