Shanti bhavan

In the 1960s, an army captain from southern India named Abraham George came to America for ear surgery, and stayed to seek his fortune. He earned his doctorate, worked as a teacher and banker, married, and had two sons. He started a software business that he sold to a Fortune 500 company. Then, after more than 25 years away, he returned to India, now a land of 1.3 billion people, where the population of those living in poverty dwarfs that of the entire U.S. “It just struck him how unfair it was,” his son, Ajit George, said in a phone interview earlier this week. “He just couldn’t live with it.”

Dr. George used his money to open a school in the state of Tamil Nadu called Shanti Bhavan (Hindi for “an abode of peace”) in 1997. It is now the subject of a four-part docuseries premiering July 28 on Netflix: Daughters of Destiny: The Journey of Shanti Bhavan. For each new class of 12 boys and 12 girls whose families earn less than $2 per day, Shanti Bhavan pays for all of their expenses from pre-school through college. Ajit George, the school’s director of operations, said that an average of $1,600 annually is spent caring for each child for their first 14 years, with an additional $3,200 annually for the three years of college. Grand total: $32,000 per child. “I grew up like a rich kid,” said Shilpa Raj, a 24-year-old alumna and the daughter of an illiterate bootlegger-turned-elephant-chaser, via Skype. “I had the best of teachers, I was meeting people from all around the world, I was having dinner parties with food items that had been shipped all the way from America, I was using desks that were given by the [Church of Jesus Christ of] Latter-day Saints, I was going swimming in summer . . . It was wildly exciting.” Raj is now a counselor and author who teaches English part-time at Shanti Bhavan.

Enrollment is currently around 300 students, with 108 having earned their degree. Per the school’s website, 97 percent of alumni are employed full-time, giving 20 to 50 percent of their salaries to their families and villages, some working for companies like Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, JPMorgan Chase, and Ernst & Young. Such access, and such success, has made entry into the school, which is only for students in need, something of a hot commodity. “Sometimes there are rich people who pretend to be poor” to garner their child an invitation, an alumna named Vinceya Edwin told me over Skype. Ajit George has also received “quite a few” emails from prosperous northern Indian families asking, “What will it take to get my son in?”

This was not always the case. Initially, many parents pulled their children from the program—one of the earliest graduating classes numbered 11—because attendance requires each student to reside onsite for 10 months of the year. As Dr. George reasons in Daughters of Destiny, “Most priority programs, as far as I know, [when] they are targeting poor people to get them a job, they stay in the same hut, they are in the same social environment, they are unable to break out of it.” Dr. George reasons that the best way to seed real progress is to break the cycle. This can prove difficult for traditional families. Raj recalled that just a few weeks ago, a mother came to claim her child. “She said, ‘I just can’t survive without my kid.’ ”


Shanti Bhavan Childrens Project Inc

1Ita M.

Ita M. Volunteer 08/10/2018

Rating: 5


I volunteered two months at Shanti Bhavan and cannot be more grateful that this school exists. They offer so much to their students and expect the best out of them, making this school an incredibly stimulative environment. The staff and its founders are truly doing their best and giving 100 percent to the project. I haven't seen a ngo that is so determined and dedicated in achieving their goal before. The fact that many volunteers return to work in the school speaks for itself.

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hbest Volunteer 07/10/2018

Rating: 5


I have stayed at Shanti Bhavan as a volunteer teacher twice, in 2015 and 2017, and been back once since for a visit. As a volunteer teacher, I have had the opportunity to teach everything from 1st grade dance to 9th grade literature.

Shanti Bhavan is a unique place that serves as a school, a home, and a family. The students and staff are each kind, smart, and inspiring, which keeps us, as volunteers, coming back time after time.

Simply put, the model works. Shanti Bhavan has proven to support students to overcome great challenges, preparing them for college and the working world, where they have been highly successful. Not only are the students positioned for professional success and to contribute to their communities, but they all uphold the highest values which Shanti Bhavan has instilled in them; this shines through in every one of their endeavors.

The journey from my home in NYC to Shanti Bhavan isn't a quick one, but it's one I look forward to making again as soon as possible; no other community exudes quite so much passion, drive, and genuine warmth.

