Dr. Abraham George
Founder and Principal
As founder and main benefactor in the initial ten years, Dr.George and his vision for alleviating poverty and social injustice are reflected in Shanti Bhavan. In 1995, Dr. Abraham George returned to India with the goal of making his contribution to reducing the injustices and inequalities he had observed from his travels throughout India, the media, and published works he studied. As a result, he started The George Foundation (TGF), a non-profit organization based in Bangalore, India, dedicated to the welfare of economically and socially disadvantaged people.
In addition to Shanti Bhavan, established by TGF in 1997, the Foundation carries out several other initiatives dedicated to poverty alleviation, livelihood/income generation, education, health, and empowerment of women, such as: community development projects in housing, vocational training and the provision of safe drinking water, social entrepreneurship programs employing poor women in farming projects, and the Baldev Medical & Community Center that serves 17 villages and over 16,000 people.Dr. George’s keen interest in promoting democratic institutions and values also led him to create the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, Bangalore where he serves as the dean.
His work in the field of environmental health was instrumental in the removal of lead from gasoline throughout India in April 2000 and in the creation of National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India. Dr. George’s illustrious 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. (MCM), 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. Dr. George attended New York University’s Stern School of Business in developmental economics and finance and received both his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University.
Director of Operations
Ajit George is a passionate advocate of the transformative power of education for the underprivileged and socially discriminated. As Director of Operations, he manages various fields of operation, including fundraising, communications, partnerships, strategic planning, and mentorship and career development. Under his leadership, he has expanded the organization’s donor base through grassroots channels, foundation support, and corporate partnerships in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He oversees Shanti Bhavan’s volunteer program which has had over 500 high-quality and dedicated volunteers from 23 countries.
George also works with affiliated programs in India, including the Indian Institute of Journalism & 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. He has consulted for new and emerging non-profits, especially in the field of education and poverty alleviation. George spends four months out of the year working directly in the field in India.
Ms. Beena Nair, Vice Principal of Shanti Bhavan, holds over 26 years of teaching experience in day and boarding schools in North and South India. She joined the Shanti Bhavan team in 1999. As Vice Principal at Shanti Bhavan, Ms. Nair is responsible for scheduling classes, overseeing the residential care of children and staff, and general administration. Among her many contributions to the school, Ms. Nair has been responsible for teaching Hindi – a challenge for many South Indian children who are not familiar with the language – and General Knowledge, a subject taught in Indian schools about government leaders, important historical events, and other topical general information. Ms. Nair completed her Master’s degree in History in 2011. In addition, she holds a Bachelor of Education in the teaching of English and Social Studies, as well as a Bachelor of Humanities from Jammu University, with a focus in History. She has participated in academic competitions run by the United Schools Organization of India, a project of the United Nations, and by the National Social Service. Among her interests is Kho-Kho, an Indian sport featured in the Olympics, which she excelled in while attending university.
Director of Development and Public Relations
Shanti joined Shanti Bhavan in 2000 as Manager of Facilities and Administration. Prior to joining Shanti Bhavan, she worked in social work, counseling street children and helping poor patients who needed medical intervention. In her current role as the Director of Development and P.R, Shanti is the guardian for the students through College and as they begin their careers. Shanti has done her Bachelors in English and Diplomas in Child Guidance and Counselling and Women’s Empowerment. Shanti has 2 children and four grandchildren.
Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships
Joseph Jeyanth has been with Shanti Bhavan since 2015, when he served as a Community Relations
Manager. He returned as the Senior Manager of Corporate Partnerships in 2019. He has 15 years of relevant experience in corporate, educational and nonprofit environments. His expertise is in creating and implementing programs to improve organization operations. He holds a Bachelors in Engineering. He also holds an MBA and a second Masters specializing in Human Services. Outside of his work for Shanti Bhavan, Joseph loves to travel, work on green home renovations and volunteer at local animal shelters.
Manager of Operations
Karin Yndestad first joined the Shanti Bhavan team as an Administrative Manager during the 2017-18 school year. After returning to the US in the fall of 2018, she now serves as Shanti Bhavan’s Manager of Operations, coordinating a number of the organization’s fundraising and programming initiatives. Based out of Minneapolis, Karin enjoys going for runs around the city’s many lakes and spending time with her family.
Manager of Alumni Relations
Brooke Behrmann first volunteered at Shanti Bhavan in the summer of 2014, after graduating from Florida State University. She then returned to Shanti Bhavan for the 2016-17 school year as an Administrative Manager. Brooke’s current role includes overseeing all alumni activities for Shanti Bhavan graduates in college and beyond. She also manages the Shanti Bhavan Alumni Association and the Shanti Bhavan Mentorship Program. Brooke currently lives in New York where she works at a social enterprise that conducts professional development training for senior leaders through experiential learning. When she is not working, Brooke is either traveling to see friends and family or reading historical fiction over a coffee.
