Update on Class 12 Students, April 2013

Class 12 Students

With the end of March came the end of one class and the start of the next across India. For us at BSS, this meant that seven of our students are about to begin the twelfth grade! We can hardly believe that our seventh graders have grown up so fast. As they tell Rajan, they could never have accomplished so much without the support and hard work of BSS’s teachers and supporters. Instead, like their parents, they would be married or soon-to-be-married, and career options would include labouring in the fields for less than $2 a day, pedalling a cycle rickshaw, or doing housework.

Now their world has expanded. In the Indian school system, students specialize in their high school years. The students in 12th grade have selected “streams” of study, which include Arts (History, Social Sciences, Music); Science (Physics, Chemistry, Math, Biology); and Commerce (Management, Accounting, Business Studies). Three of the 12th graders have chosen Arts, three are in Science, and one is studying Commerce. The Arts stream includes Pankaj, Shiv, and Balwant. Balwant has decided to use his education to pursue a career in hotel management. When school is out, he spends time in the Sarnath Cafe with Sukhdev, who has taken him under his wing, to learn about working in and managing a restaurant. Continue reading…

Sarnath Cafe Remodel

Image of the new interior space.

Sarnath Cafe & Saini Guest House, a social enterprise owned and operated by the Saini family and located next to BSS, was renovated last year for three months and re-opened in August. While the menu remains the same, the restaurant and kitchen underwent extensive upgrades. As a socially focused business, the profits from the restaurant (as well as its kitchen facilities) help support the school. We hope that this investment will contribute to BSS’s long-term sustainability. While we’re certainly biased, we believe that it’s the best restaurant in Sarnath (and possibly one of the best in Varanasi).

Sukhdev at the StoveWhat’s in store for the future? Four guest rooms above the cafe were finished this past month and are now ready for business. While simple, they are nicely appointed; each has a bath, hot water, and AC in the summer. The rooms are intended to host both BSS volunteers and visitors.


NY artist brings joy through art to BSS students

Erica Harris and Children
New York artist Erica Harris teaching a class

In January of 2012 Brooklyn, NY artist Erica Harris was welcomed to Buddha’s Smile School in India to teach art classes and take photos of daily activities at BSS. Thank you also to Erica and her friends who raised over $6,000 for BSS middle school scholarships. We invite you to take a look at Erica’s beautiful photos of our BSS students

Benefit Concert, Brooklyn Conservatory of Music: Dec 10, 6-10 PM

Benefit concert poster
Brooklyn Conservatory of Music benefit concert poster

Over 20 performers of contemporary classical, jazz, and world music will present a concert to support Buddha’s Smile School at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music on Saturday December 10 from 6 to 10 PM!


  • Lara Allen, soprano
  • Michael Brofman, piano
  • Julian de la Chica, piano
  • Jade Conlee, piano
  • Hui Cox, guitar
  • Anna Dagmar, voice/piano
  • Andrew D’Angelo, bass clarinet
  • Fingers DelRey, piano
  • Joanna Dionis, mezzo-soprano
  • Ezra Donner, piano
  • Steven Gerber, piano
  • Stephanie Griffin, viola
  • Sara Holzshue, vocals
  • Julieanne Klein, soprano
  • Maki Kobayashi, piano
  • Beth Levin, piano
  • Jon Liechty, piano
  • Christine Perea, flute
  • Mariel Roberts, cello
  • Michael Rose, piano
  • Ivan Rubinstein-Gilles, vocals/guitar
  • Mia Theodoratus, electric harp
  • Deborah van Renterghem, soprano
  • Maria Wagner, clarinet
  • Photos by John Gurrin

Please help support BSS by attending this wonderful event and do please tell your friends!


