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Monday, February 12, 2018

"Sun is Day Light, Moon is Night Light, Education is Life Light"---Meeting with YGB SHE Scholarship Students

In the low income community of Chamarajanagara, outside of Mysore, Karnataka, YGB is now funding 60 students with SHE (Scholarship for Higher Education). Our NGO Partner Deenabandhu Trust hosted a gathering so that we could meet these students and hear their stories as well as future plans. Most students are in their two-year PUC (Pre-University Course) or already in three-year Diploma (science courses) or Degree (arts courses). Every one's eyes are so bright with their determination to complete their higher education to find a good job!  I am always touched to hear how every student wants to get a job and secure their income so that they can help their families and communities. Here, nobody says, "I want to become rich!" 


 Sandeep is a student featured in YGB FILM "Gold in Hand," who lost his education for seven years as a teenager due to forced labor. Now he is  getting very high grades in his engineering Diploma course. He has been offered a fantastic internship position at a big construction company.  All the SHE Scholarship students come from very poor families. Everyone expresses deep gratitude how this scholarship is helping to continue their education to reach their dreams.
 I also met 18 year old Mona who shared her hardship. Her father died three months ago and suddenly, there is no income in this family as her mother can not work. They are now living at her uncle's house but she was not sure how long this can continue. She is at her first year, studying commerce, but she was not certain if she could continue her education. While working with YGB programs in India, we often face this kind of challenging situation. I have discussed her case with Professor Jayadev, Director of YGB's NGO Partner Deenabandhu Trust, who will look into her situation to try to support her continuing education. YGB has been trying to be as flexible as possible with a situation like Mona's and will extend our support so that she can get through this tough period. I will keep you posted how we can support her.

Hearing her story was so difficult, but I was comforted by her long time friends who all have serious financial and social challenges at home, but as a group, they help and support each other. They told me, "Mom, please do not cry. This is our best day in our lives. We do not cry!" Hearing this made me swell up even more. One of Mona's girl friend's dream is to make lots of money to help her disabled elder sister live with dignity...I continue to receive so much inspiration from these students.  Thank you!!



"Life is easy when all the pains are celebrated with smile."
"Man needs difficulties in life because they are necessary to enjoy success."
---Ashwini, B. YGB SHE Student

We received many beautifully hand written thank you cards from the SHE students. Each card expresses one's deep appreciation for this scholarship.

"Dream is not the thing you see in sleep, but it is the thing that doesn't let you sleep,"---many students quoted this message from A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India.

SHE Students also tied hand made malas and Indian national color bracelets on each of our wrists, which is still with me today. It is a true blessing to meet these students whose spirit is so high though the reality of their daily lives are filled with tough issues. 












Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"NIRVANA PROJECT" is Born: A Story of SHE Scholarship Student

 An artistic student Nagaraju's dream is making a real progress! 

Meet a young talented Nagaraju P. He is one of YGB's 210 SHE (Scholarship for Higher Education) students, which funds destitute teen students' higher education for five years. Coming from a very poor family in Chamarajanagar, outside of Mysore, Nagaraju was so happy to receive this scholarship to continue his education in a college in Mysore, majoring commerce. In December 2016, I visited Nagraju's home, as Professor Jayadev (Deenabandhu Trust, YGB NGO Partner) had already sent me  his incredibly beautiful and powerful drawings by emails. I wanted to meet him and ask his future plans. 
Nagaraju showed us his beautiful drawings at his home during our visit in 2016


When we first met in 2016, Nagaraju was undecided about pursuing his art. His father wanted him to take a government job for a stable income, as he makes very small wage as a daily laborer with little education.  They live in a simple two room home in the village of Chamarajanagar. His mother is a housewife also with little education. 
In 2017, I met with a passionate Jyoti Jaiswal, an owner of Om Sutra online yoga accessories company based in New York. Jyoti's mission is to empower women, artisans and talented artists by creating job opportunities with fair wages for a sustainable livelihood.  I immediately shared Nagaraju's designs with Jyoti, who was very impressed with them that she agreed to create bags with his design and market on her site. As Nagaraju's designs started traveling virtually from Chamarajanagar to New York, the new "NIRVANA PROJECT" was born. As Jyoti puts it, "this project is about Nagraju's transformation and reaching to his dream..." I thought this is a beautiful name for this project which came together magically, but actually with tireless work by Nagaraju, Jyoti, Prof Jayadev and Mr Menon in Mysore. 

The Nirvana bag illustrates a meaningful picture of transformation of King Siddhartha to the Nirvana state of Lord Buddha is a wonderful representation of transcendental bliss and it’s hand sketched by the  artist Nagaraju P. 



This January, we were happy to see the first samples of NIRVANA PROJECT bags!! Here, YGB's first SEVA TRIP participant Ambassadors and Supporters proudly modeling these high quality bags with Nagaraj's design!! With Lauren Peterson(Los Angeles), Beate Scholtz (LA), Sharda ten Hove (The Netherlands/Thailand), Anouk Prop (The Netherlands/Thailand) and Bonnie Ikemura (LA)

We travelled to Kolkotta carrying the NIRVANA bags! At Ramakrishna Mission Belur Math on the Ganges River with YGB Ambassadors Lauren Peterson (Los Angeles), Mina Lee (Abu Dhabi/Korea) and Beate Scholtz (Los Angeles)
I met with Nagaraj this January again. I was very happy to hear that he decided to continue to pursue Art and tries to become an artist though it may not be the easiest path. His thank you card is filled with deep sense of gratitude and also most moving message is that he wants to establish himself as an artist to help the poor children in his community. Actually, this is a common message and strong feeling among all the students here. They are so compassionate and thoughtful. I was most touched to receive my portrait by Nagaraj!