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Writer Volunteer 07/02/2018

Rating: 5


Volunteering at Shanti Bhavan and observing their powerful mission, to free children from generational poverty through education, leadership, and compassion, has been one of the most enriching experiences I've ever had. Shanti Bhavan truly empowers their students by providing a world-class education and an extremely strong residential support system. Shanti Bhavan is filled with a dedicated staff, incredible children, and extremely passionate volunteers. Learn more about the school and their strong and determined students by checking out their documentary, Daughters of Destiny, on Netflix!

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I volunteered at shanti bhavan for 2 months at the end of 2017 and it was by far the most rewarding experience of my life! I have every intention of returning again for a longer period of time withing the next couple of years. The children are absolutely wonderful human beings, the staff are very welcoming and the experience is beyond enrichening. Don't take my word for it, go see for yourselves ! Become a part of the SB family!!

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I volunteered at Shanti Bhavan two summers ago and had an incredible experience. The children are truly remarkable and special, and the other volunteers and staff there helped me develop my passions in teaching and advocacy. If you haven't seen their documentary, Daughters of Destiny, I highly recommend watching for a glimpse of this incredible school. I recently visited the campus again and cannot emphasize how worthwhile a volunteer experience or donation to Shanti Bhavan is.

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I had the opportunity to volunteer for two summers at Shanti Bhavan and had the most incredible time. It has by far been one of the most rewarding and illuminating experiences I have had in my life - I cannot even begin to describe how special of a place this is. The model is innovative, the staff is beyond dedicated, and the kids are nothing short of amazing. I highly recommend Shanti Bhavan for a volunteer experience or donations.

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1Laura F.4

Laura F.4 Volunteer 07/02/2018

Rating: 5


I volunteered with Shanti Bhavan three years ago, and am currently working within the field of Education Policy. Through my work I have visited many different types of schools and spoken with many different children from various backgrounds - there is truly no place as special or as dear to its students, staff, and teachers as Shanti Bhavan. Shanti Bhavan is not just a school - it is a culture all its own, exposing its students to a wealth of learning in core subjects, the arts, languages, sports, communication skills, and much more. No other school that I have ever seen offers such a broad canvas of learning and life skills, AND is a safe and loving home to children in need. Shanti Bhavan invests in their students. In their country. In the possibilities of a world without poverty and in which all children have a chance to grow up with the love and resources that they deserve - a world in which they can be their own person, and help others be empowered too. There is no place like SB!

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I have volunteered for two summers at Shanti Bhavan and had an experience that far exceeded my expectations. I cannot more highly recommend an organization for volunteer experience or direct donations. I encourage everyone to learn more about Shanti Bhavan and check out the documentary on the school, Daughters of Destiny!

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I volunteered at Shanti Bhavan during the summer of 2013 after graduating college, and I definitely plan on returning soon. I taught a range of subjects, including Business, Economics, History, English and Dance for grades 5-12.

Shanti Bhavan is a truly incredible place. Unlike many education non-profits, it goes beyond providing its students with basic literacy and seeks to break the cycle of poverty by instilling the knowledge and skills necessary to compete with and outperform more privileged peers. Students are fluent in English by the first grade, winning national poetry contests and landing jobs at Goldman Sachs--truly inspiring achievements by any standard.

The students are a joy to be around. They are children who do not take education for granted, and are genuinely excited to learn. Outside of the classroom, they are warm, inquisitive and non-stop fun. Though there are new volunteers almost every week, they welcome each one with open arms and make you feel like you really belong there.

Shanti Bhavan is for volunteers that want more than a "voluntourism" program with limited impact--it is a chance to form real relationships with the most incredible, intelligent group of children I've had the pleasure of meeting and an opportunity to witness the power of education. A year later, I am still in touch with many of the Shanti Bhavan children, and I intend to maintain these relationships for a lifetime.

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I've been doing volunteering as a dentist for three years, spending a few weeks a year.
I've done my job in Baldev, a medical community center, a project of the George Foundation, which is about 1 mile from Shanti Bhavan.
I fell in love with Shanti Bhavan Children Project because it's the real demonstration of how it's possible to help disadvantaged people letting them grow in their own environment, supporting them in the struggle against social injustice and giving them the means to rescue themselves. A real reason to live for.

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I arrived home two days ago after volunteering at Shanti Bhavan for two months. SB has been and will remain one of the greatest experiences of my life. I have taught students of all ages in various settings, but the students of Shanti Bhavan are some of the best. The facilities are beautiful, the staff is very helpful and accommodating and the students are incredible.

