About Stomya Persaud

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So far Stomya Persaud has created 20 blog entries.

KHEL Annual Report 2015

Swami Veda Bharati at LDASwami Veda Bharati, formerly known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya, together with Mrs. Arya (Ammaji) founded KHEL and transformed a community. When he passed away, what Ammaji wrote isn’t so much an obituary as a celebration of his life that included the mission of KHEL to bring kindness, health, education and laughter to the impoverished children of his home town, Dehradun.Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew notRabindrath TagoreSwami Veda Bharati1933-2015©Lalita Arya 2015Swami Veda loved languages. He knew so many I cannot count and among them is the sweet lilt of Bangla. He loved Tagore’s poems and this quote from Tagore’s Gitanjali was one of his favorites. This poem fully illustrates the kind of life he lived, and seems most suitable for the occasion to celebrate his life with the world he created. He was given seats in homes not his own, not as an invited guest, but as an honored and loving teacher. He traveled far and wide into unknown lands and found kinship among strangers. He treasured the old and found it still abiding in the new. He had that ability to go back into time, pull out the relevant from the archaic and adapt it to contemporary life. His family saw this in everything he did – his three daughters, his son, their spouses, their mother, and grandchildren. Sometimes he went so far back we would sit agape, listening, lost in time and space.Before taking sanyaasa he had already adopted a larger family than his own, prompting a few old family friends to say to his children after his Mahasamadhi – Thank you for sharing your father with us. This was the swami he was that [...]

By | 3:18 am|General|

Rest in Peace, Munni Devi

From Stomy and Ammaji - With sorrow in our hearts, we share the tragic news of the untimely death of one of our devoted staff members. Munni Devi worked for KHEL for over 20 years, helping to look after not only our school but our students as well. She was only 46 years old and is survived by three grown daughters, Seema, Rekha and Chanda, and her husband, Puran, as well as many other family members. A few days ago Munni fell in her home and hit her head. She lost consciousness and her family had to break down a door to reach her. She was taken to a hospital and was seen by two neurosurgeons. It was apparent that her prognosis wasn’t good but we immediately put together funds for surgery, just in case the doctors gave the go ahead (thank you, Swami Veda, for offering to cover a large portion of the cost). With her family around her, she was in and out of consciousness for less than a day. Non-relatives weren’t allowed in the ICU but Beni, KHEL’s General Manager, went anyway to lend his support to the family. In India, you must deposit money with the hospital before they’ll treat you. We gave her family the required deposit. During the night she slipped into unconsciousness and didn’t wake up again. She passed away peacefully surrounded by her loving family. Beni stayed with them during the day of her passing, helping to arrange for transportation to Haridwar, a Hindu holy city near Dehradun. In one of her moments of consciousness, Munni had asked to be taken there. We joined the family and friends at the ‘ghats’, a place on the Ganga’s banks [...]

By | 2:33 am|General|

LDA Buddies

In September 2014, KHEL started a new program to foster good relationships between the younger and older students at LDA. Once a week, our 5-8th grade students meet with a 1-4th grade student to work on a project together, share a snack, help with homework or just chat about their lives and their families. Recently the Buddies got together to make thank you cards for KHEL’s friends and donors. Shalini, a long time KHEL volunteer, designed this program by drawing on her experience as a mentor to under served middle school students in New Orleans when she was a college student at Tulane University. The program has been running for several months and the kids look forward to the days when they get to hang out with their Buddies. LDA is more than just a school. It is a gathering space that fosters good relationships among diverse groups in a small and densely populated community. Programs like the Buddy Project help the kids to develop empathy for each other from a young age and teach them much needed mentoring skills for adulthood. They learn that, no matter how poor they are, they have something of value to share with someone else.

By | 11:58 pm|General|

The Peoplr of KHEL’s Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC)

At Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for under served children, we’ve been running the ARC Program for a few months. The kids look forward to the days when they get to stay after school to take part. The program is designed to be fun so they have a great time with their friends while learning about health, hygiene, relationships and other topics relevant to 7th and 8th graders. There weren’t any sessions in January since classes didn’t resume after the winter break until January 14. Then the weather became challenging and the state government mandated that schools close for a short period. Many people, including one of the ARC trainers, were sick with seasonal colds and flu. More than one organisation made ARC at LDA possible. RDI - HIHT (Rural Development Institute - Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust) provided the staff to survey LDA’s students as well as two trainers who work directly with the children. Bhola Shankar Dabral, representing Dhyana Mandiram Trust (DMT), worked hard with other DMT members and donors to raise the necessary funds, while also liaising with KHEL staff to get the program up and running at LDA. Without the dedicated people who run RDI and DMT, ARC at LDA wouldn’t be possible.Before the ARC inauguration two young women, Karishma and Ankita, came to LDA to talk to the kids. They asked what problems the kids had, what sort of programmes would be helpful to them, what did they know about health and hygiene, what their living conditions were at home, and many other questions. This information was then evaluated by the two trainers so that the sessions are tailored to the needs of LDA’s children. For Karishma and Ankita this [...]