WHAT: Benefit Concert for Buddha’s Smile School

WHEN: Saturday December 10, 2011; from 6-10 PM

WHERE: Brooklyn Conservatory Concert Hall, 58 Seventh Avenue; Brooklyn, NY 11217

HOW MUCH: Suggested Donation: $20

For More Information: Please visit the Brooklyn Conservatory Concert Hall Website



Tack (Thanks!)

Ostteg Elementary School
Students of Ostteg Elementary School, Umea, Sweden.

Tack (thanks!) to the 29 students of Ostteg Elementary School,Umea, Sweden and their teacher Christer Rosenqvist for holding a successful flea market and bake sale which raised $1,000 for Buddha’s Smile school. Thank you, students, for caring so much about the BSS children in Varanasi.

Special Thanks to Erica and Brooklyn Commune


Brooklyn Commune Group Photo
Dozens of supporters contributed close to $8,000!

We want to give a shout of thanks to Brooklyn, NY artist Erica Harris (now in India and soon to visit BSS) who created a small tsunami of energy around her city raising funds for scholarships for BSS graduates attending middle school. Erica and her fantastic friends raised nearly $8,000. Be sure to check out Erica’s fascinating global art on her website.

A special thanks to the Brooklyn Commune cafe for holding a sale of Erica’s prints raising $800, enough for one scholarship and a lot of fresh food for BSS kids. Check out their website.

and enjoy dining on fresh regionally grown food when in Brooklyn. (That’s the Brooklyn Commune gang in the photo.)

Thanks to Erica, Shannon Holman and other Brooklyn friends, Paro, Vishal, Ravi, Khusboo, Rekha, Sunita, Brijesh, and Pooja now have a one year scholarship to middle school. They were previously holding down full-time jobs, garbage collectors and recyclers on the streets of Varanasi. Now these kids are full time students in middle school and their heads are full of dreams.

Baby Steps Lead to Big Changes at BSS

Andrea Parker and Student of BSS

By Andrea Parker

It was a great privilege to return to BSS this February 2011. I first visited in April 2010 with four friends, and returned ten months later with a group of seven. What a difference a year has made to the children of Buddha’s Smile School.

The work going on at BSS truly is a transformative process. We felt fortunate to see the spectrum of change in the children. On this trip we met two little boys who were new to school, and they seemed nearly wild. Rajan explained they are like many of her student when they first arrive. These boys had had very little parenting or socialization at their home in the garbage dump. Rajan even had to change one of the boy’s names; his given name was not an appropriate name to be said aloud. We saw both Rajan and the teachers pour time, effort and love into these boys to help get them to a place where they could sit still, listen and learn.

I was so impressed with Rajan and the teacher’s patience with these two boys. Every student at BSS receives this same life changing love and attention – and for many, this is the only place they receive love.

In contrast, we met about 25 graduates of BSS who are now attending middle school. Their eyes are bright and their spirits are high. They told us they want to become doctors, policemen, businessmen and one hopes to become the president of India.

Rajan believes that education is the way out of the rigid caste system of India. Because of Rajan and BSS, hundreds of children now hope and dream for a better tomorrow in the midst of a social system that tells them they are worthless.

I eagerly look forward to our team’s visit next year to see the next steps in the journey of transformation for these precious children.

The children of BSS Thank Andrea Parker and her Team!

Andrea Parker her team from Los Angeles with the students of BSS, February 2011.
Andrea Parker and her team from Los Angeles with the students of BSS, February 2011.

The children of BSS thank Andrea Parker and her team from Los Angeles, California: Daniel Cho, Janice Cho, Nick Penalosa, Francine Penalosa, Becky Grassl & Stacey House.

They volunteered during the month of February 2011 at Buddha’s Smile School. Along with their smiles the group brought 21 pieces of luggage with 500 pounds of vitamins, bandages and school supplies. We also thank Journey of Faith Church who provided the funds for Andrea and her team to paint four of BSS’s classrooms. Andrea and her group also taught first aid to the staff, art and crafts and songs to the children and purchased each of the 220 students a new pair of shoes and socks.