Living accommodations are simple, but nice and clean. The food is also simple, but very delicious (and certainly better than my college's choices)! The general schedule for volunteers is quite rigorous. Free time is spare during the week but the time spent teaching, planning, and guiding students will be worth your while.

Ultimately, Shanti Bhavan offers you the opportunity to join a family and give your time to a project that changes lives through providing exceptional education and tackling both economic and social injustices. The school raises children who are intelligent, confident, self-aware and motivated. They can think critically and creatively, speak confidently in public, and they genuinely care about other people. These students are living proof that beauty, love and goodness can be possible, even in the most broken of systems. It was my honor to teach them, and I will treasure that honor as long as I live. I look forward to returning to SB in the future.

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As background, I have volunteered at Shanti Bhavan twice - the summers of 2013 and 2014, and certainly plan on going back many times. I am a recent college graduate who is working in consulting in New York.

Shanti Bhavan is truly one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Its mission, to free children from the cycle of poverty that has trapped their families and/or villages for generations, is a noble one, but what makes it especially unique is the way it goes about fulfilling that mission. Shanti Bhavan is not a quick-fix literacy program, nor a wide-ranging program that has a marginal impact on many lives. Rather, it is first and foremost an excellent educational institution that gives its students the resources to compete with anyone in India. Just as importantly, it is an extremely intensive, all-encompassing residential support system for children who sorely need one. Shanti Bhavan accepts students at the age of 4 and supports them until their college graduation - that's 17 years!

This strategy has already seen amazing results - Shanti Bhavan graduates have gone on to top colleges throughout Bangalore, and Shanti Bhavan's two classes of college graduates have landed jobs at major international firms like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young, among others. While this sounds impressive, it is exponentially more so when one considers the background of these children; those now working at Goldman likely would never have even known what finance was or ever been inside a building with an elevator without Shanti Bhavan.

Yet while Shanti Bhavan is a rigorous academic school that prepares its students well for these kinds of successes later in life, an equally important part of its mission is to raise all-around children with strong values. Anyone who has volunteered at Shanti Bhavan can attest that the children are so loving, so caring, and so genuine that it brings out the best in all those around them. In addition, their bravery and confidence is inspiring, whether it be on the basketball court, soccer field, or on stage, where they excel in dance, singing, and public speaking. These values and the character of the children stands out just as much as their intelligence and success in the classroom.

Volunteering at Shanti Bhavan has been one of the best experiences of my life, and I know I am one of many Shanti Bhavan's volunteers who feel this way. It has changed how I think about education, inequality, and even about myself. Truly an amazing place that lives up to its name 'Shanti Bhavan' - a haven of peace.

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I have taught in both public and private schools in New York and California, and Shanti Bhavan stands out as one of the best schools in which I have had the privilege of teaching. Shanti Bhavan's model is truly unique--and it works. Shanti Bhavan's mission is to provide a world class education to some India's most socially and economically disadvantaged children. But what's more, Shanti Bhavan supports these students, academically, financially, and emotionally, from age 3-21. Shanti Bhavan is a home for these children in every sense of the word. As a teacher, I have simply never seen a school like this, and the results speak for themselves. Shanti Bhavan graduates go on to top colleges in India and work for major international companies--their lives, and the lives of their families are completely transformed because of the work Shanti Bhavan does. And what's more--each child is inspired to use the opportunities Shanti Bhavan has given them to support their families and communities. Shanti Bhavan is ending the cycle of poverty one child at a time.

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I am currently working at Shanti Bhavani for the 3rd time, and if that doesn't say enough, I hope some of these stories will! It's impossible to describe this place. The children impress everyone they meet, the school is a loving and challenging environment to grow up in; once you know SB it will be in your heart and mind forever.

An article published on the website Everyday Ambassador from my first time volunteering:

My first blog post since being back this time:

Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project is a residential school and haven of peace for children from India’s Dalit caste. My first trip I taught English literature, grammar, spelling, and writing for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students. My first persuasive writing assignment for the 6th graders was a mock-fundraising letter campaign. Each student devised a plan to raise money to help the poor or the sick. Kishore, for example, wanted help getting elected onto the Supreme Court so he could stop child trafficking. I was blown away by their compassion for others and determination to pursue such socially conscious dreams. I realized that my students had overcome more in half my lifetime than I will ever have to endure. This is just one example of the beautiful values and integrity these young children have developed. They take nothing for granted and engage with all their hearts. Each of my students are committed to their education in order to eventually provide for their own parents. Understanding their backgrounds provided me with new perspective to teach better.

