Tsunami relief: Bradley’s connection
by Karen Crowley Metzinger MA ’97
Karna, in Indian mythology, is known as the “Giver.” Anytime anyone approached Karna, he would always be willing to give. He even gave upon his deathbed when tested by the gods. Touched by Karna’s character, Piyush Singh MBA ‘00, pictured at right, named the nonprofit organization he established as a graduate student project, KARNA.
When Singh came to the United States in the 1990s, he began earning his MBA while working at RLI, a Peoria-based insurance company. “I’ve always had this passion to set up an organization and make a difference in my own small way,” says Singh. “Fortunately, one requirement of the MBA program was to work for a nonprofit organization or write a report on a nonprofit organization. I didn’t want to write a report that would adorn a shelf and just die. So, I approached Dr. Shyam Bhandari, professor of finance, who was also into the rigor of taking action, and he agreed to be my guide.”
With the support of his colleague at RLI and current KARNA board member, Helen Young ‘78, he wrote the articles for incorporation, plus the mission and vision statements. He learned how to file for IRS tax exemption, and about state regulatory authorities, etc. Adrienne Smith Hurt MBA ‘87, then director of graduate programs in the Foster College of Business, was also supportive of Singh’s ideas because she was active with the Red Cross and saw the value of people working for a charitable cause.
A cyclone strikes
Soon after Singh set up the organization, in October 1999, a super cyclone hit the western belt of India. It was an opportunity for KARNA to take action through immediate relief work.
“We collected a lot of supplies; the entire central Illinois community was extremely generous, not just the Indian community. Through simple flyers, a local radio station, and word-of-mouth, we were able to raise awareness and collect financial help purely through volunteers,” comments Singh. “Two years later when the earthquake happened in India, we talked to the Journal Star, and the response was unbelievable. Our only expenses are when we ship something or pay the IRS. We have no salaries to pay or facility expenses as KARNA is entirely volunteer driven, so donor contributions go a long way.” Now KARNA is responding to the needs of tsunami victims by sending donations to the Tsunami Relief Fund. Within two days of the disaster, KARNA released $9,000 to Vivekananda Kendra (VK), an Indian relief agency KARNA thoroughly researched that is governed by strict laws. Another $25,000 was collected and channeled toward rehabilitation efforts.
A ‘Mom and Pop‘ charity
“We are obviously not the only ones creating support for tsunami relief. We are not a United Way. We are not the Red Cross,” adds Singh. “Our goal is to remain a small-scale organization. The Red Cross and United Way can pull off in situations like the tsunami what no other organizations can. But there is also a need and a place for small charitable organizations because we provide different kinds of services. We are the ’Mom and Pop’ business with a personal touch alongside the Wal-Mart.”
KARNA also supports a mission hospital and projects in India that provide children an opportunity to study at a particular school. In addition, several people have adopted individual tribal children. “We are not the exclusive supporters of these worthwhile projects,” stresses Singh. “We are merely one of the supporters among many. We know that donors give out hard-earned dollars, and we want to ensure that their donations get full mileage, so KARNA actually provides a written report to each donor, whether it’s
Singh, now chief information officer at RLI, continues to give his one-semester project a life of its own. When he first came to the Midwest, he met people who talked about different problems worldwide. “These discussions seemed to end when we had dessert and drove home,” he says. “Doing something to solve a problem is very different. The Midwest grows a lot of corn, but it also grows a lot of compassion.”
Surviving the Holocaust
Marion Blumenthal Lazan ‘57 is featured in a new documentary, Marion’s Triumph, which will air on public television in April. Lazan is the co-author of the award-winning memoir Four Perfect Pebbles. Both the book and the documentary detail Marion’s life as a child survivor of more than six years in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. The documentary also examines how she has made it her life’s mission to speak about the Holocaust in schools and to adult groups in the United States and abroad.
The program is being offered nationwide on PBS stations in April, during Holocaust Remembrance Month, marking the 60th year of the liberation from the camps. However, because individual PBS stations make their own programming decisions, alumni are asked to call their local stations to encourage them to air the documentary, particularly in prime time. For more information about the documentary, visit