June 6, 2013

A Guest Blog From My Niece, Sophie

My niece, Sophie Herbert Slater and her husband Dan Slater just returned from their honeymoon in Nepal and India.  Sophie would like to share something very dear to her.

One of the most important and transformative experiences of my life has been my long association with the Deenabandhu Children’s Home.  Deenabandhu is an orphanage in the rural district of Chamarajanagar, which is in the state of Karnataka in South India. It was founded in 1992, when a prominent zoology professor, G.S. Jayadev, opened a small home for 8 destitute and orphaned boys.  Thanks to his vision, determination, and tireless work, coupled with support from various organizations and individuals in India and abroad, today Deenabandhu is a model orphanage, providing not just education but also a loving and supportive home for more than 80 children.

I first began visiting Deenabandhu in 2006, while working on a photography project as a student at the Cooper Union School of Art.  I've lived there for as much as a month at a time, teaching yoga and generating fiscal sponsorship for the children.  The low rate of $500 a year covers all food, housing, education, and extracurricular expenses.  Yoga Gives Back (YGB) is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of women and children throughout India.  As an ambassador for YGB, I introduced the organization to Deenabandhu in 2010, and now, YGB sponsors 17 children there.  My parents Laura and Randy Plimpton, my Aunt Martha Stewart, my brother Chris Herbert, and a number of my friends have all sponsored children at Deenabandhu.

I'm thrilled to say that my husband, Dan Slater, also now a sponsor, is as committed to the orphanage as I am.  During our recent three-week honeymoon in Nepal and India, it was my pleasure to bring Dan for a week-long stay at the orphanage.  We happened to be there at a time when the children were on a break between semesters.  So there was quite a lot of fun to be had, throwing the cricket ball around with the boys, coloring with the girls, and swinging from the banyan trees in the afternoon -- not to mention the fresh and delicious vegetarian food served three times per day.  Dan said he couldn't help but be sucked into the wonderful culture of Deenabandhu, immediately inspired by the kids.  Coming from a country of so much, he said, it's incredible to see children on the downside of advantage doing so well with so comparatively little.  Less stuff, more love, he said.  That's the message