Saying Goodbye to Devaki

It is with deep sorrow that we share with you the passing of our good friend, Devaki. Devaki on the bank of the Ganges River in Rishikesh, India In the late 1980’s when the Arya family was living in Delhi, Devaki married Radhe, the Arya family’s cook. When our family returned to Dehradun, Devaki and Radhe chose to move with us. L to R: Lal Bahadur, Raghubir, Succha Singh, Swami Veda, Radhe, Devaki, Bhagwat Originally from a matrilineal culture in Kerala, Devaki was always a strong, determined woman and she made her own life decisions. This didn’t change while she lived in Dehradun; when Radhe passed away, she refused to take part in the North Indian convention of giving up her jewelry and only wearing white. Her colourful saris were an expression of her own self-worth and self-determination. By being herself, she demonstrated to us – nonresident Indians with little experience of India outside of the norms of North India – that there were other ways to be Indian. She had a free and happy spirit, and her greatest joy was her son, Dev. Devaki with her son, Dev When we spent long periods of time in India, Devaki would take our younger family members under her wing, showing them where to buy the best vegetables and fruits from the vendors who roamed up and down the streets of D’dun. She snuck them treats from the kitchen, too. We all called her Mami (Auntie), regardless of how old we were. As KHEL grew, she became the heart of a bustling kitchen, whipping up delicious meals for unexpected guests, and always ready with cups of chai to sustain us through [...]

By |2022-04-07T14:49:13-05:00April 7, 2022|General|

KHEL Annual Report 2021

KHEL ANNUAL REPORT 2021 KINDNESS Covid-19 once again took center stage, and the systems we developed in 2020 to educate our kids and support them, their families, and our community continued to be useful. Use of Funds: KHEL had 28 employees and 3 professional consultants. As much as possible we hire from our local community and purchase from local merchants. “We used to do many activities in school such as dancing and sports, but now we aren’t doing any activities and we miss them. Our new gate looks great, and there were very nice changes made to our school building during the last year when we weren’t in school." ~Arsh, LDA 8th grader   This LDA student has scurvy. We give limes or lemons to combat this.   Cremations: The cost of wood to cremate is about INR10,000 (US$135/€118), a huge sum of money for India’s poor people. We gave aid to our community for cremations.Condolences: Three staff members lost a parent: Lal Bihari Gupta (Dinesh’s father), Sharda Prasad (Lal Bahadur’s father), and Devender Joshi (Nikita’s father, who was a student at LDA many years ago). • Tiffany, who designed KHEL’s logo, passed away. Our deepest condolences to everyone who lost a loved one.USA: We donated to a new community health center in Minnesota, BIPOC children in Missouri (food, clothing, school supplies), support for at-risk LGBT kids (food, clothing, lodging, medical and mental health services), a food shelf in rural Massachusetts, and a Native American fund in Washington state that provides food, clothing, and other support. Community Aid: There was much more food insecurity in our community. We distributed dry rations such as pulses, rice, flour, sugar, salt, tea, and spices. [...]

By |2022-01-29T15:01:39-06:00January 26, 2022|General|

Dinesh is home from the hospital!

Dinesh at home. Dinesh, our Assistant Principal, has been moved from the ICU to his home, where we have arranged support and care for him. He is no longer Covid+, and the hospital feels that there isn’t much more they can do for him that can’t be done at home. If it was up to his family, he would still be in the hospital, but the hospital no longer wants to be responsible for him. His healthcare continues to be a coordinated effort involving Dinesh’s family, Beni (KHEL’s General Manager), Kamli (our City Councilor), our donors, and other management staff who have been advising and giving support. Once classes are back in session (online) the rest of our teachers will take over Dinesh’s classes. Dinesh is not out of the woods yet. Dinesh was admitted to the hospital on April 29th and discharged on June 25th. He spent most of that time in ICU. At one point he seemed to be doing better and was moved to the general ward. During that time he developed a leak in his lung due to extensive damage from Covid-19. He was immediately moved back to the ICU and a second leak developed. Over time, one leak repaired itself. He still had a drain inserted into his lung when he went home, and that leak has yet to repair itself. He has other Covid related secondary issues. At his home he has a special bed and mattress, a 10 litre oxygen concentrator, 4 back up oxygen cylinders, and full time ICU nurses on a rotating schedule. His home has an electrical back up but it’s not designed for hours or days of operation. As north India heads into monsoon [...]