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rekuruv Volunteer 07/23/2014

Rating: 5


This is my first time volunteering at Shanti Bhavan. I am here for a total of 7 weeks, during my gap year before medical school. Although I have visited India before with my family, this is the first time I have come alone. I heard about Shanti Bhavan through a family member and a high school friend who had volunteered at the school too. The school is in rural India, surrounded by villages, but because the school is close to Bangalore and family, my parents were more accepting of my decision. I was specifically looking for an international program where I could work with disadvantaged children.

A strict schedule is implemented here, teaching the students how to be disciplined. My days start at 6:30am, supervising Prep (study hall), and then I teach 2 - 3 classes every day. My classes are 4th Grade English (Writing, Grammar and Reading), 6th Grade Geography, 7th Grade History and 8th Grade Civics. I have never taught before, so I was quite anxious to start but everything has gone smoothly. A large part of that is because the staff and students are so kind and welcoming. Volunteers are an integral component of the system and the entire school is used to seeing new faces. The students are respectful, dedicated, talkative and excited to learn. Questions are constantly being asked in my classes. Most noticeable to me was how cheerful the students; they are always smiling and positive.

I would highly recommend volunteering at Shanti Bhavan. It is a great place, with amazing people. Besides the fantastic experience at the school, volunteers can also travel on the weekends and see different parts of the country. So many of the volunteers here have come back more than once and I can understand why. I already can’t wait to return, as a visitor or a volunteer. It will be amazing to see the kids grown up and see how the school continues to grow.

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Amy_160 Volunteer 07/23/2014

Rating: 5


I was a volutneer back in 2009 and taught everything from social sciences to writing to dance to every grade, 1-12. I have also seen a lot of development nonprofits and Shanti Bhavan is so wonderful. There is a special spirit there and happiness abounds. The children are phenomenal. I can't imagine a better volunteer experience.

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Since 2005, I've been to Shanti Bhavan 6 times. 3 times as a volunteer and 3 times as a visitor.

You can read my first volunteer report (2005) here:

Some excerpts:

During my stays I taught computer science and maths, I conducted programming and robotics workshops, I trained some teachers, I gave some students individual help in maths, I taught basketball, and helped in the school library and the museum.

Shanti Bhavan is a very beautiful school, with many gardens and fine buildings. The environment and the surroundings are spectacular. The school is in a remote village called Balliganapalli, quite near to Hosur and Bangalore, so you can spend the weekends there for shopping and Internet. My room was comfortable and clean, and the food was very tasty, a little spicy for the Spanish taste, but I soon got used to it. I think that an easy improvement for the school would be an Internet connection; it would be helpful for the staff, the volunteers, and of course, for the children’s education.

With reference to the children of Shanti Bhavan (the most important part of the school), they are lovely, smart, very friendly, and more disciplined and respectful than most European children. I really enjoyed teaching them as well as playing basketball with them or simply talking. I think they enjoy studying and living at Shanti Bhavan, and their spectacular bright eyes and permanent smiles are proof of their happiness and health.

All the staff at Shanti Bhavan is very professional, they are very kind to the volunteers, and lovely to the children. I think all the teachers, aunties, facilities managers, etc. enjoy working at Shanti Bhavan and are happy contributing to Dr George’s dream.

After mentioning all these things, I think is obvious that I recommend the experience of volunteering at Shanti Bhavan to anyone who wishes to help poor children and has a desire to live a fine experience in a beautiful place and country. I can affirm that my stays in Shanti Bhavan were fantastic and unforgettable.

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I volunteered at Shanti Bhavan for 6 weeks in the summer of 2009. I taught physics to the 11th and 12th grade students. I loved interacting with the students there. They were incredibly friendly, engaging inside and outside the classroom, energetic, etc...

Having been a teacher in different schools that are reaching students of low economic status in America and India, I was amazed that their attitude to want to do well and also their social maturity for such a young age. It's obvious that the school is able to change their whole outlook on life compared to what it would be if they were still in their original communities.

I still look back at that experience fondly and do wish that I will have a chance to go back.

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RealistIdealist Professional with expertise in this field 07/18/2014

Rating: 5


I've been working in the non-profit/NGO industry for nearly a decade and have seen my fair share of the ups and downs, good and bad. I came into contact with Shanti Bhavan almost a year ago now and have been steadily observing the organization through my work with them.

It is really hard to explain just how incredible their work is. How groundbreaking. I wish I could type it in big red flashing letters: What Shanti Bhavan does is revolutionary.

Ostensibly non-profit education for the poor and disenfranchised is supposed to help make their lives better. But often these programs focus on basic literacy and not much else--they aim low. This shows our own shortcomings; we don't expect much from the poor. And insidiously, maybe deep down we are uncomfortable with the idea of of sudden and radical equalization.

But this is exactly what Shanti Bhavan does. The school carefully selects children from the untouchable, or Dalit cast. The poorest of the poor with no chance to escape generational poverty. These children are then educated, and more importantly instilled with an ethos of community, caring, and social responsibility. It's intense intervention, and it costs more than a basic literacy program would. But it works.

Shanti Bhavan guides these children through all of their schooling, helps them place in top tier universities, and then supports them both financially and emotionally to ensure their success throughout college. As adults, they have gone on to place in incredibly prestigious jobs. Ones far above my own pay grade. And rather than run off with their incredible lease on life these adults return to their placse of origin, dig their families, sometimes their entire communities, out of poverty too. It's an ever compounding equation that makes the initial investment some of the most efficient dollars you can spend on ending poverty.

As non-profit professionals, volunteers, and donors, at the end of the day we have to reflect on the meaning of our work. What do we want to see reflected back at us? Is it a woman living in a hut with the luxury of running water and a light bulb, scraping out an existence with her micro-business making purses out of plastic garbage? Or do we believe that we can do more, do we trust that those we are trying to help are capable of standing equal to us, on their own two legs if only given the tools to do so?

Shanti Bhavan represents that trust and the radical changes it can make, not just in the lives of the students they educate, but everyone those students touch.

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I had the opportunity to spend two months at Shanti Bhavan as a teach. It's a one-ok-a-kind organization that transforms the lives of the students and the communities around them by education students in all facets of life. By equipping students with a world class education, they can go on to help themselves, other students, their families and communities, to bring them out of poverty. Students' exposure to all walks of life through the diverse and highly qualified volunteer group that come through, sets them apart from other expensive boarding schools in India because their acquire global communication skills. These skills and education catapult students into having opportunities that would have taken generations to reach based on their existing financial situations and stigmas associated with being 'dalit'.

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nectar989 Volunteer 07/16/2014

Rating: 5


Shanti Bhavan, the name literally translates into haven of peace, which describes this place perfectly. With 200+ children running around the campus you think this wouldn't be true, however they are some of the most amazing, intelligent, talented, polite, funny, fun loving children I have ever met. This, along with the beautiful campus makes for a truly unique and inspiring atmosphere to be in. I have volunteered twice so far and can not emphasize enough on what an incredible experience I had. If you are looking for an organization to volunteer for, look no further because this one is about as fantastic as it can get!

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We planned to volunteer at Shanti Bhavan once and then move on to other volunteer projects. We have now volunteered four times. Shanti Bhavan is the most sustainable volunteer project we have ever seen. They have serious long-term goals, to lift very poor children and their families out of poverty for good, through all-round education right through to tertiary level. The children never forget their roots and many will one day be in positions where they can do something to change the destiny of the very poor forever.

The school administration is as lean as it could be and they waste absolutely nothing. Everything is used and re-used in a way that would put western schools to shame.

These are all reasons we keep coming back but the biggest reason is 200 happy kids who, despite their horrific backgrounds, keep smiling. Shanti Bhavan means "haven of peace".

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Reception to follow the program

What does it take to change a life? Go inside an incredibly inspiring story about destiny and meet Dr. Abraham George, the visionary man behind Shanti Bhavan, the school featured in Netflix's critically acclaimed four-part documentary Daughters of Destiny, which chronicles the lives of five girls over a seven-year period as they navigate two very different worlds — that of the poverty and prejudice into which they were born, and the other of opportunity. Shanti Bhavan strives to break the cycle of poverty for India’s most disenfranchised children by providing them a holistic education by supporting them from the first day of school to their first day of work. Daughters of Destiny emerges as one of the most important narratives about poverty, hope, and destiny.

Join us for a special screening and conversation with Dr. Abraham George, and Director of Operations Ajit George to better understand how their team is empowering children from India's lowest socioeconomic class to create transformative change for their families and communities.

