Shrishti Sings a Song

It's hard out there right now. Take good care of yourselves. We're all doing our best to keep ourselves and our families safe. Here's Ammaji, taking a walk on the isolated farm where she's staying for the duration. She's well looked after by family. Some days it's still too cold but she's doing what she can to get some exercise. Ammaji says 'hi' to everyone, and is getting really good at taking selfies! She says, 'You can't help anyone if you don't take care of yourself. So get some exercise, and find a reason to laugh every day. And have faith.' *** We're inspired by what everyday people are doing to help their communities. Click the links to see what these amazing people are doing! In Minnesota, USA, Nordeast Makers is 3D printing face shields for hospitals. *** And people need to eat! Chef Andres and his wonderful organisation, World Central Kitchen, takes mobile kitchens to hard hit communities, and feeds everyone. *** Our 7th class student, Shrishti, sings a song to share with her friends and family. In Hindi she says to wash our hand every day with soap for 20 seconds, to wash the top of our hands, the bottom of our hands, and all over our hands. In this way, Coronavirus will die. *** The area around LDA is under a complete lock down - nobody in our out until the end of April, possibly longer. This has made it impossible for KHEL to distribute food rations to the very poor. Instead, we're working with a larger group in Dehradun. Dry food rations are supplied by local shopkeepers and then handed over to the police for distribution to the homeless [...]

By |2020-05-29T15:48:19-05:00May 29, 2020|General|

Covid-19 and KHEL

This is a letter of love to you. I’ve been trying to write this for a week, composing and discarding professional sounding emails. It didn’t work and at the end of each day I still had this blank page. Right now, we’re just humans, trying to make it through this unscathed, watching, horrified, at the cascading effect of Covid-19 ravaging one country after the next. Hunny, Beni's younger son, scoured the market for masks. They were very expensive so he found a mask maker. We bought 300 masks at rs30 each and distributed them to sanitary workers and other essential personnel. Some of them had never had a mask before so Kamli, our City Councilor and Beni's wife, showed them how to put it on.       The Indian government closed schools a couple weeks ago, so all our staff is at home. Seeing how things had gone in China and Italy, and where they were headed in the US, we planned ahead and paid them early for March (someone has to physically go to the bank to do this, there’s no automatic processes in place for small businesses like KHEL). We told them to buy dry rations like rice and dahl. We told them to stay inside. They’re doing their best to stay in touch with their students but not all students have phones. We’re now starting to get phone calls that this child or that parent is sick. Manju, our Headmistress, working from home. By nature and nurture, I don’t scare easily. I have my practice, and the Himalayan Tradition (I hope you have a source of strength and comfort, too). And yet some days I have a sense of [...]

By |2020-05-03T15:20:49-05:00May 3, 2020|General|

2019 KHEL Annual Report

KHEL ANNUAL REPORT 2019 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 [...]

By |2020-01-08T15:35:44-06:00January 8, 2020|General|

Answers to Questions from a Donor

Little Kids in the Classroom Recently, a visitor to LDA asked us some questions. It's great when we're asked questions like these because it gives us a chance to talk about KHEL's history with Ammaji (Mrs. Lalita Arya, KHEL's Co-Founder), and to record her answers. We enjoyed answering these questions and thought you might enjoy reading our answers (edited for understanding, and donor names removed). KHEL has been educating kids for 36 years. The kids in the early years didn’t often stay in school for very long, usually just long enough to get a few years of decent meals and milk. Then the girls were married off and the boys sent off to work. Or, the boys would already be working while they were in school. Even now, although our kids are getting educated, they often come from families with illiterate adults, or they’re migrant families, so it's very challenging to keep track of them. It wasn’t the norm back then in India for kids to stay connected to their elementary schools, so we weren’t in a position to track them after they left us. There was also the stigma of being associated with a ‘charity’ school. Even now, we can only keep track of them when they stay in the community. Exam Results! Now they'll apply to go to high school. When the children leave KHEL, where do they go? What schools have they attended and if you have followed them, what colleges may they have entered? We started a middle school several years ago, so our kids could continue their education through 8th grade. Since then, all of our kids have gone on to high school. There is no [...]

By |2019-12-21T13:51:02-06:00December 21, 2019|General|

Construction at LDA

Every year, we work to improve the building and grounds at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India. LDA was originally built in 1988 for 150 children, kindergarten through 5th class. Now, we’re a preschool-8th class facility that supports 300 children and adolescents. In 2019, we completed several projects in preparation for more complex construction projects over the next few years. One of our construction projects was not optional. The Education Department informed us that several of our classrooms were not fire code compliant. We added 5 emergency exit doors, making our school much safer for our kids. Four of the new doors open directly onto our playing field which floods during the monsoons. To keep the classrooms dry, we graded the ground away from the building, adding a cement skirt. Buried under the far edge of the cement skirt is an impermeable, 2 foot deep wall, to prevent monsoon rains from creeping under the cement skirt and damaging the foundation and floor of the building. In addition, we built seating around the trees that flank the side of the building with the majority of new doors, adding not only outdoor seating for our kids but a second barrier against flood waters. The edge of the cement skirt facing our main gate also has a low wall, providing more seating and a final barrier to flood waters. Three of the classrooms that needed new doors were very small. Since we had to take out portions of the outside wall and do other demolition for the new doors, we (finally!) fulfilled a years-old request from our teachers to convert these three very small classrooms into two larger ones, to accommodate our [...]

