Sunday, February 17, 2019
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Saturday, May 01, 2010

In the Spotlight - Bhavani Kakani

imageMs. Bhavani Kakani is the Founder and President of AshaKiran, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educate, empathize, and empower people of South Asian origin who may be experiencing "crisis" situations. She is among the founding directors of Progress Bank and is on its Board.

She serves on the University of Alabama at Huntsville Foundation Board, on the Alabama Space Science Exhibition Commission and was the immediate past chair of Leadership Huntsville/Madison County. Bhavani brings a unique combination of healthy compassion, strong commitment, sharp business acumen and servant leadership skills to empower people and organizations in Huntsville, Alabama. Bhavani is one of Huntsville’s most civically active, philanthropic, and respected women. Her vision for "building bridges" led her to establish AshaKiran.

“We have to be part of the larger community. This is the reason I put my name out from the beginning. It gives credit to our Indian community,” says Bhavani.

As a leader and advocate of building healthier communities, Bhavani currently serves on the Boards of Alabama Council of Hospital Trustees, Alabama Statewide Health Coordinating Council, Healthcare Authority of the City of Huntsville, and the Huntsville Hospital Foundation. Mrs. Kakani educated, raised funds and advocated for better health by providing leadership to the Madison County Medical Alliance as President, Alliance to the Medical Society of the State of Alabama as President, Southern Medical Association Alliance, Alliance to the American Medical Association, and Hospice. image

To solidify her commitment to empower abused children and their families, Bhavani served on National Children’s Advocacy Center in various capacities for many years, including two years as Board Chairperson.

Her beliefs in providing a second chance through education, mentoring to increase self worth and to excel the careers of less fortunate is demonstrated by her service with the Women’s Economic Development Council Foundation for more than six years. Additionally she served on the Boards of the Randolph School, Women’s Business Center of North Alabama and Women’s Economic Development Council Foundation. image

Her dedication for community inclusiveness and betterment is displayed through her work as a Board Chair of Leadership of Huntsville/Madison County, as Chairperson of United Way Professional Division Campaign, as Co-Chair of Legacy for Huntsville Bicentennial Celebration Committee and her service on the Boards of Botanical Garden, through her participation and leadership in Huntsville India Association, Huntsville Telugu Association as Founder and First President, Women’s Guild of the Huntsville Museum of Art as President, and the Huntsville International Society as the Founding Member.

Bhavani has been the recipient of Women honoring Women’s Health and Human Services award in 2008, Arthritis Foundation’s Humanitarian award in 2007, The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ's) Brotherhood and Sisterhood Award in 2005 and Girl's Inc.’s She Knows Where She is Going Award in 2004.

"Bhavani has spent her lifetime providing for us an example of volunteerism and services that we can only dream of duplicating… Although her accomplishments are vast and varied, she has always focused on the individual and the development of strong characters and self-worth. Bhavani is a leader among leaders.” W.F.Sanders, Jr. 1997 Humanitarian Award Recipient

Bhavani holds a Bachelors degree with highest honors and a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Finance from the University of Alabama at Huntsville. Bhavani and her husband Dr. Rao Kakani, MD, have three children and two grandchildren.

Asha Kiran is bornimage

The Seeds

"Around 1985, Mr. Bud Cramer (past congressman from District 5) was starting Children’s Advocacy Center. He came to the Medical alliance and spoke about sexual abuse. At the time, I did not even want to believe that anything like that existed in our Indian society. I got very active with Children’s Advocacy Center and other Crisis centers. I started thinking about how we cope with different kinds of crisis situations. You have to have someone to talk to. The stigma of going to the therapist or the psychiatrist is a very strong one in our society. We only want to show success that minimizes the challenges.

The Driver

After a very sad incident near Huntsville six years back, I spoke to a few psychiatrists. There is an innermost part of us that we always keep. Even when you do open up part of yourself, other people around you are bound by their own cultural nuances. We need some place to call to talk where they keep everything confidential. That is how Asha Kiran was born. I called people. I talked in strategic terms about who to bring on board. People were scared. There was resistance. It is a much smaller community than big cities. I was willing to put my foot out and take the challenge.


It has been four year since AshaKiran started. People are slowly coming to the realization that we do have the same challenges – we are not different. We too have cultural, economic, social and religious boundaries to deal with. People are slowly realizing all these human behavior challenges are everywhere. Just the percentages differ. Domestic violence is 1 in 3 in the world. We don’t want to accept it. We think our parents dealt with it – why can’t I? Nothing is wrong with it – these are the challenges we want to minimize.

Making the difference - One drop in the ocean at a time image

"We may be making the difference one drop in the ocean at a time, but if that drop is not there, the ocean misses that one drop", mother Teresa said once. When one person is not doing well physically, mentally, spiritually - that impacts others. That person’s energy level here, if fluctuated can be mountains of energy somewhere else. We can minimize the challenge by being proactive, by addressing the situation, or by empowering someone; it impacts the whole community, the mainstream, the nation. We are not alone in this thing. AshaKiran handled close to 400 calls in 2009. AshaKiran does not even ask for the name. The call itself lightens your heart. That is the help - lightening the burden. Less than half the call turned into referrals."

AshaKiran's Inspiration: "Be the change you want to see in the world" - Mahatma Gandhi

AshaKiran's Aspiration: Is to "walk" with the "client" without passing judgment, letting them know their options, lending support, offering friendship while maintaining confidentiality and be a ray of hope when they need it the most to improve their physical, mental and spiritual "health," in turn, to make our community healthier (Inspired by a poem by Albert Camus).

Bhavani when receiving her Humanitarian Award:

"My purpose is to live in harmony by connecting to others who walk with me in this life. I am always working to be understood. Now I have realized the task of being understood is really basic. I think now, now of the literal meaning of words, but more so, of our personal towers of Babel. Meaning – our ability to create a universal language, one in which inanimate things are simply understood, and felt, without even using words. This is how we can connect our energies to one another, and walk together in harmony for the betterment of the world.”

By Kusum Singh

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