Friday, December 13, 2013

Bye Blackie

Kids love pets, and we sure have many at Karunya Mane, our children's home -- eight dogs, three cats, and eight birds! The kids love all of their pets and learn to feed and take care of them.

Our first dog, Blackie, came to Karunya Mane on the very same day that we arrived there, February 10, 2008. From where he came we don't know, but he just walked to the car when we drove up as if we were good old friends from long ago, and stayed.

Blackie at the kids' school in 2009
Everyday when someone he knew was at KM, he walked up to them and just stood there, expecting that friendly pat on the head. Three years ago, he brought his little friend, shy Jackie, who now stays with us.
Blackie in 2011
Today, we're sad because Blackie passed away. We don't know how old he was but he must have been at least nine or ten. He loved to sleep in the boys' room on the cool tile floor on hot days. He loved to annoy 44, one of our other dogs. He loved coming to the office or the kitchen for snacks. And most of all, he really loved our kids. When they used to walk to school, Blackie often walked with them all the way there. 

He was a loyal companion and a great watch dog. Bye, Blackie, we'll miss you.

Blackie in May 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Great doctors

Finding a good doctor is sometimes a challenge, especially when the preference is for a good and caring doctor for a child or poor woman with a disease that still has significant stigma attached to it.

Our kids and moms are really lucky to have a couple of good doctors near us who care for our kids with no prejudice or bias, regardless of their socio-economic background and/or health condition.

A few years ago, when we worked on the streets, finding a doctor to treat an HIV+ woman was a huge endeavor. Many times, these women were turned away or told to go elsewhere. Several died.

Now, the amazing doctors at Asha Kirana Hospital in Mysore provide excellent care to HIV+ adults and kids. Kids -- ours and others -- love Dr. Mothi and Dr. Swamy at Asha Kirana, and many of these kids have been under their watchful eye for several years now.

An eight-minute walk from Karunya Mane is the Amrita Kripa Hospital, where Dr. Vikas Modi and others have been caring for our kids for three years, treating them for everything from coughs and colds to appendicitis and, recently, a very dangerous case of fungal pneumonia in one of our HIV+ kids.

This past month, one of our kids contracted PCP, sometimes fatal in immunocompromised patients. Dr. Modi and Dr. Swamy coordinated the medical care for the child, who fortunately pulled through after spending a few days in ICU at Amrita Kripa and another week at Asha Kirana. The child is back at Karunya Mane and has completely recovered, thanks to these great doctors.

Only the sincerest of thanks to these doctors for caring as much about our kids as we do.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Vaccinations and poor children

In India, although immunizations are provided for free in government health facilities, vaccination rates remain low because of a lack of proper healthcare providers (especially in rural areas) and unreliability in the supply of vaccines. Moreover, many poor people do not understand the benefits of vaccines.

According to the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, "Approximately 27 million children are born in India each year – the largest birth cohort in the world – but less than 44% receive a full schedule of vaccinations." Moreover, Indian researchers stated, "Although India is a leading producer and exporter of vaccines, the country is home to one-third of the world’s unimmunized children... India’s vaccine deficit has several causes: little investment by the government; a focus on polio eradication at the expense of other immunizations; and low demand as a consequence of a poorly educated population and the presence of anti-vaccine advocates."

Our own staff members sometimes talk about their young relatives in villages who died of a "fever" of unknown origin. Measles? Hepatitis? Don't know.

Although vaccinations can be controversial, they save lives and prevent the spread of potentially life-threatening diseases. The Gates Foundation stated, "Vaccines save millions of lives a year and are among the most cost-effective health interventions ever developed. Immunization has led to the eradication of smallpox, a 74 percent reduction in childhood deaths from measles over the past decade, and the near-eradication of polio. Despite these great strides, there remains an urgent need to reach all children with life-saving vaccines." 

Most of our kids at Karunya Mane, who are all from the streets and slums, were not vaccinated during their early months and years of life. Even if they may have been, their moms (if they have a mom) have no immunization records. Part of effort to provide our kids with the basic needs is to ensure that they are all properly vaccinated

We've tried to take our kids to the government children's hospital for free vaccinations but to no avail -- possibly because our kids may be older than tiny-tot age so don't qualify. Vaccines in India are less expensive than in the Western world, but still cost a bit, especially when vaccinating 40+ kids, and we estimate that it costs around $200 to fully vaccinate a child. 

little Jyothi and mom Lakshmi in early 2008
Most of our kids cry a bit when they see the needle, but not too much. Two of our tough little ones, Jyothi and Umesh, don't even react when getting their shots! 