Watch the trailer for Daughters of Destiny:


Dr. Abraham George is Founder and Principal of Shanti Bhavan, and Dean of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media in Bangalore. His career spans the finance and entrepreneurial sectors with senior leadership positions at JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse, Chemical Bank and the founding of Multinational Computer Models, Inc., which offered computerized systems to large multinational corporations to enable them to deal with their international financial risks. He has received several prestigious awards, and is the author of four books, including India Untouched: The Forgotten Face of Rural Poverty, a highly acclaimed narration of his first ten years’ of social work in India.

Ajit George is Director of Operations of Shanti Bhavan, where he manages various fields of operation, including fundraising, communications, partnerships, strategic planning, and mentorship and career development. also works with affiliated programs in India, including the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, a graduate school of journalism dedicated to using high-quality journalism as a vehicle to combating systemic political corruption, and the Baldev Medical & Community Center that provides healthcare, housing and community development for the surrounding 17 villages and a population of over 16,000.

Christen Brandt is the co-founder and Chief Programs Officer at She’s the First (STF), an NGO that fights gender inequality by supporting girls who will be first in their families to graduate high school and by training students to be global citizens. In 2018, she and the team at STF launched the Girls First Summit to train partners and make girl-centered program design more accessible to organizations in the Nairobi area. She has led focus groups on uncovering reasons for high drop-out rates in West Africa, created a framework for understanding community priorities in rural Nepal, and consulted on pregnancy policies in Uganda. Beyond her work at STF doing on site visits overseas, she teaches empowerment self-defense in Brooklyn, NY through the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

This program is part of the Season of India, a series of programs held in conjunction with the exhibition, The Progressive Revolution: Modern Art for a New India, on view at Asia Society Museum from September 14, 2018 to January 20, 2019.


Shanti Bhavan

The Shanti Bhavan Children's Project (in Hindi: "haven of peace") is a U.S. 501(c)(3) and India 80-G non-profit organisation based in Bangalore, India, that operates a pre-K-12 residential school in Baliganapalli, Tamil Nadu.[1] The school annually enrolls 12 boys and 12 girls (at the age of 4 years old) for its incoming pre-school class. Thereafter, students stay at the school year-round except for summer and winter breaks. Students attend Shanti Bhavan free of charge and are provided with nutritional meals, clothes, shelter, education, healthcare and emotional and mental support. Shanti Bhavan is accredited by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), one of India’s most robust academic curriculums, and administers the ICSE and ISC exams during students' 10th and 12th grades. After students' 12th grade, Shanti Bhavan also pays for their college education.[2]

At present, the school accommodates approximately 300 students who come from rural villages or urban slums. A majority (95%) of the students are Dalits - formerly known as untouchables. Due to caste-based discrimination, the students come from extremely impoverished backgrounds, most families surviving on less than $2 per day. Many families experience generational poverty and therefore do not have electricity or running water in their homes. Shanti Bhavan is the only chance for an education that these children have.[3]

Students are educated in subjects such as mathematics, history, geography, Hindi, English writing/reading, physics, chemistry, business, accounting, biology, etc. Older students attend workshops in writing, public speaking, and debate. Students are able to engage in sports such as volleyball, basketball, and soccer. Finally, students learn the importance of volunteerism, feminism, leadership, and personal/emotional development.

After their Shanti Bhavan education, students go on to join colleges such as St. Joseph's College of Commerce, National Law School in Bangalore, and many more. Current graduates of Shanti Bhavan have obtained full-time jobs at companies such as Amazon, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Yahoo. Furthermore, Shanti Bhavan graduates give back a portion of their salaries to their families and communities, thereby working to extinguish the cycle of generational poverty.


The school was founded by Dr Abraham George, an Indian-American businessman and philanthropist. After serving in the Indian Army, Dr. George attended NYU's Stern School of Business and began his own company Multinational Computer Models Inc. In 1995, he began the non-profit organisation The George Foundation. Shanti Bhavan was established in August 1997 as a project of The George Foundation to help economically and socially disadvantaged children, mostly Dalit children, in rural India - specifically in the Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka regions.[4]

In 2008, as a result of the global financial crisis, Shanti Bhavan underwent a financial crisis of its own. Spearheaded by Director of Operations Ajit George, the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project moved from a privately funded institution to a mixed model of individual donations, corporate and NGO partnerships, and grants. On September 10, 2008, Shanti Bhavan separated from The George Foundation and became a non-profit organisation run under the Shanti Bhavan Educational Trust.[5]

As of 2017, Shanti Bhavan has had 8 graduating classes (110 students) and counting. With a 97% high school retention rate and a 98% college retention rate. Its college graduates make more in the first five years of their careers than their parents will their entire lives. Shanti Bhavan students give 20-50% of their incomes to help their families and other children in need.

