Meet Our Children
Life for low-caste villagers in rural India is a vicious cycle of oppression, kept in motion by illiteracy and lack of opportunity. Many of our children would have been destined to follow in their parents’ footsteps if not for Shanti Bhavan. With our support, they have overcome enormous challenges and excel inside and outside of the classroom.
Get to know some of our students!
Thenmozhi is in the seventh grade at Shanti Bhavan. She really enjoys her Chemistry and Biology classes, and when she is not in class can always be found on the soccer field improving her footwork with friends.
Thenmozhi is originally from Krishnagiri, Tamil Nadu. Her younger brother, who is ten years old, attends a government school, and in his free time has a job cutting banana leafs for weddings. Her older sister was educated until the 10th grade and is now a housemaid for many families in their village. Her father committed suicide when she was just a baby, so Thenmozhi primarily grew up with her mother, who works in a matchbox factory. When Thenmozhi is home, she helps her mother in the factory and also picks jasmine in the middle of the night to sell in Bangalore.
Thenmozhi believes that Shanti Bhavan is the gateway towards her dreams. She wants to fulfill her family’s wish of taking care of her siblings, and to fulfill her own wish of becoming a veterinarian. Although school is hard work, Thenmozhi loves being at Shanti Bhavan because of the wonderful warmth and joy she feels on campus. If she was not studying, her family would require that she drop out of school after 10th grade to get married.
Thenmozhi believes that the most important thing you can do is to believe in yourself and to never define another person by their career or their appearance. She has learned that it is more important to work together for a common goal that will improve the world around you.
Shanmugan, also known as Shan, is in his 9th grade year at Shanti Bhavan. He loves to play soccer, and is the youngest member of the Shanti Bhavan soccer team. He really loves reading spy novels in his free time and designing tattoos.
Shan’s family currently lives in Pondicherry, but moves around constantly to find work. His family has been working in the profession of digging wells for generations. Both his parents, his sisters, and his elder brother start work at four in the morning to start digging until eight at night. Oftentimes, his parents are traveling around searching for new work for weeks at a time, carrying their tent with them when they move.
Two of the strongest values Shan has learned at Shanti Bhavan are to help others before yourself and to always be humble. When Shan graduates from college and gets a job, ideally working at a company like Goldman Sachs, he wants to help his family and Shanti Bhavan first, and then focus on himself. Regardless of where Shan ends up, however, he will always act with humility. He does not like when people make others feel less than themselves. Whenever Shan’s classmates are struggling with work, he always reaches out a hand to help so that they can understand as well.
James is in his 11th grade year at Shanti Bhavan. He enjoys playing goalie on the Shanti Bhavan soccer team and singing in the school choir.
James is originally from the center of Bangalore where he shares a home with his parents, two siblings, and one older cousin. James’ father had a terrible accident when James was very young, which left his father bedridden and unable to provide for the family. His mother was working as a housemaid at the time, but her salary alone was not enough to fully support the family. James’ 11-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister were forced to drop out of school and begin working. His brother began work as a carpenter where he continues to work every day from eight in the morning until late at night. His sister was able to find work in a clothing factory where she has also been working every day since the father’s accident. James’ sister is also required to do all of the housework when she returns home late in the evenings. Last year, James’ father had another accident which injured his knee and has again left him disabled.
James has learned the value of education through Shanti Bhavan. He hopes to invest in opportunities for his siblings one day just as Shanti Bhavan invested in him. James is currently studying in the business stream with aspirations to start his own business. In order to accomplish this goal, James is working hard to prepare for college where he would like to study Finance and International Affairs at a top university in Bangalore. James knows that through hard work, coupled with the support of the Shanti Bhavan community, his dreams will be realized.
Kishore is in 12th grade at Shanti Bhavan. He is currently studying in the business stream and in the future wants to grow up to become a head manager at a technology company like Apple. One of his favorite things to do at Shanti Bhavan is to manage all of the technology, especially organizing components such as music, sound, and lighting for performances.
