Sunday, April 25, 2010

A summer with the Natana Raja Mata and Rangayana drama workshops

The website describes Natana Raja Mata as a summer workshop that educates and entertains children, and caters to children in various dimensions, to benefit the child's wholesome personality development. Raja Mata covers a range of topics, from modern dance to rural games. 

Natana is run by Mandya Ramesh, a well-known comedian in India. He invites many of his movie and TV actor and actress friends to interact with the kids.

And, ten of our kids (Venkatesh, Pallavi, Latha, Sumitra, Prema, Pooja, Shanthi, Divya, Vijayalakshmi, and Manikanta) get to attend this great camp this summer, from April 11 to May 6!

Here's a peek at Natana:

So far, the kids have been engaged in acting, dancing, and arts and crafts. They are always eager to get there in the morning (around 9:30 am) and are very happy when picked up in the evening (4:30 pm).


Another five of our kids (Vinod, Sharath, Shwetha, Devaraj, and Netravati) are attending the Rangayana workshop, held by Rangayana, a theatre repertory, in Mysore. It is a workshop similar to that of Natana. 

The kids at Rangayana go swimming, dance, act, and engage in arts and crafts. Sometimes, they start at 7:00 am, so they can take walks around the nearby lake and learn about nature. 

Netra and Vinod in front of the crafts they decorated the day before.

Both workshops host about 250 to 300 children from all socio-economic backgrounds, so our kids will get to interact with kids from middle- and upper-class families. 

We're very grateful to Ananth and his supporters at the Narayan Foundation for securing fifteen free spots for our kids this summer at these really great workshops! Thanks.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What "home" looks like

We hope that you can visit our kids at Karunya Mane some day if you haven't already. If you can't make it to Mysore, here are a few pictures of their home.

The front...

The back...

The boys' room (and tutoring room)...

The girls' room (and dining room)...

The kitchen and our cook...

Where we do our laundry...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Hanging out with growing kids

As all kids do, ours are growing up quite nicely. Here are pictures of a few of them taken recently, while we were all hanging out one afternoon at Karunya Mane.


Mohan, Prema, and Darshan

Shanti, Prema, Asha, Shwetha, and Sumitra

Venkatesh and Mohan (Darshan and Adarsh in the background)

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Veggie Garden and Nutritional Meals

Our veggie garden thrives (when we have enough water to water the plants, that is)... and we've named it Madappa's Garden, after our dear gardener Madappa. He does a fabulous job and makes sure that everyone is working their butts off in the garden!

The kids help out, digging up the dirt, planting seeds, and then picking ripe veggies for our meals.

Sharath and Lokesh

We've enjoyed turnip and beans for palya and sambar...

...and Aunty, our cook, uses the dill to make a really nice sambar to enjoy with our ragi mudde (balls). Also being grown this year are tomatoes, brinjal (eggplant), green chilies, and "leafs" (spinach and other healthy green and leafy veggies). Yum!

We've also improved the nutritional quality of the food that we serve our kids:
  • making "thick" sambar (curry), which means that we use a hefty amount of lentils (dal) in our sambar (thanks to the generous monthly donations of food rations from Arun and friends at L and T, we are able to do this!);
  • using a lot more veggies in our sambar;
  • serving the kids palya (a nice vegetable side dish with lentils) three times a week;
  • making dry chapatis (cooked without any oil);
  • serving ragi mudde (millet balls) every night for dinner (ragi is millet, and is much healthier than white rice -- sort of like using brown rice instead of white rice in terms of increasing fiber and nutritional content);
  • limiting the paisa (a very sweet dessert) served to only special occasions to reduce sugar intake;
  • implementing a ban on soft drinks (Coke, Pepsi, etc...) at KM; and
  • using less salt and oil in our food.
The boys help Aunty make chapatis. They make about 130 chapatis for dinner 
either once a week (during schooltime) or twice a week (during the summer holiday).

Friday, April 9, 2010

Three little ones to CBSE school...