Currently the Shanti Bhavan team is working to raise money to build a second school in India.


The organisation aims to provide holistic, quality education to India's most underprivileged children, mostly from the lower caste or the Dalits[6] to allow them to succeed in the modern global workplace. By breaking the cycle of poverty for these children, while modeling civic engagement and charitable giving, Shanti Bhavan aims to create a generation of changemakers and leaders in India who will go on to uplift their communities out of poverty.[7]


The school takes in children as young as four years old who are below poverty level.[8] Shanti Bhavan financially supports them throughout their years at the school as well as through college, providing 17 years of support and high quality education.[9]

Shanti Bhavan follows the CISCE curriculum; students take their ISCE examinations in their 10th and 12th grades to determine their college placement.

The school employs full-time teachers as well as international volunteers, who are given accommodations on the campus. The volunteers support the student's education by teaching classes and providing a global perspective for students' coursework. Students receive a holistic education, including a focus on global events, feminism, leadership development, and guidance on how to cope with the endemic discrimination they face.


The cost per student per day at Shanti Bhavan is approximately $4. For one year, pre-K through 12th grade, the cost is approximately $1600 per student. For one college student, the cost is approximately $3200 per year.


Shanti Bhavan has recently been featured in the documentary The Backward Class (2014), as well as the Netflix documentary series Daughters of Destiny: The Journey of Shanti Bhavan (2017),[10] written, directed and co-produced by Vanessa Roth.[11][12]

In 2016, Shanti Bhavan student Keerthi was profiled in Glamour’s The Girl Project.[13][14]

In 2014, Shanti Bhavan student Visali was honored as one of Glamour’s Women of the Year.[15]

Shanti Bhavan has also been featured on or in Charlie Rose, ABC World News Tonight, the New York Times, and Thomas Friedman’s book The World is Flat.

Partners and programs[edit]

The organisation has a volunteer program which employs volunteer educators from some educational and non-profit organisations such as ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty),[16] and She's the First[17] to teach academic and non-academic subjects.[18]


  1. ^economic development « Helping Women Helps the World
  2. ^GOPIO News, May 25, 2009
  3. ^"School Of Angels". Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  4. ^The Power of Education | NEED - The Humanitarian Magazine
  5. ^"Rural Education - Shanti Bhavan overview". 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  6. ^Shanti Bhavan Children's Project - Our MissionArchived 2011-03-04 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^"Shanti Bhavan Children's Project". Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  8. ^Friedman, p.632
  9. ^"InfoChange India News & Features development news India - Poorest of poor dalit children get a world-class education". Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  10. ^"Daughters of Destiny | Netflix Official Site".
  11. ^"Review: ‘Daughters of Destiny’ on Netflix Explores Caste Struggles in India", by Mike Hale, The New York Times, July 28, 2017. [Consulted 2 August 2018].
  12. ^"In Daughters of Destiny, Educating the 'Untouchables'", by Jenna Marotta, Vogue, July 27, 2017. [Consulted 2 August 2018].
  13. ^"How a Special School Changed This Girl's Life". 16 May 2016.
  14. ^"Get Schooled—The Story of Keerthi from India".
  15. ^
  16. ^"Shanti Bhavan, India : ASTEP - Artists Striving To End Poverty". Archived from the original on 2011-07-25. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  17. ^"Aspire: the She's the First blog » Shanti Bhavan". Archived from the original on 2010-12-16. Retrieved 2010-12-28.
  18. ^"Shanti Bhavan Children's Project - Volunteers". Archived from the original on 2009-05-09. Retrieved 2010-12-28.

