Vanam Foundation: Improving Education and Conservation outside Bandipur National Park

About 230 km (143 miles) away from Bangalore lies the Bandipur National Park in the district of Chamarajnagar. Tucked around the stunning Western Ghat Mountains in Karnataka, Bandipur National Park is regarded as one of the most beautiful parks in India and is home to many types of wildlife including tigers, elephants and gaurs (a type of bull) as well as the predominantly indigenous communities that surround the park. Together with Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu, Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala and Nagarhole National Park in the North, it creates the India’s largest biosphere reserve popularly known as the ‘Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve’ and is an important part of India’s efforts towards eco-conservation.

Bandipur National Park was founded in 1974 under the Indian Government in efforts to conserve the tigers and wildlife community, however, in the process of establishing the park the tribal populations who has lived in the forests of the reserve for centuries were moved off of their land and into the villages and hamlets that surround the park. They had lost access to their traditional way of life as forest dwellers and were moved into subsistence farming on dry plots of land.

Morning at a water body inside the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Photo credit: Nithila Baskaran)

Morning at a water body inside the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (Photo credit: Nithila Baskaran)

Conservation/Environment Gifts that Give Back Global Issues Humanitarian SOCIAL GOOD Women and Girls
Goodbye Malaria

Gifts that Give Back: My pick for best Valentine’s Day Gifts

I am a huge supporter of giving amazing gifts that also give back to those in need. Thankfully over the past few years, more and more companies have realized that they too have a responsibility to make the world a better place and consumers are craving to make purchases that make them feel good. From non-profit organizations to benefit corporations (companies that are for profit and also donate a percentage of sales to charity) and the “buy one give one back for free” model, there are many ways to make a difference.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a time when millions of dollars are being spent on flowers, chocolates and cards, I thought it would be great to compile a list of my favorite gifts that give back. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of the enormous profits going to Hershey’s, Victoria Secret’s and Hallmark, go towards people in need? Call me idealistic but everything helps.

Here is my list of favorite picks. To see all my Gifts that Give Back, please click here.

For Her

Jewelry from Songa Designs International

Songa Designs International celebrates the empowerment of women around the world. It is typical for many women in developing countries to depend solely on their husbands for financial needs, but Songa is changing this dynamic. With Songa, under-resourced  women have the opportunity to achieve economic independence by using skills acquired through everyday life to make a living. Defined as “the path forward” in Swahili, Songa is synonymous with the journey towards economic empowerment for women in developing countries. To see all their gorgeous jewelry, visit their shop here.

Songa Designs

Marchesa Necklace

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD

GIFTS THAT GIVE BACK: Introducing Bloom and Give

“Not many people have the opportunity to do work that they love and are passionate about” says Partha Raghunathan, co-founder of Bloom & Give. “I feel very fortunate to do this work”. 

Have you ever wondered how you could make your life more meaningful and find a way to give back to do good? It is a question many of us have asked ourselves yet few have dared to do. For Partha Raghunathan and Madhu Rajendran, two Indian-born men living in Texas and working in the tech field, it was the desire to do good and help others that eventually lead them both to leave their comfortable positions as engineers at a tech company and start a new socially minded business together called Bloom & Give.

Bloom & Give sells beautifully handcrafted scarves and bags made in India using techniques passed on from generation to generation. However, what makes Bloom & Give so unique is their mission: To change girls’ lives through education in some of the most gender inequal areas in India. Although both Partha and Madhu are Indian, they have lived in the United States for over twenty years and confessed they are a bit removed from some of India’s social issues. It took a trip to India with a good friend to the state of Rajasthan to seal their fate.

I had the opportunity to speak with Partha and Madhu to learn more about their amazing business and journey together to change girls lives in India. It was a fascinating conversation with lots of laughs as well as delightful inspiration to hear how they were able to find a higher meaning and value in their work. Here is their story.


It all began during a visit back to India with one of their good friends, an American textile designer named Hallie Gray. Partha and Madhu, friends for over twenty years and fathers of daughters, traveled to Rajasthan to help Hallie source her products. During the trip, they had their first exposure to block printing, an art that had been around for over 5,000 years and is still practiced today.  It was breathtaking to watch and life-changing for Partha and Madhu.

While spending time with the artisans, they learned more about their lives and realized that girls education was a huge issue in that region of India. Both fathers of daughters, they realized how fortunate their girls were to be receiving a good education in the United States while many girls in India do not have the same opportunity. It was a pivotal moment that eventually lead to the creation of Bloom & Give.

The breathtaking Jaipur Jal Maha. Photo credit: Bloom & Give

The breathtaking Jaipur Jal Maha located in Rajasthan, India where Bloom & Give sources their product and supports girls education. Photo credit: Bloom & Give

Partha and Madhu were at first nervous about entering this new space of creating products for women and giving back to girls education. Typically owners of such companies are women, not men. Yet after much thought they realized that creating Bloom & Give would be a way for them to give back and truly change things in India. 

Gifts that Give Back SOCIAL GOOD