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Monday, January 9, 2017

Deenabandhu: Lessons from "the Home of Love and Acceptance"

 YGB supporters Ms.Karin Korvin and Ms. Rina Tham joined me on this trip
Our next stop was Deenabandhu Trust Home, about six hours drive from Bangalore through Mysore Road and to Chamarajanagar, Karnataka. Chamarajanagar is a poor city with a population of over one million people surrounded by thick forest. Yoga Gives Back started partnering with the local NGO Deenbandhu Trust in 2010 and now fund 21 orphaned and abandoned children. Professor Jayadev founded this children's home in 1991 with six local orphaned boys and today, it houses nearly 100 boys and girls, providing a loving home environment and good education. I produced a film "Deenabandhu: Home of Love and Acceptance"  (2014) which gives you a feel of this wonderful home. It is now run by Professor Jayadev and Ms Prajna Neelgund, who left her high salary IT job in Bangalore as a computer scientist and joined this organization. She is full of energy and also passionate theatrical artist who guide children to play in poignant stories on the stage.

One of our first welcome treats is the girls' Bharatanatyam dance. They all dress up and perform several different programs for us. Seeing these girls happy dancing is a wonderful experience which underscores how far these children have come from their early hardship. I was very happy to meet Maalai (11years old) in a pretty yellow dress. She is the young girl who was featured in my film, limping with medical conditions. Four years ago, a local doctor misdiagnosed her, but YGB Ambassador Sophie Herbert Slater and her husband Dan Slater were visiting from New York and took her to a better doctor in Mysore who diagnosed her with Thyroid complications. Thanks to Sophie and Dan's attention and effort, Maalai (*her name is changed to protect her privacy) has been treated with correct medication and has really grown.  You can see how she has grown to be such a happy pretty girl. Just like many other children's here, Maalai had a very sad childhood. She was actually found lying next to her mother's dead body on the street of Bangalore. When you look at her smile today surrounded by many sisters and brothers who love her, it is clear that Professor Jayadev's dedication to create this "Home of Love and Acceptance" has truly become a reality for so many children.
Maalai (2013)
(Maalai, 2017)
YGB Ambassador Sophie Herbert Slater and her husband Dan Slater from New York (2013)

I love staying here at their guest house to feel the rhythm of the life at Deenbandhu Home. At 6 a.m., a bell rings and children get up, sweep the ground, and meditate. I go to the kitchen and get a cup of coffee or tea. House mothers cook three meals a day for all the children and guests as well as school teachers. We enjoy three delicious meals here: variety of chapati, omelette and cooked vegetable dishes (lady fingers/okra, capsicum/bell pepper, radish, beans, etc.) with always freshly made coconut chutney! Please follow Yoga Gives Back's FaceBook as we continue to share updates of these children we support. $500 a year can support one child at this home to let them live up to their dreams.

Over the last 25 years, Deenbandhu had sent about 100 boys into higher education or independent life with paid jobs. Last year, the first three girls also left the home to study or work in Bangalore. These alumni students return to the home throughout the year.
Last October, on the day of Gandhi Jayanthi, birthday of Gandhi, all the alumni students visited Deenbandhu and discussed how to understand Gandhi. I hope we can all learn from what they concluded here:
1. We have been receiving from society and it is now our turn to give back something to society.
2. What can we give? We are not rich! But we can still give back to society by staying away from corruption.
3. We give back to society by being honest.
4. We can give back to society by being punctual, helpful to others and by leading a disciplined life.

This list is a clear demonstration of the seed Professor Jayadev planted in these youths' minds at the home. They have no biological family and possess very little materialistically, but their minds shine bright and teach me a lot about how to live with a sense of gratitude and give back to society as much as we can. This day, one young boy donated 5000 Rupees from his income as a driver at Toyota Corporation. Others donated 200 pairs of slippers as well as sweets, crackers, jumping ropes, and toys for the children.
Professor Jayadev writes in his report of the day:
"... So the 'giving' was densely loaded with an attitude and feeling of fulfillment for being able to give, which actually subdued the arrogance of giving and at the same time the giver floated in a sense of gratitude. These are possible not by mere psychological understanding but with true spiritual comprehension. Often we read out the prayers of Saint Francis of Assisi---
O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much.
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved to as to love,
For it is giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned..."
This, in be brief, are the prerequisites that lead to the making of a personality of a child. It involves precise interpersonal interactions that lead to the etching of a desired character in children.  We are able to describe some aspects of this experience for which we have an easy vocabulary. Yet there are others aspects of this phenomenon which abhor vocabulary but are amenable only to a spiritual bent of mind...."

Every time I visit India and experience this kind of living moral values, I truly feel "by giving, we receive." On behalf of Yoga Gives Back, I interact with these incredible human beings and learn so much from them, which fuels me to keep working harder for YGB's mission. I am hoping to share these experiences with more of YGB supporters in person together in India. Yoga Gives Back has been truly blessed to partner with this incredible NGO Deenbandhu led by Professor Jayadev.

During my last visit in 2014,  I planted a small tree on behalf of Yoga Gives Back in front of Deenabandhu Women's Tailoring Center. See how much the tree has grown in two years, which also symbolizes the success of this women's training center. I would like to see YGB supporting these women's income earning work in the future by helping sell these bags (see them in this photo?) and many other items they make here to create sustainable income earning work. This is another big dream of Professor Jayadev's, to create a positive socio economic ripple effect in this poor local community.


  1. Your experience over there is very much true, because whenever I volunteer for Deenabhandhu I gain more than what I give. And the company of Prof Jaydev and Miss Prajna teaches a lot of value's that are for beyond the materialistic plane..

    1. Thank you Sunil for very much being a part of Deenabandhu :)

  2. Your experience over there is very much true, because whenever I volunteer for Deenabhandhu I gain more than what I give. And the company of Prof Jaydev and Miss Prajna teaches a lot of value's that are for beyond the materialistic plane..

  3. I am so excited to visit there this month. To speak with the children in Kannada, to deliver the books that Kayoko is sending for them will be such a delightful experience. To be an Ambassador for Yoga Gives Back is a special privilege. To go to Deenabandhu - a special joy!