By |2022-03-09T17:41:59-06:00July 8, 2021|General|

KHEL’s Teacher, Dinesh, was in the ICU for Two Months with Covid

Dinesh, before he got sick. Dinesh Gupta is one of our senior teachers and was recently promoted to Assistant Principal. On April 29th he was admitted to the hospital. The doctors gave him a 1% chance of survival. Dinesh's daughter, Pawani, meets Ammaji at LDA Dinesh is responsible for his wife Vandana, son Harshat (16), daughter Pawani (14), and his mother (his father, an Alzheimer's patient, recently passed away). Vandana is a stay-at-home mother. Dinesh has a brother, Rakesh, and three sisters, Chhaaya, Sadhna, and Neena. All three sisters were students at LDA. Entrance to the hospital, lined with empty oxygen cylinders On April 29th Dinesh was hospitalised at Arogya Dham Hospital, a private facility. although KHEL has subsidized medical insurance for all staff only a few hospitals in Dehradun are covered, and they were all full. Beni (our amazing General Manager who is holding everything together at KHEL) and other staff members searched desperately to find Dinesh a bed in any hospital. While they were searching, Dinesh spent 4 hours in an ambulance on oxygen because he couldn’t breathe on his own. Finally, our City Councilor, Kamli, found an ICU bed with oxygen (which she also arranged) at ADH. Indian hospitals don’t have payment plans so we immediately started paying for Dinesh's medical care. Because Dinesh's son, Harshat, is so young Beni stayed with him outside the hospital as long as he could but that wasn't sustainable. He finally started staying in touch with Harshat via WhatsApp. One day Harshat called Beni, crying, to ask what to do because the doctor said Dinesh needed Remdesivir. Indian hospitals don't usually provide medications, only prescriptions. Beni went to several pharmacies and finally found one with Remdesivir. [...]

By |2022-03-09T17:40:50-06:00June 8, 2021|General|

KHEL Annual Report 2020

KHEL ANNUAL REPORT 2020 One photo cannot sum up 2020. Before and during the pandemic. Let’s be frank – we all could have done without the challenges of 2020. It was a difficult year and there were times when we couldn’t reach the kids who had no phones, families were going hungry because we couldn’t provide enough rations for everyone, and we couldn’t hold necessary health clinics or do the activities our kids love. We were concerned about the ‘soft’ issues, too, such as the lack of socialization with peers and face-to-face learning, not seeing our kids on a daily basis which is how we know who needs extra nutrition or other aid, and even the emotional disconnect of not being able to see their smiling faces, first because everyone was locked down and then because of masks. Masks, of course, are a necessity and will continue for some time, but it was (and still is) hard on all of us. “I won’t forget this pandemic for my whole life. Thanks to KHEL for taking care of us and for worrying about all of us! We miss each other while we’re working from home, preparing results and other schoolwork. I’m in touch with many of my 7th class students.” Dinesh G., LDA teacher Even though we often felt overwhelmed, 2020 had a seemingly monotonous yet stressful rhythm unbroken by children laughing, studying, and playing, and by the daily comings and goings at LDA that we’ve grown to take for granted and that we enjoy sharing with you. We all stayed home as much as we could. The teachers taught, the kids learned as best they could, and the managers made sure everyone had [...]

By |2021-02-04T13:16:30-06:00February 4, 2021|General|

Construction Report 2020

Lakshmi Devi Academy's long boundary wall with seating, wire netting at the top, and freshly whitewashed. Every year, we tackle a variety projects based on how much we raised for construction in the previous year. These projects fall into several categories that may overlap, such as major maintenance, long term renovation, or government requirements. Due to Covid-19 and a prolonged monsoon season, the work took longer than anticipated. Our kids haven’t been at LDA full time since the end of March, so delays did not impact their safety or education. Thanks to the generous support of donors in 2019, we accomplished the next stage of our long term renovation plan – demolition of an unusable portion of the building and new underground water and septic systems. This renovation plan became necessary several years ago when the government informed us that not only did we not have enough restroom stalls for 300 students, but that having the restrooms in a separate building was a safety risk. They’re not wrong about either of these issues. LDA was built in 1988 for about 150 students. There were no restrooms in a commercial building in the area (there were not, in fact, any other buildings that were solely commercial). LDA was a new concept in Dehradun at the time – a private, secular, charitable school for children of any gender. At the time, it was perfectly acceptable for boys to just ‘go’ wherever they wanted but girls couldn’t (and still can’t). Since we couldn’t solve this challenge on a large scale we focused on what we could solve by giving our kids and staff onsite restrooms separate from the main building since at that time, attached restrooms [...]