Kishore is from Bagalur, a small town outside of Hosur. His father studied up until the fourth grade but then quit school to take a job cleaning busses. His mother did not receive an education, and instead took up housework as early as the age of six. After Kishore started at Shanti Bhavan, his father who was working as a mason at the time, fell off the roof of a greenhouse and injured himself, becoming bedridden for a whole year. His mother had to stay at home to take care of him, leaving his family without an income for the year. This was also the year his younger sister, Shirisha, was born.
Two of the most important values that Kishore has learned at Shanti Bhavan are to take responsibility for your actions and to become a leader. Over the years at Shanti Bhavan, Kishore has strongly adhered to those values and is one of the most responsible students in the higher grades, acting as a strong role model for the younger students. His leadership skills enabled him to be chosen to speak at Tufaan Entertainment in Chicago, Illinois this past year with his classmate Shiney. This was a wonderful opportunity for Kishore to not only be a strong representative for Shanti Bhavan but also to grow immensely as an individual.
Shiney is in the 12th grade at Shanti Bhavan. She has taken the science stream and loves all of her classes, especially Biology. In her future, Shiney wants to become a pediatrician because she loves working with children and especially loves spending time with the new preschoolers at Shanti Bhavan.
Shiney is originally from Bangalore and lives with her mother and stepfather. At the age of two, Shiney’s father passed away suddenly after being electrocuted at a factory. Her mother wanted to focus on raising Shiney alone but was pressured by her family to either remarry a relative or commit suicide. She chose to remarry because it was the best option for Shiney. Shiney’s new stepfather is very hateful towards both Shiney and her mother. He is not only abusive but also does not support the idea of Shiney’s education.
Shiney believes that studying science is very important for not only herself but also the other girls in her community. She wants to be a role model for girls so they will be more inclined to focus their studies in the STEM fields. In addition to pursuing medicine, Shiney wants to spend her time working with children with mental or physical disabilities. One of the strongest values she has learned at Shanti Bhavan is to be selfless and to help others before yourself, and this is a value she will carry throughout her life.
One of the most important experiences that Shanti Bhavan provided for Shiney was the opportunity to travel to the U.S. this past March to be a spokeswoman for Shanti Bhavan. She was able to speak at Tufaan Entertainment, a large South Asian dance competition at Northwestern University in Illinois. She told her story to an audience of over 1,000 people. She was also able to go to New York City and speak at a She’s the First event. This was an incredible growth opportunity for Shiney, which broadened her view of the world, making her a more confident and capable young woman.
Janani is in the 12th grade at Shanti Bhavan. She had a fantastic junior year, which was full of personal growth and leadership opportunities. Janani is studying in the science stream and really enjoys her Computer Science classes. She hopes to become an engineer when she is older because she loves learning and understanding about how the devices we use day-to-day are made.
Janani is from the town Ooty in the state of Tamil Nadu. Her father is a house broker but also a crippling alcoholic. Her mother, a housemaid, has to save whatever small earnings she makes to pay for food and education for her family because her husband spends all of his income on alcohol. Janani knows that the Shanti Bhavan education she is receiving is the most important thing for her family. Her primary goal has always been to make enough money to pay for her younger sister to go to medical school. However, her sister passed away suddenly a couple of months ago at the age of fifteen.
Shanti Bhavan has taught Janani to dream for herself, and to not simply follow the dreams others create for her. She has developed her own voice, and now carries with her an outspokenness that is an inspiration for other students.
Vinceya Xavier Edwin is a Shanti Bhavan graduate and is 22 years old. In June 2016 she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from St. Joseph’s College of Commerce, Bangalore. She is now working for Amazon on the Product Investigations Team.
Vinceya’s father is an auto driver and her mother is a housemaid. They are both ill with diabetes and her father has needed multiple surgeries on his spinal cord. She is the sole financial earner for her family and takes on all of the expenses of the home, including her brother’s college fees, provision, rent, and medical expenses.
Vinceya’s dream is to build temporary shelters for the homeless, and instill in them skills or help them discover their talents. She believes that this will help them to live independently and with dignity.
Meet Maheshwari on her graduation day from Shanti Bhavan, back in 2015. The first in her family to receive an education, Mahesh is now studying for her Masters in Applied Genetics.
(Video by She’s the First)
Rasiga, now starting her 2nd year of college, shares what it’s like growing up at Shanti Bhavan, what the school means to her, and how she’s studying to one day be a software engineer.