Other references[edit]

External links[edit]


Bhavan shanti

The little school with an all-star caste

Shanti Bhavan plucks talented children from poverty and turns their lives around, hoping to change the world around them too
The question came from the back of the classroom. One fourth grader asked, “What’s a Dalit?” “I’m going to first introduce the word ‘caste’,” said Shilpa Raj, his teacher at Shanti Bhavan, writing it on the blackboard. “You know how some people are rich and some people are poor? Caste is like that, but it goes a little deeper.”
Shanti Bhavan is a free boarding school on the outskirts of Bengaluru that provides 26 students from the poorest families – those with a monthly income of Rs 6,000 or less – with a stellar English education from pre-school to graduation. By default, the income restriction has created a 95% Dalit student body drawn from villages across Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. If Shilpa’s eight-year-old students hadn’t lived at Shanti Bhavan from the age of three, they might have been victims of caste-based discrimination. Instead, they’ve only encountered the word ‘Dalit’ in a classroom.
Started in 1997 by Indian-American businessman Abraham George, the school was conceived as a way to fight social injustice by alleviating poverty. George teaches his students that caste is a concept created by human beings to oppress one another. For the first decade, he financed the school from the money he made after his software firm was bought by a Fortune 500 company. But after the 2008 financial crisis, he began looking for donors. Today, 60% of the school’s funds come from private individuals and corporates.
Vital lesson: English teacher Shilpa Raj, who is also a former student, explains the word ‘caste’ to a group of fourth graders
The school recently shot to fame with the release of a Netflixdocumentary on its students, ‘Daughters of Destiny’, directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Vanessa Roth, with a musical score by AR Rahman. Shilpa is a graduate of Shanti Bhavan and one of the film’s five protagonists. The film tracks her journey from an unwanted girl child – her father contemplated discarding her in a landfill when she was born — to a published author with a master’s degree in psychological counselling.
While interviewing her father for her book titled The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter, she discovered that the man she regarded as an aloof philanderer, who beat her mother and drank heavily, had an unhappy past. As a seven-year-old, he became a bonded labourer in a landlord’s house to pay off his father’s debts. In comparison, she’d spent her childhood watching My Fair Lady and Harry Potter and playing soccer and baseball in Shanti Bhavan’s sprawling campus.
The school has a one-child-per-family policy to distribute the programme’s benefits amongst as many families as possible. Since the school provides food, clothes and plenty of emotional support, Shilpa’s childhood was also markedly different from that of her siblings, who struggled to study in government schools, witnessed their parents’ abusive relationship and dodged the dangers posed by the family’s illicit liquor business. The resentment led to Shilpa’s estrangement from her younger sister, who committed suicide about five years ago.
Since Shanti Bhavan kids have received an education denied to so many others, they’re never allowed to forget that their purpose is to wrench their families out of poverty. The moment Anith, 25, landed his first job as a tax analyst with Ernst and Young, he sat down with his parents – a construction labourer and a kitchen maid – to discuss how he could help them. Eventually, he decided to move back to the slum so his salary could go towards repaying their debts.
But that’s not enough for Shanti Bhavan’s founder. “If each child doesn’t help at least a 100 other families, I’ve failed,” says George. For now, he acknowledges that many of the graduates are weighed down by family obligations.
Each year, about 500 families throng Shanti Bhavan for admission. Kavizhi, whose 17-year-old daughter Keerthishree is studying there, beams when she recalls how her child’s intelligence helped her get in. “They showed her dolls with eyes and ears missing and she pointed out what was wrong with them,” she says proudly.
Leaving her three-and-a-half-year-old at the school, however, was heartbreaking. “She screamed and banged on the windows,” she recalls. Her husband insisted on getting her back after three months but when they returned, they couldn’t recognise the chubby toddler dressed in fancy clothes. “He decided to leave her there,” she says, “because Keerthishree looked so happy.”
Each Shanti Bhavan child spends just 2.5 months at home each year. And when they do go back to their families, they miss Western toilets and individual beds, and struggle with their mother tongue. “When I first went home for my holidays, I’d only speak to my dad because he knew a little English,” recalls Vinceya. This changed once she began learning Tamil as a third language in school.
After finishing college, many graduates work hard to build a strong relationship with their parents, though some don’t get as much time as they’d like. On his first day at JP Morgan, 21-year-old Manikantan got a call saying his father had died. Suddenly, he was the head of the family, responsible for its debts.
Now an assistant manager at HSBC, Manikantan is proud that his father laid the foundation for his success. He was, after all, one of the masons who built Shanti Bhavan. “Today, I see my son rising from it,” he had said at Manikantan’s graduation.
(In some cases, only first names have been used on request)


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