By |2020-12-14T10:57:42-06:00December 14, 2020|General|

Creative Problem-Solving Edition: How Laptops and Internet are Changing Education at LDA

Exam stress The Indian education system is based on the old British colonial model of final exams determining the grade for the entire year. This is especially the case for our 5th and 8th class students whose final exam papers are set by the state. Our teachers must make sure our kids are proficient with the syllabus since any of it might be on the final exams. Since we don’t know if the government will hold exams as they usually do in March, our aim is to prepare our students for all eventualities. LDA’s teachers are well trained and have all the certifications required to teach in India, but nothing could have prepared them to teach during a pandemic. Painting outside his home because there's not enough space indoors. The pandemic has complicated an already difficult situation for people who live on the borders of society, eking out a living or just barely making ends meet. Even before the pandemic, many of our kids didn’t have a place to study at home, some don’t have electricity, nutrition is poor, they’re migrants and only with us for a short time, they can’t afford books and other school supplies, and some of them work to help support their families. Now, in addition to remote learning, we’re concerned about our poorer girls being married, with less food in the homes the girls’ nutrition will be neglected in favour of their brothers and fathers, or that they’re replacing their mothers as primary caretaker because many of the poorest mothers work - someone has to look after the little kids who aren’t going to school. Some families opted to leave Dehradun and return to their villages [...]

By |2020-11-12T17:13:50-06:00November 12, 2020|General|

How To Teach During a Pandemic

We miss our kids' smiling faces! We’ve been really busy figuring out how to teach our kids and support our community as the pandemic worsens in India. The last 6 months seem unbelievable and we’re sometimes surprised that KHEL, along with everything else, hasn’t just collapsed. We have had moments of despair when we’ve wondered if KHEL would survive another month, or if we would lose a friend or family member.  But then we remember KHEL’s history and the histories of our people – staff, kids, families, community – who have dealt with extraordinarily tough times and have always come back stronger. We hope that will be the case this time, too. If we don't keep educating our girls, their futures are bleak. India is currently second in the world for Covid cases, behind the United States (third for deaths, behind the US and Brazil). Wealthy and well-to-do children across India are studying comfortably from home. Middle class students are struggling to keep up because they don’t have laptops, only smart phones. They’re still better off than most of LDA’s students because they have the other things they need to succeed – electricity, internet/wi-fi, free time, a quiet place to study and attend online classes, adult family members with steady jobs so that electricity, internet and other services are stable, and parental support. For KHEL families, if there are younger siblings and both parents are working outside the home, childcare and other home related work falls to the girls, cutting into their study time. This includes time intensive chores like fetching water from a well or pump and collecting firewood in the nearby forest. The UN states that, worldwide, we are [...]

By |2020-09-24T18:35:33-05:00September 24, 2020|General|

The Year So Far: January through Early June 2020

What have we done at KHEL and LDA so far this year? Well, it’s not been the typical year but we’re still doing what we have always done – educating kids and supporting the community. ***Little did we know this would be the last time we celebrated anything with our kids for quite a while... Here are the highlights from 2020 so far: The year started out normally, with the kids still on winter break * Bhagwat recovered from his broken ribs and came back to work * The kids came back to school * Some of our kids received special service awards from a local nonprofit * The Indian government held a deworming camp at LDA * We took some of our older kids to a leprosy colony * Hunny, one of our Scholarship Recipients, completed his in-person training in Hotel Management in Delhi and came home to Dehradun * (Around this time the news out of China became grim, and other countries started locking down, self-isolating, and quarantining) * Our 8th class students had their graduation party * India still felt like nothing bad was happening but we could see the worldwide trends so we started to educate our kids and community on Coronavirus * Shrishti, one of our 7th class students, earned a gold medal at the Uttarakhand State Boxing Tournament * Schools were closed * Some 8th class exams took place at LDA and other schools with only the teachers and 8th class students present. Other exams were cancelled. For the cancelled finals, monthly and half yearly tests were averaged out to give final marks for the year *  Ammaji and Stomy decided not to go to India this year * [...]

By |2020-06-12T14:41:05-05:00June 9, 2020|General|