Suzanne Cale Young
Manager of Strategic Partnerships
Suzanne Cale Young grew up in the Washington DC Area and Ankara, Turkey, attended James Madison University in Virginia and the University of London, Birkbeck College, earning a BA in Broadcast Journalism with minor degrees in Theatre and French. After working as a newscaster in Southwest Florida for several years, Suzanne transitioned to the non-profit arena, serving in regional and national positions with the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation for more than 2 decades. There she held positions in communications, fundraising and marketing, with a particular focus on corporate development. She is credited for creating the MOD-trademarked fundraising program, the Achievement In Radio Awards (AIR Awards), replicating the program in 20 top media markets across the U.S. During that time Suzanne adopted her two children, now teenagers, from countries in Asia. When Suzanne isn’t seeking support for global children’s initiatives, she’s hiking, cooking and traveling with her family.
Manager of Support and Programs
As a lifelong student of culture and community, Meg has conducted research on women and girls and directed education projects across the globe including Amsterdam, Uganda, Malaysia, and India. Meg has been with Shanti Bhavan since 2011 when she served as a volunteer teacher, returned as the On-Site Administrator in 2014, and continues to serve on the US team. A former Morehead-Cain scholar, Meg graduated from the University of North Carolina with a B.A. in Anthropology and Women’s Studies. In her spare time, Meg can be found experimenting with new recipes, on hiking adventures, or keeping tabs on her former students.
Executive Coordinator and Administrative Specialist
Renee Knipe has been a member of the US team since 2015. In her role as administrative specialist, she oversees the Shanti Bhavan sponsorship program, manages website and online donation portals, and supports marketing, social media, and key personnel needs. Renee holds degrees in Creative Writing and Video Production, which she puts to good use sharing the Shanti Bhavan story. A long-time resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, she recently exchanged the Midwest for the Pacific Northwest, where she is better able to support Shanti Bhavan’s mission.
Kate Lytle Elsinger
Senior Associate of Administration
Kate Lytle Elsinger has been contributing her administrative experience to Shanti Bhavan since 2011. Her job duties have included the management of newsletters, assisting with social media, donor communications and administration for the Director of Operations. Kate has always had a passion for working with children, whether hands-on or through her positions at the Ontario Ministry of Children and Youth Services. Her other interests include music, theater and writing. Kate looks forward to continuing to support Shanti Bhavan as it grows and aids children in changing their futures.
Senior Associate of Volunteer Services
Hannah Moon first volunteered at Shanti Bhavan in the fall of 2011. After returning to teach at the school two more times, she joined the Volunteer Services team in 2013. In this role, she manages the selection and on-boarding process for all incoming volunteers. Hannah currently works at Georgia Tech as the Global Internship Advisor for the Office of International Education. She received her BA from William & Mary and her MEd from the University of Georgia. Hannah lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where she spends her free time doing crossword puzzles, playing in a cornhole league, and planning her next opportunity to travel abroad.
Volunteer Services Associate
An advocate of using education as a tool for poverty alleviation, Sophy James first volunteered at Shanti Bhavan in 2014. Since then, she has been back to Shanti Bhavan to volunteer on a near annual basis. She now serves as part of the Volunteer Services team, conducting interviews with prospective volunteers. Sophy received her BS in Elementary Education from Florida State University, and is currently living in England completing her Master of Philosophy in Education at the University of Cambridge. In her free time Sophy enjoys reading and hanging out with her dog Tally.
Associate of Volunteer Services
Danielle Smogard began working for Shanti Bhavan as the On-Site Administrator in 2014. She spent a year on campus managing the team of volunteer teachers, teaching 11th and 12th grade English, and reading out loud to the children as much as she could. Since then she has supported Shanti Bhavan by interviewing potential volunteers. She currently lives in Boston and teaches middle school English, continuing to surround herself with kids and books.
Volunteer Services Associate
Abby Linn spent the 2016-17 school year as an Administrative Manager at Shanti Bhavan. Now back in the US, Abby has built her career around understanding education from many angles, including teaching middle schoolers, running school operations, and working in education technology. She studied Economics and Middle Eastern Studies at Brown University, where she focused on education as a critical factor for the successful economic development of countries. In her free time, Abby loves to play the piano, travel to places unknown, and discover the best donut shops in different cities.
Community Relations Associate
Hannah Beswick-Hale first joined the Shanti Bhavan family in 2014 when she volunteered at the school during the summer of her sophomore year at Northwestern University. She recently graduated with a degree in psychology. In addition to several volunteer stays on campus, Hannah has served Shanti Bhavan both as a volunteer several times as well as through a collegiate organization called Tufaan Entertainment. Over the past five years, Tufaan has raised over $100,000 for Shanti Bhavan. One of Hannah’s favorite memories is bringing two students all the way from India to Chicago for Tufaan’s annual fundraising event. Hannah supports community relations at Shanti Bhavan.
Graphic Design Consultant
Stephen Gay first served as a volunteer teacher at Shanti Bhavan in 2015 and now works as the team’s graphic design consultant. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he returned to India as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant. He then moved out of the classroom and worked as an outdoor experiential educator. Stephen has a passion for beauty and creativity and now lives in Nashville, TN working as an artist and designer. When he’s not trying to wash paint off his hands, Stephen loves spending time outdoors chasing down new adventures.