By | 12:29 am|General|

Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC) at Lakshmi Devi Academy

An initiative of Dhyana Mandiram Trust, Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama, Rishikesh, an Adolescent Resource Centre has been established at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved youth in Dehradun. Initially, programming will focus on LDA’s 6-8th class students, with plans to expand services to more children at the school and in the community. The ages of 12-19 are a crucial developmental period in a child’s life. About 10% of the population of Uttarakhand, where Dehradun is located, is in this age group. In recent years has India has recognised the tremendous impact of good physical, mental and emotional health on its youth. This 800 hour programme offered by ARC to LDA and its community addresses many of the challenges faced by our youth. Two wonderful young women, Ankita and Karishma, came to LDA to ask the students questions about their lives. This information will be used to tailor the programme to address the specific needs of this community. The ARC programme will cover the overall development of adolescents and will focus on health concerns – but not just physical health. The emotional health of a growing young person is equally important. ARC’s aims are to convey critical information needed at this time of life, reinforce healthy attitudes and behaviours regarding health, hygiene and interpersonal relationships, address a range of questions from reproductive health to career planning, and enhance the emotional health and internal development of adolescents. The tools used for this programme appeal to today’s youth – interactive games, participative activities, videos and other formats to hold their interest. ARC’s overarching goal is to prepare tomorrow’s leaders for the challenges they will face. An integrated, holistic model of change will be implemented that focuses [...]

By | 11:57 pm|General|

A Child’s Right to Education: KHEL’s Practical Application of an Indian Regulation

The Right to Education (RTE) law has, at its roots, a wonderful philosophy to help alleviate the daunting issue in India of access to a decent education. RTE mandates that every private school reserve 25% of its 1st grade seats, or 7 seats (whichever is more), for children from marginalized and minority communities. The government gives each child rs2 (US$0.033) per day of school attended and provides uniforms, books and other essentials directly to the students. When KHEL started educating kids 30 years ago, we often paid parents to send their kids to us for education because many of the families were dependent on the few rupees a day that those kids were bringing home from begging on the streets – so we know that this can work, at least on a small scale. In addition to the rs2/day given to the parents, the government promises to pay the school whatever tuition fees would have been collected from the parents. KHEL charges a minimal amount anyway, and many of our kids are in school completely free of charge. We’ve been doing this for decades, so it would seem that nothing has changed at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for under served children in Dehradun, India. If only that were the case! New regulations inevitably lead to more bureaucracy, more time interacting with that bureaucracy, and of course, more money spent, if only for the numerous trips to the Education Department to sort through all the red tape. There aren’t any other schools like LDA in Dehradun. We’re government recognised, secular, private, funded by donations, offering a free or heavily subsidised Hindi curriculum education taught by a well trained, dedicated and qualified faculty. Our support [...]

By | 1:58 am|General|

KHEL Annual Report 2013

It’s been a challenging year at KHEL. We couldn’t save the life of one of our students, the monsoons were financially and emotionally devastating, our volunteers were threatened by an online stalker (who lived a little too close to ignore) and one volunteer/family member suffered a traumatic brain injury. Swami Veda, our spiritual preceptor, ardent KHEL supporter and former family member to some of us was extremely ill. Mrs. Lalita Arya (fondly known as Ammaji) co-founded KHEL with Swami Veda when he was Dr. Arya; she spent a great deal of time away from KHEL this year, caring for him. Challenges can be a blessing in disguise; we learned that we have faith in each other and that our team of volunteers and employees which runs KHEL is incredibly strong. We communicate and collaborate across great geographical and cultural distances and in the end this is what makes us resilient so we can continue serving the community in the face of often daunting circumstances. Whether the challenges we face are of a professional or personal nature and whether we are volunteers or employees, the kids still turn up to school expecting us to do our job of teaching them and keeping them well; that’s what we’ve done for the past 30 years and will continue to do in the future. The cost of doing business – and of doing good – continues to rise as India shifts from a third world country to a developing nation. KHEL must remain in good standing with the government; we use chartered accountants for our yearly audited reports and by maintain several types of government registrations. Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India, is [...]

