By Anuttama dasa
Alachua, Florida-Jahnavi Haggard, former Executive Director of Children of Krishna, a non-profit organization formed in 1996 to support second generation Krishna youth with grants for education and counseling, passed away on Saturday, August 9th, at the age of 36. She died at her home in Alachua, Florida, from a heart attack resulting from complications of her life-long struggle with diabetes.
Jahnavi was a Krishna devotee from the age of 4, when her parents joined the Hare Krishna movement’s western world headquarters in Los Angeles, California. She attended Krishna parochial schools, or gurukulas, until the age of 14, when she transferred to public schools and studied there through high school.
Jahnavi became a founding member of Children of Krishna (CKI) in 1996, and during that organization’s ten years of active service, was its longest serving Executive Director. During her tenure, CKI became known internationally for its work in networking on behalf of Krishna youth, especially those who had suffered abuse or mistreatment as children.
Jahnavi was a tireless advocate of the youth. For years she was a regular attendee of ISKCON North American leadership meetings where she presented annual reports on CKI’s work while soliciting support and additional funding for CKI. She also traveled to India one year during ISKCON’s annual Mayapura meeting to lobby on behalf of youth initiatives and network with her peers from around the world.
“She was an intense, hard-working, and very determined lady,” said Kirtiraja dasa, former ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner and CKI Board Member. “I worked with Jahnavi on several projects. When it came to the needs of the youth, she was their advocate-headstrong and enthusiastic. She got the job done for her generation.”
Jahnavi was also instrumental in the development of the Krishna Community Fund (KCF) in the Alachua, Florida community. Among other projects, KCF transformed an abandoned schoolhouse into a youth center with computers, game rooms, and educational programs for the growing second generation of the Krishna movement’s largest community in North America.
The last years of Jahnavi’s life were difficult ones. As her diabetes grew more debilitating, she was in and out of the hospital and suffered seizures, heart attacks, strokes, and leg amputation.
“Physically she went through hell,” said Kirtiraja dasa. “But she never gave up. She was an amazing young woman.”
“She never complained about her situation, and she always gave 100% to others,” said Pavitra dasi, Jahnavi’s mother. “Jahnavi had faith that despite her suffering, Krishna was protecting her. She never was envious of others, or angry with Krishna; she was very philosophical that He was helping her become freed from any desire to stay in this material world.”
“Jahnavi told me recently,” said Pavitra, “when she was only days from passing away: ‘Mata, I just want you to be at peace and to go back to Godhead, to be with Krishna’-she was the one who was leaving,” Pavitra said, “but she wanted me to be at peace.”
Jahnavi is survived by her 14-year old son, Abhimanyu, her mother Pavitra, step father Kripa Sindhu, and three brothers, Jagannath, Ramacandra Kaviraja, and Kesava.