Volunteer doctors and nurses generously donate their time to vaccinate our kids at Karunya Mane, such as Dr. Miguel Valenzuela, who gave his time when he was in Mysore for yoga classes. We're almost complete with catch-up vaccinations for most of our kids, but if you'd like to make a donation to help cover these costs, please do so at


Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy (see’s_vaccination_problem_cddep_director_weighs_nature_and_health_affairs); Ramanan Laxminarayan and Nirmal Kumar Ganguly (see; Gates Foundation (see

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pallavi and Sumitra -- eight years later!

If you were with us in 2005 when we first started our work, you may remember Pallavi and Sumitra, two little girls we met on the streets of Mysore, where they lived with their moms. See how your support has helped change the lives of these two little street girls.

Before we met the girls in 2005, we ran into Sumitra one day in early 2004 -- her grannie was out begging with Sumirtra and, after we gave her a few rupees, she put Sumitra down on the sidewalk and scurried away for a few minutes.

Sumitra in 2004
Back in 2005, even when living on the street, Pallavi and Sumitra were happy little girls. They sure got dirty and were malnourished, but they smiled a lot and played with each other and were happy kids most of the time. They and their friends captured our hearts with their big smiles. 

Pallavi in 2005
Both Pallavi and Sumitra had tuberculosis as little girls. Sumitra was severely malnourished as a baby and got a viral infection that likely affected her brain. When they lived on the street, their moms struggled to feed them each day. They overcame their illnesses but the effects linger. Sumitra is small for her age and Pallavi suffered chronic ear infections. She recently needed to have both ears operated on. 

Pallavi and Sumitra in 2006
Back then, Pallavi and Sumitra were really good friends. They went everywhere together, played together, and slept on the same sidewalk at night. In 2008, they moved to our children's home together and, today, they remain good friends.

During the past five and a half years at KM, a lot has changed for Pallavi and Sumitra. After her ear operations, Pallavi's hearing noticeably improved and, with that, her performance in school. Both girls love karate and dancing classes at KM. They are a bit slower in school than our other kids, so they get one-on-two tutoring each day after school with their teacher, Chandrika Miss, who also talks to them about basic good habits like staying clean and neat and keeping their belongings tidy.

Pallavi in 2012
Sumitra in 2012
Sometimes we wonder what life would have been like for Pallavi and Sumitra had they not come to Karunya Mane to live--we can guess that life would have been difficult and they likely would not be in school right now. We're just happy for them that they are doing much better now. They also can't imagine going back to their lives on the street and tell us often that they like living at the "ashrama."

Sumitra and Pallavi with their tutor after school
We're pleased when their mothers refer other poor children to us because that tells us that they might be happy with how their girls are doing at Karunya Mane. Best of all, Pallavi and Sumitra get to be kids and are just enjoying their childhood, as all kids should.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Welcome Yashavanth!

We've got a new boy at Karunya Mane! Little Yashavanth is six years old, quite a cutie, and definitely mischievous! Yashavanth and his sister lost their dad about two years ago, and they now live with mom in grandma's house in a slum area of Mysore.

We heard of Yashavanth from one of our other moms -- our moms are usually the best source for other destitute children who need help, for obvious reasons -- and introduced us to Yashavanth and mom. Mom works from 9am to 9pm, and grandma often works daily labor jobs, so there is often nobody at home to watch the kids. This is a common problem among destitute single moms.

We admitted Yashavanth to the local private school in 1st grade, and he now catches the school bus every morning with our other kids. He attended a government school for one month but was not yet reading or writing, so he's starting from scratch. Yashavanth is very enthusiastic about school, so we believe that he'll catch up and do just fine, and we look forward to watching him grow and develop in the coming years!

Yashavanth's sister will join us next year, closer to the age of six. New government rules prevent us from taking kids under the age of six, even though starting with children earlier than later is always preferred, and we endeavor to provide our youngest with the best possible early education, nutrition, attention, and care.

