The Karma Yoga Arms of CYS
Virtues First formed in 2005 from the efforts of Donald Nicely and William Brashear to create a virtues based, after-school childcare program in Cincinnati, Ohio. Shortly thereafter, Will took a trip to India where he realized that the relatively small level of funding VF was receiving in the U.S. was relatively huge in India; capable of helping far more children and who are living in harsh conditions.
Indeed, VF was not only able to create an after-school childcare program in India, but also establish an entire school! Furthermore, the school was created in a "squatters area" that was mostly inhabited by people that were, sadly, still refered to as "Dalits" (untouchables). And, as often the case among people of this caste, many of the children were put to work or begging in the streets, rather than in school. -Later, we also came to learn that many of the children would go for days without a single good meal.
However, within a few years of VF opening the new school, many of the area children were off the streets and coming to school instead; where they could not only learn, but get a hot lunch!
None of this was possible without donations to Virtues First!
VF actually struggled for a while to come up with enough funding to offer a free, hot lunch on a daily basis. But VF persisted until it was also able to provide a community center for parents and friends to gather for a avariety of events, including a farmers market. But, most importantly, this is when the community began to come together. And, together they came up with teams and shifts of volunteers that would acquire and cook the student's meals.
Eventually, the area was recognized as a legitimate town "sector" and, due to its unique approach to education, parents from nearby sectors started requesting the school take in their children as well. Ultimately, the school uplifted the entire new sector and even became its voting precinct.
By 2016 the school had become self-sustaining and other schools had also come to the area; wherein VF saw this as an opportunity to change its focus from running a school to working on ways to support already existing schools; which is a huge and important challenge in India; and which led us to...
In 2016 VF shifted its energies to assisting a community center in Bangalore, India, called Roopantara (Transformation Within). It offers unique educational resources and programs within its own center, for neighboring schools, and many home-schoolers that do not have sufficient materials, programs and resources. Without going into too much detail, VF works with Roopantara to continue expanding their resources so that they can hold more programs on their campus and also help parents with homeschooling. The main reason for this is masses of parents being fed-up with the many public and private systems that are overly competitive and highly stressful, yet grossly underfunded. They clearly see the backwardness of these institutions and how they are severely detrimental to their children's holistic well-being. Roopantara strives to remedy much of this by reconnecting students to nature, and teaching thru nature, ecological farming and many other eco-friendly activities. It also offers regular outings that get kids out of the ever-booming and overcrowded city. (Read about Roopantara's & VF's educational philosophy below)
Our Present and Future
Badi and Amita Yaganagi, along with the help of their 2 daughters, started and nourished the Roopantara center until it became self sustaining. In the process, their progressive ideas in education caught the attention of a well known Baha'i school in Zambia, Africa. After nearly a year of consideration, the Yaganagi family moved to Zambia to run its Banani school with Amita at the helm. Meanwhile, some ideas relating to education and sustainable living, that had been incubating in their minds over many years, seemed to find the perfect place to hatch in a nearby village. Thus, Badi engaged the broader community and caught the attention of the chiefs and elders of the land. Together they formed a wonderful vision: