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Welcome to Karunai Illam

The Karunai Illam Trust is a New Zealand incorporated charitable trust. It was set up to support the work of Jean Watson, a Wellington writer, who in 1987  established a children’s home in Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu, south India.


Call for Building Project Fundraising - July 2014 and December 2014 deadlines

Dear all,

As at late February 2014, the new hostel for the Girls together with the kitchen, dining and other common areas, which is called “Phase 1” of the project to build a new Illam for the children is more than half-finished!   There has been a burst of building activity, and progress is now very rapid.

Completing Phase 1 is likely to cost approx. NZ$180,000 - shared between our NGO partner in India (DHAN) and Karunai IllamTrust NZ (KIT).

The Phase 1 work may be completed by the end of July 2014.

KIT’s share of the Phase 1 cost is around NZ$103,000.  If we have not sent all of that amount by the end of July 2014, the completion of the Girl’s hostel may be delayed!

From past fundraising and expected regular donations, after making regular payments for the children’s living and educational expenses, KIT is likely to have enough to send $88,000 for the new building by then. This means we need to raise an additional $15,000 for Phase 1 by the end of July 2014.

As well, building the Boys’ hostel (Phase 2 of the project) needs to be funded. Phase 2 will commence once Phase 1 is completed, and KIT’s share of costs for Phase 2 are estimated to be NZ$60,000. Phase 2 costs will be confirmed once the building plans are confirmed and signed off between DHAN architects and KIT.

We need to raise $15,000 for Phase 1 by July 2014 and approx $60,000 for Phase 2 by December 2014, a total of $75,000. Those who carry out fundraising towards the building project (e.g movie fundraisers, charity dinners, walkathons, Living Below The Line, PledgeMe) will be recognised in some form to reflect their effort and funds raised.

Click here to find out more about the building project and be sure to share this with your friends and colleagues.


First Flash from the Monsoon

It is six pm here and the first flash of lightening of the monsoon evening has just occurred and thunder is beginning to rumble. The sky has been sort of whitish all day which made me think we may not get rain tonight - but after all perhaps we might. We have had three days of night showers which is encouraging and the little red velvet 'rain puchees' are coming out.  Everywhere there are large puddles of water red brown pools in red land. Dazzling in the morning when I ride over to the land    -Jean Watson, updating us from Karunai Illam in Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu, India


LBL update from Jo & Jim

Read an update from Jo and Jim, two of our regular KIT supporters, who have shared their $2.25 per day meal challenge for LBL.

Jim and I pooled our money and opted to eat the same meals each day so we used most of the ingredients we purchased.

The meal: 300 mls of oats per breakfast, cooked with 100mls of milk for both of us.  Lunch is pumpkin soup 440gms each, watered down as it is really thick plus a bread roll each.  Dinner is a red lentil curry (I think they call the lentils something different but there are the pinky looking numbers) with cardamom, curry powder, cumin, mustard seeds and tomatoes, jasmine rice, carrots and cabbage, the later because that was all we could afford.

We cooked on Sunday and placed the meals in containers in the fridge.  The main was weighted up per meal, the soup is stored in larger containers. Jim made the bread rolls and we will have lots of flour left over.  We won't go hungry. 

What we have learnt so far is:

  • Peoples generosity is fab
  • It would be hard to do this if you were buying everything for yourself and not pooling your money
  • We could have purchased some cheaper items e.g. rice and oats but made a decision not to do this
  • Purchased veges from the market as this was the cheapest way to do this.  Lentils and rice came from Asiana as we could buy exactly the amount of lentils required and a better quality of rice.  The spices came from Asiana and we weighted these and then costed these out.  The other ingredients came from Pack and Save
  • Eating the same food for 5 days will be boring
  • We were not able to afford enough spices so everything is too bland and lacks the punch we would normally eat
  • When we make curries we would usually add more onion, garlic and tomato paste as well as more spices
  • Lentils were cheaper than chickpeas even is you cook dried chickpeas
  • It is strange thinking you are not able to buy the treats you might have and in our case no chocolate
  • No tea or coffee is hard, I love my cups of tea and miss that ritual
  • We both have dull headaches and are both under the weather with sore throats

If the Illam was to do this again we would take part.  We would see if we could find others to take the challenge and raise money for the Illam.  If it was possible more people pooling their money and buying collectively would be a good idea, but it may limit your experience of how those on so little money feel.

We won't go hungry, eating the same food for 5 days and bland food reinforces how well off we are. 

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Our children's home is called DHAN Karunai Illam. The DHAN Foundation is our Partner organisation and the word DHAN stands for Development for Humane Action. Karunai means Grace, and Illam is Home.

Tamil Nadu, India

Nilakottai, Tamil Nadu

(Click to view maps)