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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.

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Live Below the Line (LBL) fund raising campaign!

Building on the success of The Journey to raise funds for the new Illam complex, our next fund raiser will use the LBL challenge to raise further funds to meet our $200k target.

What is The LBL challenge? Its living on food for not more than $2.25 a day for up to 5 days in September. Participants will appreciate what it means to live on this small amount which is what many in the developing world can sometimes afford. Supporters pledge matching amounts to the participants and these proceeds go to the Illam through the LBL charity.

Living on so little is not easy but its possible. Are you and your friends up for this? 

More information on LBL coming soon - watch this space! 


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The JOURNEY - a special event to fund raise and commemorate 25 years of Karunai Illam!

A dedicated group of volunteer supporters are helping organise The JOURNEY on 2nd March 2013; an event that brings together artists who will be showcasing their donated art works (for sale),
, with all proceeds going towards the building and construction of a new children’s home for the Karunai Illam Trust. The event will also include a mix of both Indian and New Zealand performing artists, who have all donated their time to make this event a unique and educational experience.

Please go here to get a ticket: JOURNEY TICKET

Feel free to follow our facebook pages to see the updates on artists, musicians and other exciting things coming to The JOURNEY

Facebook The Journey

Facebook Karunai Illam



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First steps in building the new “dreamhome” Illam for DHAN-Karunai Illam

Our trust’s Chairperson Michael Harris has just returned from staying in the Illam for 2 weeks.  There he saw the culmination of the donations and efforts of so many of you in raising funds to build the new enlarged School building. Michael confirms the need for a new Illam building complex in which both boys and girls can live together with support staff – where visitors and volunteers from NZ and elsewhere can stay and experience the special atmosphere of this remarkable children’s home established by Jean Watson.  Up until now the 30 girls have been living on the outskirts of Nilakottai, some 1½ km away from the 14 boys who live on the ‘garden land’ in a rural setting.  The present arrangements limit any growth in numbers or achieving a better balance, and the boys to some extent are “out on their own”.


Karunai Illam Trust and DHAN Foundation and its staff all agree to move swiftly towards building a new ‘unified’ Illam (children’s home).   The choice of site was effectively settled while Michael was there with Jean - a spacious site has been chosen on an open area within the garden land.  The children have made suggestions as to what they would like to see included in the complex, as have the staff.  Right now, options as to layout and building arrangements are being worked through.  Hopefully there will have been progress towards finalising outline plans by the time Jean returns to NZ in early December 2012.

Now it is over to us here in NZ and our supporters overseas to raise the money to make the ‘dreamhome’ a reality for the children.


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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)