Skip to main content

How Shanti Bhavan Came to Fruition

For many years before I left my professional career in America and started Shanti Bhavan, I thought seriously about my life-long ambition to serve the poor and the socially deprived. I had abstract ideas about it -- a cause that I believed in --, but it was not entirely clear to me how I would achieve my goals. Though my vision might have been ambitious, I did not think about it on the individual, human level. The idea of economic and social justice for all, and how I would deal with those issues, did not connect me to children from poor families.

Sure, I felt injustice was being perpetuated on hundreds of millions of people all around the world, but they were blank faces in my vision– merely numbers. The thought that passed through my mind then was about how to make an impact on society. It was just an idea, an ideal that could impact those I did not think I would come to care about personally. The humanity of those I would be serving was not evident to me.

My understanding of American society taught me that it is difficult to alter preconceived notions and prejudices. I also learned that economic equality leads to social equality, and not the other way round. No amount of appeals to the good moral senses of well-to-do people would bring about the necessary changes in the way the society worked, I concluded.

A quick study of the government policies in India led me to believe that they would not usher in prosperity or equality to the lower castes within any reasonable period of time. Setting of job quotas for those within certain communities does not result in sufficient improvement in their status. It is one thing to legislatively assure employment even without the requisite qualifications, but the real challenge is in raising their capabilities to meet the requirements of good jobs.

Well-paying jobs are implicitly linked to many other basic needs: livable houses, quality education, acceptable health care, and sufficiently nutritious food intake. The solution calls for proper education and skills-training from an early age to be able to obtain those jobs. The question was how opportunities could be given to children from very poor families so that they become professionally successful and overcome prejudices in the society.

So what is the solution?

If economically deprived families cannot afford to send their children to schools and colleges to prepare them for professional careers, their children have little or no chance as adults to significantly improve their economic condition. On the other hand, when these children are brought up in an environment with socially acceptable values and a good education, they are likely to compete and succeed.

So here it was. As I returned to India on a social mission after spending nearly 30 years in America, the idea for starting a residential school for children from poor families to offer quality education began to take shape. The plan was formulated and documented in a policy and procedure manual over a period of two years. Soon, Shanti Bhavan came to fruition.

Today, Shanti Bhavan is bringing up over 300 children from some of the poorest families in India. After 17 years since its start, four batches have already entered reputed colleges in different fields of their choice.Further, the first batch of college graduates have taken up starting positions in Goldman Sachs, Mercedes Benz, Ernst & Young, Biocon and other global companies. Their professional success will not only assure a descent lifestyle for themselves and their families, but also for their communities. Their contribution to society and the world at large will be far more significant than what would have been without a good upbringing and education.

The multiplicative impact of each one’s success will carry forward hundreds of others. If and when this model is widely implemented, we will witness a real transformation of the so-called lower castes in India, bringing about both economic well-being and dignity to their lives.

One of the most important lessons I have learned over the years was that the children in my care have faces, and are far more than the cause I had come to pursue. They are as much mine emotionally as they are of their own families, and my ambitions for them are no less than their own. The reason for my work today is their future and the love I have for them.


I feel very fortunate to have met you and to have been involved as a volunteer in this amazing project. Shanti Bhavan changed my life in many ways.

I think of these children everyday.

Thank you Dr George!

Thank you, Eduard. I am fortunate to get to know you, a kind-hearted person with so much commitment to the children. Best wishes, AMG
Luciane Borges said…
I had to towel my tears after watching "Daugthers of Destiny" on Netflix, not only due to the history itselef but, mainly, cause It was like an wake up call. On of the girls said something like that: if we see all the terrible things all over the world and do nothing, what kind of people we are".

When the movie finished I started seaching for your name and Shanti Bhavan name's as well on internet, and was able to understand the real impact of your work and of those volunteeering for eliminate poverty.

Your project inspired me. The path you crossed to fullfill your dream its impressive.
I wonder if one day Shanti Bhavan's concept would be replicated in my country.

My congrats are not enough comparing with many truly thanks you have heard from all those families you helped, but it comes from my heart!!
Anonymous said…
You are an amazing human being. You've lived a life that matters. No one can know the ripple effect of what you started, the countless lives you've impacted and changed the trajectory of.

Popular posts from this blog

Simple Solutions to the Rural Education Crisis

It seems many people are trying to find innovative solutions to improving the quality of education in rural areas, especially among the poor. Since most rural children study at government-run schools, the focus of any effort to improve quality and performance must be on those institutions. Without waiting for the state government to act, NGOs can directly interact with the administrators of those schools, especially the headmasters, and village leaders to implement measures that can yield positive results. That is precisely what The George Foundation has been doing since 2004 in the 17 villages surrounding its own school, Shanti Bhavan.

Three years ago our foundation initiated a community development plan that included working with government-run schools in our area. Deverapalli Government School was the first one we took on, and within two years of starting the program, it was judged as the “best” in the district by the educational authorities. Based on this project and our Shanti Bha…

Self-confidence, the Answer to Better Learning

I am frequently asked by visitors to Shanti Bhavan from America whether our educational model would work in the West.  They are curious to know how caste and class prejudices experienced in India can be overcome by our graduates when they enter the workplace. These are complicated questions, and they need a broad explanation that cannot be fully covered in this blog. The landmark 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case Brown v. Board of Education was meant to rectify the unequal status of racially separate schools. Now, even after several decades of desegregation measures, including busing children from some affluent families to poor neighborhood schools, their impact on the academic progress of minorities is being questioned. Many factors contribute to reducing the achievement gap in American schools, and racial integration may not necessarily be a solution to the difficulties faced in lifting the educational levels of minority students. As an Asian immigrant who came to America fif…

A Second Front

It has been quite a while since I wrote my last blog. For some reason, I had concluded that there wasn’t enough readership interest in my personal notes and critiques of the country’s system. But recently, a friend of mine who stumbled upon my earlier blogs urged me to continue. Moreover, I had promised in my last blog to write about my experiences as an artillery officer along India’s western border with Pakistan, but I hadn’t kept my word. So finally I made up my mind to venture into writing blogs once again. My medical leave following the dynamite explosion in which I was injured while at Se La Pass was to last six weeks. I had returned home to Trivandrum sufficiently frost bitten to have my large ear lobes and nose turn dark, and skin pealing like a snake’s scales. It was a central topic in several hilarious conversations with guests when they visited our home, and I had a lot of stories to tell about my adventures in the snow-covered mountains of the Himalayas. Everyone wanted to …