By | 7:41 pm|General|

I Meet a Young Woman–by Ammaji

I arrived back in India not too long ago and it’s been a fun and crazy carousel ride, even more so than usual since my two sisters, Sharada and Shanta, and my brother, Sat, were with me. We attended a family wedding in a village a couple of days travel from Dehradun and then continued on to visit several cities.We checked in at the Ramada Inn in Varanasi, one of the oldest inhabited cities of the world, also known as the City of Light. I was with my siblings having a wonderful time, not really thinking about KHEL or the work that was most likely piling up back home. Hotels in India are working hard to cater to tourists, so the employees usually dressed in Western style clothes, speak English and tend to greet the guests with ‘Welcome’ or ‘Good afternoon’. I wasn’t surprised to see a professional young woman approaching me, dressed in a Ramada Inn blazer and pants. But I was surprised when, with a big smile on her face, she folded her hands in the traditional way of greeting and said, ‘Namaste, Mataji’. I realised that I recognised this young woman – after all, I’ve known her since she was a five year old little girl at KHEL’s school in Dehradun. I was overcome with emotion.Sarita, fondly known as Ruchi, told me a little of the journey that brought her to the Ramada Inn in Varanasi. As a child at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, she would listen with wonder to the guests who came to visit her and her friends. She told herself that someday she’d be able to speak English, which is one of [...]

By | 6:45 pm|General|

October–Month of Festivals by Lalita Arya, KHEL’s Founder

The October 2nd birthday of the ‘Father of the Indian Nation’, Mahatma Gandhi, is a national holiday and celebrated with great vigor and prayers. Since schools are closed on Gandhiji’s birthday, the students at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA) KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India, observe and celebrate the day before; the teachers speak to the students about Gandhiji’s life, his dedication to non-violence and what it means in practical terms to lead a nonviolent life. At KHEL, we practice the spirit of this every day; for example, in most Indian schools corporal punishment is still the norm for disciplining students. At LDA, our faculty and staff treat the kids with respect, and violence of any kind is unheard of. In yoga philosophy and the Himalayan Tradition one of the first lessons in Yamas and Niyamas include the practice of non-violence in thought, word and deed...indeed difficult to practice unless inculcated from childhood and later by deliberate action in adulthood. It took Gandhiji several years, lots of persistence and discipline to make this his life’s philosophy, but in the end his perseverance and that of his followers won and India gained independence from the British in 1947.I watched the interview of Jon Stewart, an American comedian and political commentator, with the now famous 16 year old Swat Valley teenager, Malala, and was amazed at her equanimity, wit, precise language and most of all her lilting laughter. What was most incredible was her statement about what she would do if one of her attackers came to harm her. Among other things, she said that she was only 14 years old when she was threatened and warned by the terrorists to stay away from school and [...]

By | 3:29 pm|General|

Songs and Dances at Lakshmi Devi Academy on Teachers’ Day!

At Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, Teachers’ Day has a special significance – our teachers are so much more to our kids; they are the first line of defense in KHEL’s continuing struggle against poverty and lack of education. Without them, KHEL’s administrative staff wouldn’t know when a child or their family is having a particularly difficult time and need more than the usual amount of assistance. The teachers that have stayed with KHEL for many years have an extraordinary commitment to our mission and often go above and beyond the call of duty. In addition to their regular teaching duties, this year they have supported our kids through the death of a classmate, kept us informed on medical issues that could adversely affect some of our kids and they even cleaned two feet of mud and dirt out of the school building so that the kids could come back to a clean, safe environment. Beni, KHEL’s General Manager, sent this report:‘For Teachers’ Day, our older students enjoy planning a program of dances and songs for their teachers. They do this on their own, with one or two of the teachers monitoring that the presentation is appropriate for all the kids, as sometimes older students aren’t aware that the younger ones shouldn’t be exposed to certain songs or music. This year, the kids were happy to share with us songs and dances from the Garhwal region of the mountains where many of our families come from. Of course, they also presented some of the popular movie dances and songs from Bollywood!It’s customary to invite local guests to this event. This year we were pleased to welcome our MLA [...]

By | 12:59 pm|General|