By |2019-10-29T16:01:42-05:00October 29, 2019|General|

Meet our new (and returning) Adolescent Resource Centre Facilitators!

Our Student ARC Facilitators learn how to help their peers and younger students. The Adolescent Resource Centre (ARC) is an Indian government-developed system for teaching adolescents and teenagers about issues that affect them in their growing years. During the past few years, we’ve had several ARC facilitators because it wasn’t a full time job, which made it not financially sustainable for them. Not having an ARC facilitator earlier this year gave us time to formulate a plan to continue this vital program for our kids. We now have two full time employees whose primary role at LDA is ARC Facilitator. They will be working with Leela Uniyal from RDI-HIHT, our partner NGO that is a training centre for ARC. Mrs. Uniyal will train them on-site at LDA, along with a few 7th and 8th class students who will learn the basics of guiding an ARC based conversation. Ankita, age 27,  was an ARC facilitator at LDA last year. She quit because she wasn’t making enough money working part time, and she’s financially responsible for her 20 year old brother who is a college student. We found her working at a call centre in Haridwar. She was living in a small room with another young woman, but her brother had to remain in Dehradun to continue his studies. This was a stressful situation for both of them, so we were pleased to be able to offer her a full time job with benefits, just like our other employees. In addition to ARC, she will be helping out in classrooms, learning some office skills, and taking part in other activities at LDA. Ankita’s family lost all their possessions and home in the mountains during the [...]

By |2019-07-23T16:36:17-05:00August 5, 2019|General|


Every year, the community around Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India, grows and changes. What remains constant is the need for education. Thirty-five years ago, we asked questions like, ‘how do we get our kids to sit still long enough to drink a cup of milk?’ Now we ask, ‘how do we give our kids an education that supports them academically, socially, and personally?’ And at the end of every year we ask, ‘what was our biggest challenge? Where did we succeed?’ Our biggest challenge was tracking what happens to students who leave LDA. In 2018, 12 students dropped out of school. Our community used to be mostly people who had been ostracised from their villages and were searching for a new home. Now, migrant families are usually looking for work and don’t intend to stay. They don’t have cell phones or addresses. They leave because they couldn’t find work, they found work somewhere else, someone died, got sick or married, they owe someone money, they ran out of money, it’s harvesting (or planting) season so they went back to their village, or any number of other reasons that we don’t know, and which they’re not obligated to tell us. It wasn’t too long ago that migrant families’ children worked, so it’s encouraging that while they’re in the community, they send their kids to LDA. Our greatest achievement was hiring Nikita. This doesn’t seem like such a big deal, she’s just another young woman working at her first job while studying for her B.Sc. Here’s what we did right: many years ago, we educated Devender, Nikita’s father. At the time, LDA only went up to 5th grade so he [...]

By |2019-02-24T12:43:55-06:00February 24, 2019|General|

Building Education One Brick at a Time

Report on Construction at Lakshmi Devi Academy A Project of KHEL Total Cost for Stage One of LDA construction project: INR28,00,000 (USD40,000/€35,000) After more than three years of planning, construction work at Lakshmi Devi Academy (LDA), KHEL’s school for underserved children in Dehradun, India, began in March 2017. The reason we are releasing this report now is that we wanted to see how well the construction worked for our kids. It takes some time to understand crowd flow and movement, and what we’ve learned this past year will impact future construction. In India, it’s normal to wait through a monsoon season to see how construction holds up. Overall, this construction has performed admirably and has met our expectations. We invited the community and some of our students to a ground-breaking ceremony. Representing KHEL were Co-Founder Lalita Arya (fondly known as Ammaji), Executive Director Stomya Arya Persaud, Board Member Mr. Ahluwalia, and Beni Bhatt, KHEL’s General Manager. Of course, all of KHEL’s staff and teachers joined us. From Dhyana Mandiram Trust (DMT), which funded a large portion of this effort, we welcomed Tejas Chandaria, Narinder Pushkarna and Dr. Upreti. Also present were City Councillor Kamli Bhatt, and members of LDA’s Volleyball team. In addition, we were happy to welcome both of our contractors, Jakir Ansari and Rajender Chauhan, and Mr. Maindola, our architect. KHEL serves a diverse community. In keeping with our policy of inclusion, we asked representatives from the 4 major religions of our community to take part in the ground-breaking ceremony. Ammaji began the proceedings with a prayer and blessing. Pandit Harshanand performed a short Hindu ceremony, Iliyaas Ansari gave a Muslim blessing, Mr. Ahluwalia said a Sikh prayer and Prakash Goel offered a [...]

By |2019-02-24T12:55:35-06:00December 22, 2018|General|