While Battling Chronic Illness, Devotee Wins Prestigious Literary Prize

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Janavi Held holding her newly published book, Letters to My Oldest Friend

Earlier this year it was announced that two of Janavi Held’s devotional poems were shortlisted for the prestigious Hamilton House International Poetry Prize. Awarded by the University Centre Grimsby, this annual competition receives thousands of entries from writers around the world. Janavi (Sri Jahnavi devi dasi) is one of 25 writers whose poems were chosen for worldwide publication in the annual Hammond House poetry anthology.

This accomplishment is particularly significant, because Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, a condition of perpetual pain and progressive weakness, has ravaged Janavi for the past six years. Due to the growing intensity of her illness, she is now bedridden and completely debilitated. More recently, she has been deprived of moving her hands—a crushing blow for a writer of her caliber.

Despite her chronic illness, Janavi has endured her circumstances gracefully by taking shelter of Krishna consciousness. Having first met devotees at the age of nineteen, she soon moved into the temple and lived as a brahmacharini in the ISKCON Denver ashram, where she dedicated her life to the sankirtana mission.

Throughout her illness, Janavi’s faith, dedication, and determination enabled her to push through relentless pain and continue to hone her craft. In 2017, she publishedLetters to My Oldest Friend, a book of devotional poetry and photography. Her book has been heralded as a gem of devotional literature.

Janavi Held taking photos for her newly published book, Letters to My Oldest Friend

Janavi was also a contributing author in the recently published anthology, Bhakti Blossoms: A Collection of Contemporary Vaishnavi Poetry.

Unfortunately, Janavi is very much alone (no children, no spouse, no living parents) and is drowning under a swelling ocean of uncovered medical expenses. Thus, a group of devotees have come together to organize a crowd funding campaign, with the hopes of mitigating the pressure of Janavi’s financial burden.

Many senior devotees have recognized Janavi’s contribution to devotional literature. Vraja Vihari das writes, “Sri Jahnavi is a super-sincere Vaisnavi. It is so sad to see her suffer in this way. Anyone who has met her or has read her poetry will instantly be impressed by her abilities and her devotion. I’m hoping there is a way we can come together to help her in her time of need.”

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In the spirit of offering charity during the month of Kartik, kindly extend your thoughts and prayers to Janavi. And if your circumstances permit, please donate to her fund: https://www.gofundme.com/saving-janavi.

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