For 36 years, KHEL has served the community around Shiv Puri Colony in Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India, with education and educational supplies, health clinics, medical and other aid, extracurricular activities, continuing education for our teachers, aid to leprosy colonies, scholarships, and by hiring locally and working with locally owned businesses. At Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children, we open our centrally located grounds to local and government activities, and we host several volunteer medical clinics.
When Mrs. Lalita (Ammaji) and the late Dr. Usharbudh Arya (later Swami Veda Bharati) started helping our community, Leprosy was the overarching challenge. Many parents were too ill to work, so their kids begged on the streets to support them. Even after KHEL fed and educated them and they were clean and healthy, local schools wouldn’t accept the kids from our community because the stigma of Leprosy ran so deep. So Ammaji built a school, and she hired the same local people who turned up to volunteer when she was handing out cups of milk to the children. Now, LDA is a cornerstone of the community, a place where kids are healthy and safe, where our teachers and staff care what happens because they live in the community, and where the previous generation of our students have their own businesses so KHEL can shop for supplies and hire locally.
But we’re not done because stigma and poverty may change their focus, but they continue to be challenges. We still have a steady influx of migrants and people from socio-economically depressed backgrounds. We still see discrimination based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, caste, and many other factors. There is always a group who wants to ‘other’ some more vulnerable group. So, we will continue to educate, and support those in need because through Kindness, Health, Education, and Laughter, KHEL, with your help, provides the tools necessary to create lasting change, encourage generational prosperity, and promote peace.
“The true meaning of social justice is that there should be no discrimination…Everyone should be treated equally so that we have a chance to develop equally. No one should be exploited on the basis of religion, sex, culture, or caste.”Abhishek, LDA 6th grader
PTA: Every year we meet with the Parent Teacher Association to discuss issues at the school. In addition, parents are welcome to meet with teachers individually regarding their child’s academic progress.
Government Activities: KHEL offers the grounds at LDA as a polling station for the community, and as a central location for the community to register to vote. Government medical clinics are also held at LDA.
Leprosy Colonies: We supplied 4 leprosy colonies with dry food rations and medical aid. We are pleased to see no new residents at any of the leprosy colonies we help – this means that people are being treated for Leprosy before becoming physically challenged from this treatable illness.
New Hires: Ankita returns to KHEL as a full-time employee focusing on our Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC) and After School Tuition. Varun is our new Yoga Teacher, and also works with ARC, Sanskrit, Hindi, and After School Tuition.
Construction: Every year, we work to improve the building and grounds at LDA. LDA was originally built in 1988 for 150 K-5 children. Now, we’re a preschool-8th class facility educating up to 300 children and adolescents. In 2019, we completed several projects in preparation for more complex construction projects over the next few years. In addition to construction, we also repaired and replaced furniture that was falling apart.
Use of School Grounds by Our Community: Several years ago, a volunteer, Heather, donated volleyball poles and equipment to LDA. The local boys began wandering onto our grounds to play volleyball after school (unfortunately, girls aren’t allowed to do this – yet). We were pleased when they started their own volleyball team, LDA Club, named for our school since many of them are our graduates. We supported them with uniforms and an after school volleyball coach. They became good enough to join the District League as a ‘proper’ team, often beating much better supplied teams from prestigious schools in Dehradun. Two of our former students played at the national level, and one at the state level. We continue to support them as a team, and to support community events by organizing and hosting volleyball tournaments at LDA. Our grounds are also used by local community members who can’t afford venues for weddings and other large events.
Guests and Volunteers: We welcome guests and volunteers at LDA! Hunny and Pranjal, our two recipients of KHEL Scholarships, volunteered, and our guests were from Italy, Canada, Germany, and USA.
International: KHEL gave grants to KHEL friends involved in social justice and education: Veena, Anna, Rebekka, Chreese, and Saumya.
Condolences: We will miss Lauren Pohn, who was a good friend to KHEL and the Arya family for many years. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to Mr. Ahluwalia, our devoted KHEL Board member, who lost his wife, Mrs. Maninder Kaur Ahluwalia. Our community was also sad to lose Mr. Siya Ram of Navjeevan Gram Leprosy Colony.
Government Health Programs: The government hosted a deworming camp at LDA. Our local ASHA’s (Accredited Social Health Activist) continue to use LDA’s grounds to meet with local women regarding pre- and post-natal care, as well as advising on the health of newborns and small children.
Free Health Clinics/Events: Ayurveda, dental, vision, and general medical clinics were hosted at LDA. Our partner NGO, Waste Warriors, educated our children and staff about recycling and other environmental issues that can affect the health of our children and community. We educated our kids about the dangers of tobacco, Malaria and other preventable illnesses, and conducted workshops on hand washing and general cleanliness.
Medical Aid: Medical aid was given to Salman, Rajeshwari, Rekha, Varun, Ankita, Shastriji, and Bhagwat Prasad. Most medical aid was for illnesses related to monsoons such as Dengue, and Bhagwat broke 4 of his ribs.
Milestones: Varun received an award for his advancement in Yoga as well as a Certificate of Participation at HIHT for Teacher Training Level 1. Hunny is doing his degree in Hotel Management and interned in Delhi at Hotel Radisson Blu, Paschim Vihar. Our teachers sat the exam for their Diploma of Elementary Education, and they all passed. Congratulations for completing this extraordinarily challenging 2-year program while still teaching full time!
After School Tuition Program: We began a pilot program for After School Tuition for some of our students who are very weak in basic reading, writing, and math skills. We have instituted remedial classes for these students to bring them up to the standard for their grade. We had some challenges maintaining this program during the lengthy monsoon season, and even after the monsoons were over many children and teachers were still sick with Dengue. We resumed in December and have classes Monday-Thursday.
Extracurricular: Street Art Workshop with @WickedBroz, LDA Volleyball Club, Yoga Camp for teachers at HIHT, Waste Warriors educational seminars, field trip to the zoo, art lessons with RDI, English lessons for our teachers, soccer workshops, and Chess class were the major extracurricular activities at LDA.
Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC): ARC is an Indian government-developed system for teaching adolescents and teenagers about issues that affect them in their growing years. In addition to our ARC classes, RDI conducted a Peer Training Workshop for some of our older students.