India has two different curriculum that schools can follow -- the State syllabus or the CBSE syllabus. The CBSE, or the Central Board of Secondary Education, syllabus is the central government's educational curriculum. Students under the CBSE curriculum face a more rigorous program at all grades, and the majority of the learning is done in English. CBSE is accessible primarily to children from middle- and upper-class backgrounds, as these schools are mostly private and are quite expensive -- anywhere between ten and twenty times the cost of our kids' current private school fees.

(So... if after reading this blurb, you're interested in supporting one of our CBSE-bound kids next year, let us know! Two are already sponsored, and we're looking for a third sponsor to cover the first year tuition of approximately 16,000 rupees or US$350.)

As such, lower-class and destitute but talented kids rarely have the chance to attend CBSE schools. Of the CBSE schools that we talked with in Mysore, none has ever admitted a child with a background similar to that of our kids at Karunya Mane.

Nevertheless, we're going to try to do something different next year and admit three of our top-performing little ones to a CBSE school. We believe that, after a period of adjustment to the stricter, more rigorous curriculum, they will thrive and do well in such an environment.

Our three little ones heading to CBSE school are Surya, Shwetha, and Lalitha. Lalitha, who just finished nursery school, has been admitted to kindergarten. Surya and Shwetha will take the entrance exam on April 17th, for admission to 1st and 2nd grades, respectively. They are currently getting tutoring during the summer break (April and May) by one of the teachers working at the school.

Little Surya, below, studies very well and his overall behavior is excellent -- he is mature, composed, quiet, very responsible for his age, and extremely thoughtful in all of his actions. His tutor says that he's incredibly smart and picks up new concepts immediately. It's amazing to remember that he spent his early years sitting with his mom on the streets while she begged.


Shwetha will start 2nd grade next year, and is, like Surya, a very well-behaved child. She comes from a broken, abusive home environment, but mom has remained a loving and caring supporter of her kids throughout their family turmoil. Shwetha washes her own clothes every morning and is always willing and ready to help someone else whenever she can. Shwetha did well in school this year, and loves her new CBSE tutor.



Little Lalitha will start kindergarten at the CBSE school. This past year, she attended nursery school and after-school tutoring with three other little boys from KM (Gowtham, Mohan, and big Darshan) -- and in that group, she proved herself to be quite independent and the unquestionable leader.

Next year, as our next set of nursery school kids (currently, Umesh, Adarsh, and little Darshan) work their way through their first year of being in a school environment, we'll evaluate them to determine who may be a good fit for admission to the CBSE school. We also plan to admit to CBSE 1st grade some of the kids finishing up kindergarten next school year, as a few of the little girls in that group are quite sharp, like Sowmya (Surya's sister), Jyothi, Tunmaya, and Parveen... we'll keep you posted on their progress.

The risk, of course, is that our kids won't "fit in" given the disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds that they come from. But we are confident that, with the right guidance and support, they can break through these barriers and thrive in their new school.

Without a doubt, they deserve the opportunity. Let's wish Surya and Shwetha luck on the entrance exams on the17th!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

This year's school dance program

This school year at Deepa Primary School, some of our kids participated in their school dance program. The kids rehearsed every day for over a month, and everyone had a great time at the event!

Little Sowmya in her costume.

Our five oldest boys did a special number of their own.

Nanjunda, Lokesh, Kaleem, Venkatesh, and Sreenivasa.

Some of the moms attended, including Kavita (holding Vishnu), Sushila, and Kumari.

Big Pooja showed off her "bling" and danced a lovely number with a few other girls.

Prema also participated in a girls' dance about their day at school.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Our GiveIndia Listing for Indian Donors

If you reside in India and would like to make a safe and secure online donation to our organization, please see the following link:

GiveIndia is an NGO in India that helps other NGOs raise funds for the poorest of the poor in India by helping its users donate money to trustworthy charities. Charities undergo a rigorous due diligence process before being listed on the GiveIndia site.

Vinod, Devaraj, Kaleem, and Sharath picking turnips from our garden.