Our Beginnings

In 1980, a small group of Buddhists travelled home to the UK, deeply moved by the suffering they had witnessed among the very poor, Dalit communities in Maharashtra, India and inspired by the teachings of social reformer Dr. Ambedkar.

Deciding they needed to act, they began fundraising in the UK while living together in a community to save money. Before long, a new form of door-to-door fundraising based on the non-violent principles of Buddhism began to emerge and Aid for India, today known as Karuna, was created.

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For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality.

— Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

Born a Dalit in 1891, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar campaigned to abolish the practice of untouchability, eventually inspiring a mass movement towards adopting Buddhism in search of dignity and self-improvement. His vision of an India free from caste oppression and human indignity burns at the heart of Karuna’s ethos. To this day we still seek to continue that vision into all of our work.

Karuna today

40 years on, we are still committed to our Buddhist principles in the way we go about our work. We aim to create an organisation and community that facilitates personal, professional and spiritual development while we strive towards our collective purpose of ending caste-based discrimination, poverty and inequality.

Karuna Team

Whilst the majority of our team in the UK practice Buddhism, we fund in-country partners, who come from a range of religious backgrounds and whom we have selected because they serve communities who are severely affected by caste-based and gender discrimination. As such, we work with organisations who identify as Christian Dalit, Muslim Dalit, Buddhist, Hindu, Tribal or prefer to have no designation at all.

We do still fund a small number of explicitly Buddhist projects which offer free and low-cost retreats to people of any persuasion from the surrounding slum areas of Mumbai and Pune. Yet we ask our supporters at the time of sign up whether they are happy for a portion of their gift to go towards these projects (less than 5% of these total opted-in donations go towards projects of this kind).

At Karuna, ‘how’ we do things is as important as ‘what’ we do. We express our organisational values by working together as a ‘Buddhist Team-Based Right Livelihood.’

A Buddhist Team-Based Right Livelihood has four characteristics

1 / Ethical Purpose

An ethical purpose which for us is overcoming discrimination

2 / No exploitation

To take care of those working for the organisation and not exploit workers

3 / Spiritual Practice

Provide a framework for spiritual practice for the team

4 / Sustainability

Making sure the work is sustainable for the planet and future generations

How we fundraise

Many of our supporters learn about Karuna from a Karuna fundraiser, who knocked on their door. It is important to us that people have time to make a considered decision to support the charity and not feel pressured to give on the spot. Since the early 1980s, Karuna has fundraised in this way.

Whilst a handful of our fundraisers are employed by Karuna, the vast majority are volunteers, recruited from the UK and international Buddhist community. We do not use agencies.

The volunteers will usually fundraise in a city or large town for a period of six weeks. In this time, they will live together as a community, meditating, eating, sleeping, fundraising and sharing their experiences with each other.

The volunteer fundraisers are often professionals: teachers, carers, accountants, taking time out to volunteer for a charity whose work they feel passionate about.

Registered with the Fundraising Regulator, Karuna is committed to achieving the best possible standards of practice and the best experience for our supporters.

If you have any concerns or comments about our methods of fundraising, we would really appreciate hearing from you. Please email Supporter Care or call our office on 0207 700 3434