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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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Celebrating 25 years of Karunai Illam - Nilakottai, 25 September 2012


The lighting of wicks in oil in the shiny brass Kuthuvilaku (lamp) and a prayer by the children started our Silver Jubilee celebration in-house gathering under a thatch on the land. Also present were old students, DHAN workers and the local community leaders. Two of the senior girls were confident mistresses of ceremony. There was a short speech by Mr. Khader and Jean, dance  

by the girls and boys and then at 11.30 the assembled people were divided into groups to share on the general theme; ‘A Way Forward for the Illam.’ The groups made a vow that in another 25 years time there will be no poverty in Nilakottai and surrounding district.

After a tasty lunch sponsored and prepared by two of our old children, the second part was a public celebration held in a nearby hall where we displayed art works by the children. Representatives from the major religions were present - two Swamis from the Ramakrisha Mission, a Christian Priest and a Muslim leader. The event was simple; speeches by various people, the presentation of gifts of shawls to people who have helped us, and items presented by Illam children and children from the school. It was a splendid occasion and according to Jean “I was moved by the appreciation our Karunai Illam Trust as a partner of Dhan receives from the Nilakottai Community”. 



Karunai Illam - Dhan school expansion - construction begins!
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Karunai Illam - Dhan school expansion - construction begins!

On 23 February 2012 considered an auspicious day the ground breaking ceremony for the new extension work was performed. The attached photos show Mr Raghavan (Ragi) our principal doing the pooja (prayers) with the young ones from the primary school joining in. A bore well has also been dug and water was struck at about 500 feet. So its all go now for the construction work! We'll keep you posted on this but appears work is on track to enable new intake for the next academic year. 

Additional images

  • Karunai Illam - Dhan school expansion - construction begins!

Wellington Artists help reach $15000 fund raising target!
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Wellington Artists help reach $15000 fund raising target!

On 10 February the Wellington Artists helped raise $4000 for the Karunai-DHAN school expansion. This was a follow-up event to the funding campaign kicked off by Danny and Fish with their spectacular video. Our special thanks to the creative collaborative that made this possible: Shobita Jones, Ruth Dudgale, Joleen Coervers, Sam Gruenwald, Arlo Edwards, Andy Ellis, Kura Scott, Isobelle Thomas, Patricia Cribb and Will McTavish. And the Pemberton family. Photo credit Arthur Chan.

Thanks also to the contribution of artworks from the following wonderful artists: Michael Farr,Tamara Jones,Trisha Cribb, Arlo Edwards, Simon Matthews, Melissa Cowan, Phyo Thu, Steve Hutt, Jones Das, Daniel Foothead, Ben Bradley, Rosie Rubyfox, Amanda Gruenwald, Luke Whitten.

The event was a great fun evening courtesy Drew Coleman owner of Betty’s Bar, Wellington who kindly provided the venue and a special music performance by Thomas Oliver and Tim Porter.  


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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)