If you'd like to sponsor Yashavanth, please do so at


Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Belated Krishna Janmashtami !

Krishna Janmashtami is the annual commemoration of of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna, which fell on August 28 this year.

Darsha, Yashavanth, Manu, Mohan, Darshan, Jeevan, Umesh, Venky, Adarsh, Vishnu, Vishnu, Raju!
There were celebrations throughout the country, including at Karunya Mane! On Wednesday morning before school, our little boys got dressed up as Krishna and had a good time playing their "flutes"!

Little Venkatesh!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Education! Thank you Yahoo! Employee Foundation

Operation Shanti expresses its sincere appreciation to the Yahoo! Employee Foundation for their grant of $5,000 for educational purposes for our children at Karunya Mane for the 2013-2014 school year.

From the Yahoo! website: "The Yahoo! Employee Foundation (YEF) is a grassroots, philanthropic organization that brings together the talents, time, and financial resources of Yahoo! employees to serve the needs of communities around the globe. YEF is a unique foundation, as it is employee run, employee driven and employee funded."

Vinutha, Jyothi, Lalitha, Sowmya
We focus on giving our kids an excellent education by:

- using only quality private schools that are open-minded and supportive
- engaging eleven after-school teachers to provide tutoring every day for two hours after school, including one-on-one tutoring to our special needs child and two-on-one tutoring for two of our girls who need extra attention

Shashidhar Sir tutors the 5th standard kids
Prema, former street girl who requires two hearing aids, studies well today in 7th grade under the
guidance of her tutor, Jyothi Miss, who teaches all of our 7th graders
- providing a nice on-site library

- ensuring that the kids eat properly (minimum sugar, maximum healthy grains and protein) and take their vitamins

Older girls, school dance program
- giving them support for extracurricular activities, such as sports, arts and crafts, school projects, and cultural activities

Operation Shanti extends special thanks to our Yahoo! employee champion, Amaree Tanawong!

Selected photos courtesy of our dear friend Janea Wiedmann.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Go Sadiq and Divya!

Congratulations to Divya and Sadiq, two of our kids studying in English medium. English is not their native language -- it isn't for any of our kids -- but they wanted to take advantage of the English curriculum offered at school to further their education.

Sadiq switched to English medium this school year (5th grade) after studying in Kannada medium for the past three years (English is only offered at 5th grade and beyond). We though he'd do pretty well because he's a good student, but making the switch is not easy for kids who don't come from wealthy backgrounds and families who speak English in the home.

As you can see, he did quite well! Sadiq's first quarter text scores:

Kannada - A+
English - A
Hindi - A
Mathematics - A+
Science - B+
Social Studies - A

During the parent/teacher meeting, Sadiq's teacher told our house mothers that he knows everything even though the grades didin't reflect that -- he was likely nervous when taking his first test written in 100% English. We aren't concerned because he is diligent and has very good study habits. Most of all, Sadiq is highly motivated and wants to do well in school.

When Sadiq first came to us in 2010, he had to start over in 1st grade because he had previously gone to an Urdu school and knew no Kannada. His mom died a few years ago and his dad struggled to feed his three kids, who are now all with us at Karunya Mane.

We also want to highlight Divya, our girl in 6th grade in English medium. Divya received the top scores on the 1st quarter test and ranked #1 in her class!!!

Divya, happy at GRS Fantasy Park in 2013

Divya has been with us since 2008 when she started in 1st grade, and she switched to English in 5th grade two years ago. She's an excellent student and it's hard to believe she used to sleep outside a restaurant on the sidewalk with her dad, who sold peanuts while riding around the city on his bicycle.

Divya and Dad in 2008

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sometimes we get lucky

Recently, when we were distributing our care packages for our Project Food and More effort at the HIV clinic, a girl walked up to us and asked for some help.

Sowmya lives near the clinic with her parents in a one-room rented house, and her dad takes day labor jobs in the area. He's got chronic back pain so can't always work.

Anyway, we asked her what she needed. Sowmya said that she needed money for her school fees for this year. She started in 12th grade (PUC 2) in the science curriculum (one of the most difficult in the Indian education system) this year and seriously wants to become an engineer. Her family had no money to pay her tuition this year, which was Rs. 7000 (US$140). She gets a discount because of her caste and low income status.

