“Since my childhood, I’ve always wanted to help others; doing something for the community and giving back to the community gives me immense pleasure,” said Kuku Das, a Santa Clara resident who co-founded International Gurukul, or iGurukul, with Gayatri Joshi.
Gurukuls were considered learning centers in ancient India where guides and learners lived together, according to a brochure for International Gurukul. A number of local parents are familiar with the two Santa Clara locations for iGurukul’s learning centers. The iGurukul Foundation, founded years before the learning centers were established, also meets at these locations. Not only does the foundation promote the cultural and performing arts, it has also steered a number of community service projects.
“We have about 12 active volunteers, including children,” said Das. We’ve done fundraising for Hurricane Katrina. Every year, we do a fundraiser called the International Cultural Extravaganza, with the theme of ‘World Peace through Culture.’ We invite many dance groups from the Bay Area and they get to showcase their culture. With the money we raise, we give to natural disaster relief programs. We make sandwiches every month for the homeless. We make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and we pack them with fruit, juice and an energy bar and we pack them in brown bags.”
Das shared that she grew up in Odisha, India and came to the United States shortly after she married her husband in 1992.
“I noticed that some kids in our community were confused,” Das said. “I thought we should have an organization that helps ensure a smooth transition of people from the land of their origin to this new home country without losing their identity and without a sense of alienation. It was necessary to connect the people to their roots via yoga, dance, music and performing arts.”
In 2000, Das started the iGurukul Foundation in her garage with only a few participating individuals. The organization grew. According to the organization brochure, the mission of the organization is to “enhance inner potential, synergy, empowerment, creativity and personal excellence among children, youth and families.” With this ideology in mind, Das launched the first learning center in 2010. On the learning center’s website are details about course offerings for children from kindergarten to 8th grade, which include computer programming, Hindi and Bollywood dance. Summer school programs include various subjects such as origami and public speaking.