No dream is too small or too big to pursue. I am again empowered and inspired to witness how our small contribution can seed an opportunity to live up to somebody's potential. As YGB, we will continue to follow up his story and I look forward to sharing it year after year.  This is a true learning process for myself and for YGB as well. We hope to support Nagaraj's dream, one bag at a time, while creating more sustainable income opportunities for local women tailors as the NIRVANA PROJECT takes off!!

Pre-Order this great bag now and get 20% off while helping Nagaraju's dream come true!!




Monday, January 22, 2018

"Why YOGA?"---Asana and Conversation with Prof Jayadev

YGB Ambassadors Teach a Yoga Class at Deenabandhu!

An impromptu group class took place on our last morning here at Deenbandhu with children. YGB Amabassador Anouk managed to get 80 yoga mats donated from the Netherlands so children can practice yoga in this beautiful new hall. 



Prof Jayadev, Founder of Deenbandhu Home, shared his believe in YOGA. "ASANA is very important. YOGA is about body, mind and their harmony. When you find harmony in body and mind, you find harmony with others. You fin oneness. This is the goal of yoga. So asana is also important." 















Delicious meals are prepared by house mothers. Chapati, Roti with lots of veges, fresh chutney (coconut is so fresh!), lots of cooked vegetable dishes. This is a precious time to chat with Jayadev and learn his deep spiritual path and conviction to live for others with true love and acceptance. THANK YOU!













Sunday, January 21, 2018

"Why Kids Are Smiling?" ---Visiting Deenabandhu Home

Visiting Deenabandhu: Home of Love and Acceptance 

5 hour drive from Bangalore took us next to Deenabandhu Home, in a very poor community of  Chamarajanagar, north of Mysore.  This town has historically consisted of population of lower caste, therefore has been discriminated and left behind from modern cities' development, such as paved streets! This is where Professor Jayadev founded a home for six orphan boys in 1991. Today, nearly 100 boys and girls who have no place to go, live in this home which is filled with discipline, fun, laughter, order and most importantly love and acceptance. Please watch a short YGB FILM "Deenabandhu: Home of Love and Acceptance"(2014) to learn more about this amazing home. They welcomed our visit with welcome signs every where. 


    Prof Jayadev (Deenabandhu Founder), Prajna (Project Manager) and children warmly welcome us

It is so wonderful to return to this home and witness growth of children. YGB's global family is supporting 26 orphaned and abandoned children here. It costs only $500 a year to provide these children with loving care and good education. Following Prof Jayadev's philosophy of "Love and Acceptance", children mature with self acceptance, confidence and love.
YGB Ambassador Anouk Prop has been volunteering at this home for the last few years, as psychotherapist and yoga teacher. Children are so happy to see her return. Prajna Neelgund is the Manager of all the operations here. Graduating from India's top IIT University with computer science. She once had a top paid job at Syscos in Mumbai, but she knew something was missing in her life. Today, Prajna is the central force behind children's arts and theater activities among many other creative work for children. 

We were welcomed by Dance Performance by the children at Girls Home. 

YGB Global Ambassadors Enjoyed Children's Dancing Performance!

Years ago, this girl was found lying next to her mother's dead body on the street of Bangalore. She also had many physical issues. Today, she is part of the dancing group!!

Megha is now in Masters Course at Bangalore University majoring Literature. As children grow, they become care takers for younger children, returning to the home for the weekends. There is a real sense of belonging and family here, which has created this home everyone belongs and can return anytime.  
Evening ended with Jayadev's beautiful and peaceful bamboo flute accompanied by Druga's harmonium! 





Saturday, January 20, 2018

Following Jayashree's Dream

YGB Seva Trip Visits Jayashree

Next, we visited Jayashree who is the mother of Guruprasad we just visited at his college campus, South Bangalore. Jayashree and her husband Rama live in Chanapatna, suburbs of strolling city of Bangalore. YGB Ambassadors were quite eager to meet with them as Guruprasad touched our hearts so deeply expressing his sincere gratitude to his parents' sacrifice for his advancement in education. 


My first visit was in 2007 when Jayashree just received her first micro loan from Grameen Koota, a local micro loan institute. At first, I thought her micro loans will allow her improve their life style, such as buying a bigger home with running water, toilet, etc. However for the last ten years, I have  learned that they are not interested in their life style. Their priority remains firm to provide everything for their son Guruprasad's higher education. Even with YGB's annual funding for his college tuition, they still need to pay for his needs such as computer, dormitory, food, etc. With this family's determination, Jayashree's dream to give higher education for her two sons are becoming a reality. Each time, she looks more confident about her son's  academic achievement and success. She is so proud of Guruprasad and misses him dearly, who can only return home every six months due to his responsibilities to attend dental emergencies at the college clinic. Jayashree and Rama proudly showed us a small piece of land  in front of their humble one room house. Here, they hope to build a small clinic for Guruprasad to start his dental work so he can serve this poor village community. Jayashree's dream has been to educate their children to get higher education to serve the poor communities.
You can watch my very first YGB FILM "Micro Financing Change Lives"  which includes a short story of Jayashree and Guruprasad ten years ago. Witnessing Guruprasad's transformation has been a great joy for me and we want to continue our support till Guruprsad becomes a dental surgeon in a few years. My dream is to film Guruprasad treating his patients at this hometown clinic!

Jayashree's dream is becoming a reality year by year with your support!