Working At Karuna: Kusaladevi's StoryOn Fri, 8 February, 2019 - 14:10
Karuna exists to end caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality in India and Nepal. Kusaladevi writes about her experience working for Karuna: ”It’s hard to summarise my time working at Karuna. It was such a significant part of my life for around 8 years, coinciding with my ordination process and it feels hard to separate the two out. I feel so fortunate to have worked for a charity that combined my interest in International Development with the Dharma.
I never ever would have dreamt that I’d become a fundraiser – when I did my first appeal, I was shy and self-conscious and the idea of asking for money was terrifying. However, I was idealistic and had a passion for helping others, especially people in the developing world. I was also (still am!) determined and able to focus my energy and that was enough to get me onto a fundraising appeal.
That appeal changed my life. I saw a whole world of potential open up in that six weeks that I could not have imagined possible – the potential of connecting deeply with strangers, to change deep-seated habits I had, to develop vast and potentially infinite metta for all beings and even to raise money whilst doing all of this. My confidence began to grow and I felt so alive and present.
So, when I saw an email from Amalavajra after the appeal asking people to get in touch if they were interested in working as a fundraiser for Karuna, I just had to explore the possibility. When we chatted on the phone, I was in the office of my current workplace, looking out over a park and as we spoke. I had to stop the conversation as I was amazed to see a triple rainbow; a beautiful, shimmering symbol of the future possibilities.
I didn’t find fundraising easy, but I could see how much I was learning and changing. My whole view of the world changed – crowds of strangers, instead of provoking anxiety, now invited the potential of connection, depth and beauty. Fear was no longer a barrier, but something that I knew how to be with and became familiar with, so it had less control over me. I became more aware of bodily sensations and thoughts and the insubstantiality of them – watching them change, move, flow. My capacity to love and feel for other beings was growing. I was becoming bigger.
I was asked to support appeals and share some of what I was learning and this was such a privilege – sharing tools and skills which would support people to unfold and grow and, in the meantime, offering strangers in India and Nepal the chance to unfold their own potential and live lives of dignity and confidence.
When I moved into appeal leading, I knew that here was another opportunity: to engage with the work as Dharma practice, striving to understand the nature of mind while supported by friends and working for the benefit of others. I’ve often reflected on how fortunate I was to be employed by Buddhists who understand and would support me to prioritise my Dharma practice. This support came in a number of ways – so many deep and enriching conversations with friends I worked with (colleagues feels too “cold” to describe those relationships), the gift of confidence and trust to find my own way when faced with challenges in the work, the generous support package – which enabled me to replenish my inspiration on retreat and mitra/order events – and so much more.
I have made some very close friends working at Karuna. It’s so special to have people around you who share your values. Combining this with the intensely hard work (physical and emotional) of setting up and leading an appeal together, all the ingredients are there for something magic. By seeing each other at our most potent and alive, as well as at our most vulnerable, the parts of ourselves we often try and hide away, develops sincere love and care for each other, with lots of fun and laughter sprinkled in. It was tough, yet so much joy was had in these conditions.
I was also on the receiving end of so much generosity. Friends from the office, who would do a ritual with all of the fundraisers in mind, would come and cook delicious and nourishing food for us. They would come and offer amazing and special training sessions for the appeals and would always be on the end of a phone whenever needed to offer support. Ex-fundraisers, too, would come and care for the appeals, with handfuls of gifts, huge smiles and more delicious food. Karuna really is a web of friendships and generosity – the fundraisers, trainers, householders and other supporters, staff, trustees, project managers, workers in the field and beneficiaries – all bringing different elements, giving as much as they can. I too hope to continue this legacy, offering support to the future appeals and fundraisers.
So I am left full of gratitude for my time at Karuna – I learnt so much from so many wonderful people, made lots of good friends, felt that I could pour my energy into something extremely worthwhile, was trusted with responsibilities that led to me understanding myself and the world more fully, met some amazing people in houses around cities in the UK and raised or supported others to raise a fair amount of money for the brilliant projects. What a gift.”