We help a lot of really great kids, and when someone like Sowmya comes out of the blue for help, it's a real treat for us. She needs assistance (we saw her one-room house, small but clean, and this is where she studies), speaks almost fluent English, is an excellent student, and is polite and quite pleasant to talk to.

She's clear with her intent -- we said to her, "engineering jobs aren't that easy to get these days." She responded, "I know. But I want to try."

Sowmya's parents, Dilappa and Rathna
Who paid her fees last year? She said that her brother helped her, who is in the police force up north, but he had family issues this year so couldn't help out.

She showed us her grades from last year. She did quite well and certainly has the potential to excel. All of these factors told us that yes, this girl sure could use the help and would make excellent use of our support.

Dad got some great free treatment for his back from one of our directors in India, who is a doctor. And Sowmya's now in school and studying hard. She paid Rs. 4000 for her school fees and used Rs. 2800 for her textbooks. If you'd like to contribute to her education, she'll need to pay the balance of Rs. 3000 (US$60) in a few months.

We'll keep you posted on Sowmya's progress during the year!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We should all be like Kumari

Recently, a friend of Kumari said this about her: "She helps everybody and anybody. When I ran away from home and came to the street, Kumari watched over me. She made me sleep with her children on the sidewalk so that the men wouldn't bother me."
"I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain. If we worry too much about ourselves, we won't have time for others." --Mother Teresa 
We met Kumari in 2005 on the streets of Mysore, where she lived with her three kids. It took a year before she trusted us, but after that, she's become our most reliable and helpful street mother. She has helped us with the other mothers (keeping them in line, encouraging them to let us help their kids) and has referred other destitute kids to us. And, even though they were on the street for years, Kumari did the best she could with her kids.

Rachamma, Kumari, Prema, Sumitra, friend, Venkatesh in 2005.
When she was a little girl, Kumari also lived on the street with her mom Rachamma and her siblings. She understands the hardships and dangers of living on the street and has always told us she just does not want her kids to grow up like that. She was the first street mom to ask us to find shelter for her kids and get them off the street, and then she convinced the other street moms to let us put their kids into a residential school.

Giving Venkatesh a bath when they lived on the street, 2005.
One night in 2006, when we were on the street, Kumari asked us for money for her kids' dinner. We gave her 40 rupees, thinking that there were four of them, so 10 rupees each. She took 10 rupees and gave us back the 30 rupees, explaining "I can get rice from somebody but I just have to buy some sambar from the hotel (restaurant)."

To earn money, Kumari strings up and sold jasmine leis (malas) during the flower season, which lasts for about five months out of the year. In the off season, she cleans garlic for her friend, a street vendor, or sells vegetables.

Selling flowers, 2007. 
Selling flowers, 2007.
On another night in 2006, when one of our staff was about to walk to the children's ward at the hospital (quite a hike) where one of our other girls was admitted, Kumari had Prema, her oldest girl, to go with her so that she would not walk alone in the dark.

Peeling garlic, 2007.
Kumari with her oldest son, Venkatesh, in 2007. They are very close.
She lost an older son and her first husband a few years before we met her.
In mid-2007, we helped Kumari rent a house in a slum area where some of her friends live. She has lived there since and is very happy not to have to sleep on the street anymore.

Kumari at her house with her kids and neighborhood friends, 2007.
Kumari's second husband died in mid-2008 from tuberculosis. He was a difficult patient and preferred to drink rather than take his medication. We all tried to get him to continue his medication, but he refused and eventually died. Kumari contracted TB from him and was cured of it (she took her medication correctly), but suffered significant lung damage from the disease.

Kumari has a bulla (large air sac) in her lung and in 2012 her pulmonologist recommended a portable oxygen concentrator, which she uses at night at home when she sleeps. In early 2013, after several trips to the emergency room, the doctor also recommended a nebulizer for her because she was having problems properly using her inhaler. These life-saving treatments are helping to keep her alive, as the doctor said, the bulla is "like a time bomb, waiting to go off."

Kumari with her oxygen, 2010.

In mid-2010, when her street friend Shanti died, Kumari called us to come to the street because we had to take her friend's four children, who had nowhere else to go. Of course we did, and Suma, Manjula, Renuka, and Manu are now happy, healthy, and thriving at Karunya Mane.

Little Manu (2nd from bottom) with Mohan (bottom),
Kumari's youngest child, and their friends at Karunya Mane in 2012.
Kumari understands her health condition and she is careful. She visits her kids once a month at Karunya Mane and calls them every Sunday. Her kids are doing well and are growing up nicely. Venkatesh is at home with mom, and he helps with the household chores because she cannot exert herself physically.

Rachamma, Prema, Sumitra, Mohan, Kumari, 2012.
Kumari has just a second grade education, and her son recently taught her to write her name in Kannada. Yet, this woman with little to her name is known by everyone in her community as someone who will help others as she can, with food and temporary shelter in her small house. She's an example for all of us to follow.

If you'd like to help Kumari, her ongoing monthly expenses are as follows:
  • medication $24 (Rs. 1200)
  • rent $7 (Rs. 350)
  • electricity bill from oxygen concentrator $10 (Rs. 500)
  • monthly pocket money $16 (Rs. 800)

Related posts:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Raju C.

Raju C. came to Karunya Mane in May 2010 and has been with us since. We met Raju on the streets of Mysore, where his mom came to beg each day.

Raju and mom lived in a one-room rented house in a nearby village. Raju's dad is alive but rarely visits the family, leaving mom to fend for herself.

Raju in early 2010
Raju in 2012 dressed up as B.R. Ambedkar for the school's "fancy dress" day.
This year, Raju is in 2nd grade this year at Deepa Primary School. He's a good little boy!

If you'd like to sponsor Raju, please see our website at Sponsor an Operation Shanti kid!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Helping Krutika

Operation Shanti's Project Street has worked on the streets of Mysore for years, helping the women and kids who live there, particularly near the government hospital in the city. Since 2005, we've gotten to know well many of the kids who used to live on the streets, most of whom now stay with us at our children's home, Karunya Mane.

Today, Project Street continues to help our kids' moms and other destitute kids and women who need assistance. Krutika, one of our new friends, is a 15-year-old girl from a very poor family in Chamarajnagar (about an hour from Mysore). She was diagnosed with childhood (Type 1) diabetes a few years ago and needs daily insulin shots.

Krutika's dad is a day laborer. Insulin injections cost about $12 a month (Rs. 600), not much for most people but a huge chunk of dad's monthly income.

Since November 2012, we've been providing Krutika with her monthly insulin injections to help ease the financial burden on her family.

If you'd like to make a donation to Operation Shanti so that we can help more kids like Krutika with life-saving medicines that they simply can't afford, you can do so here:

Thanks so much!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Prema's photos

Prema, one of our girls at Karunya Mane, has been with us at Operation Shanti since 2005. She's now 15 and is growing up quite nicely.

Prema is also responsible for taking care of the cats, filling their food and water bowls, and keeping the room clean.A couple of weeks ago, Prema took some photos in our "cat room" -- the room where we keep the kids' three kitties. We thought these photos were pretty good for her first time behind the camera!

Taken in June 2013 with the girls' iPad.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Best boy/best girl catch-up

Recent months' "Best Boys" and "Best Girls" (a prize given out each month to the kid who displayed the best behavior for that month) at Karunya Mane were:

March - Prajwal / Shwetha
April - Sreenivasa / Sowmya
May - Surya / Mamatha

Prajwal started 7th grade this year, in English medium. Always polite, neat, well-behaved, and disciplined, he's an outstanding kid who has the potential to great things in this world.

Shwetha started 5th grade this year. She gets very good grades in school and her behavior has improved tremendously -- the temper tantrums that she once displayed have disappeared and she's improved in all areas of behavior.

Sreenivasa, who attends boarding school and is now in 11th grade, returns to Karunya Mane on the holidays. When he's back, he provides great relief to our boys' house mother by helping her out with the little boys. Sreenivasa has grown into a responsible, mature young man and we're quite pleased to see that he seems to have outgrown his "street boy" behavior.

Sreenivasa (right) with Shashidhar Sir (one of our teachers) during the Holi madness fun!
The May best kids were repeat "bests" -- Mamatha and Surya -- who are consistently high performers in all areas -- school performance, behavior, chores, overall demeanor -- and as their prize, they got to go shopping with us at Easy Day for the sports equipment that we donated to the kids' school!

Surya doing his homework during tuition time.