Irving resident Jayashree Krishnan is a part-time artist, baker and educator who uses her passions to help communities around the world.
Krishnan’s fundraising experience runs the gamut – and it’s just getting started.
She donated her hair to the Michigan-based nonprofit Children with Hair Loss; sold handmade jewelry and crafts to raise funds for the Dallas TKG Academy, which is a private school based on Indian spiritual education; and hosted a virtual baking class to raise money for a school in India that teaches children with disabilities.
Her most recent fundraiser was a multicultural craft workshop for Soulfree, a rehabilitation center in India that provides housing, assistance and advocacy for people with spinal cord injuries. After teaching two art workshops and receiving donations from family and friends, she raised $1,400, which translates to around Rs 111,163.
“I’m glad I was able to do something,” Krishnan said. Soulfree is “trying to raise awareness, so people can learn more about these types of disabilities.”
Krishnan’s passion for helping others is rooted in her childhood and the challenges she saw others face. Using her strengths in crafts, baking and education, Krishnan helps causes and people important to her.
Krishnan’s journey to becoming a multifaceted fundraiser began during her childhood in India. She lived in a small town with her family, then moved to the city of Chennai to go to school. Growing up, she said she “saw poverty everywhere”.
“I think those things really stuck in my head,” she said. “This experience of seeing [people] going through so many challenges…really inspired me to do more for the community.
Krishnan’s father was a civil engineer and his mother was unemployed. They both taught her to help others, she said, which continues to inspire her into adulthood. She remembers going with her mother to give meals to the local school in Chennai for the Diwali festival of lights.
“My inspiration is completely my parents,” she said. “They are very compassionate and empathetic.”
In 1998 Krishnan moved to Dallas after marrying her husband and earning a degree in microbiology from Madras University in Tamil Nadu, India. In 2012, she earned a master’s degree in teaching from Dallas Baptist University.
Most of Krishnan’s crafts and baking skills were self-taught, supplemented by a few lessons. She didn’t have an oven growing up in India, and her family didn’t cook. She said she became curious about how to make baked goods while living in the United States, especially when her children, who are now 22 and 16, asked her to start making them.
As for art, she learned about Japanese culture while living in the Washington, DC area and attending a Japanese doll making school. Today, she creates a variety of artwork including jewelry, origami, Indian folk art and Kimekomi dolls.
Krishnan founded his home art studio Arts by Jaya in 2006 and his bakery business Jay’s Creations in 2016 and decided to use his career to help others. Thanks to her background in education – she spent a year teaching in a private school, working with children who have learning disabilities – Krishnan is able to run workshops and teach others baking, craftsmanship and the story behind the art she shares.
“Why not me?” she wondered. “Whatever talents I’ve been gifted with, I want to use them.”
Preethi Srinivasan, co-founder of Soulfree, said Krishnan’s fundraising not only provided financial assistance for his work, but also raised awareness of the importance of his organization.
In India, there are few or no rehabilitation centers for spinal cord injuries, Srinivasan said, and available data on how many spinal cord injuries occur each year in the country is limited. In the United States, there are nearly 18,000 a year, according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center.
“Many [people with spinal cord injuries] are simply abandoned and left for dead, and some of them are even driven to suicide by their own families because they are seen as a burden and a curse,” Srinivasan said. All donations are “meaningful to us,” she said.
The money Krishnan donated to Soulfree will be used to maintain the cost of the approximately 30 residents at their center, which offers various prevention and rehabilitation programs. Srinivasan said self-help efforts, like Krishnan’s, are “huge” for people who need help.
“I believe that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. You cannot be a philanthropist if there is no one to accept your support or help,” Srinivasan said. “For people who are really hurting and struggling to survive below the poverty line, this kind of support brings hope. It’s a sign of love.”
“In my opinion, I say, if I can’t raise $50,000 for a cause, what’s the point?” said Indu Cacarla, a friend who lives in New York. “There’s no amount too small for her. She’ll do whatever she can, and she’ll put her heart and soul into it…and do any little thing for anyone.
Krishnan has several goals, including publishing an educational craft book for junior-grade kids and organizing more fundraisers for Dallas schools that help children with disabilities.
Krishnan said Mother Theresa’s quote “We cannot all do great things. But we can do small things with a lot of love” embodies his desire to contribute to society. She said that this motto inspires her to be an inspiration to other women and people in her community, especially the Indian people.
“I am a citizen of the world,” she said. “Although I am physically here, my spirit is still here in the homeland.”