Soundarya’s father left school before starting the 8th grade to support his family. As an adult without an education, it was difficult to find a job that enabled him to support his wife and two children. For years he went from house to house, collecting scraps of cardboard and plastics which he sold to factories. During her childhood, Soundarya and her brother were constantly derided by peers and family members who predicted that she and her brother were destined to be just like their father.
When Soundarya was four, her father heard about Shanti Bhavan from a family friend. He took both of his children to the school and, after some initial assessments, was able to enroll Soundarya. And just like that, destiny took a turn. Shanti Bhavan was founded on core values that gave Soundarya access to a quality education, and eventually untangled her family from poverty.
Why do we do this?
At Shanti Bhavan, 95% of the students are from families just like Soundarya’s. They are a part of the Dalit community, or the untouchable caste, whose lives are subject to systemic marginalization beginning at birth. We believe that children like Soundarya are deserving of an education and a chance to thrive.
Shanti Bhavan aims to alter the personal, social, and economical outcomes of children who are born into extreme poverty by challenging inequity and inequality. We do this by offering safety, addressing essential needs, and creating an enabling environment to allow self-exploration. And our core values underpin our approach to quality education.
How do we do this?
Shanti Bhavan is not just a school; it’s a one-of-a-kind institution that transforms the most vulnerable and marginalized into confident, self-reliant, humble, and socially responsible individuals.
Our core values encompass:
- High-quality education: From Pre-Kindergarten to Grade 12, we offer high-quality formal education following the national curriculum. Taught by a seasoned faculty with complimentary instruction from an international volunteer team, our students are prepared to excel in the science and business streams. As a result, Shanti Bhavan boasts a 97% high school graduation rate.
- Essentials of a safe and happy childhood: Shanti Bhavan is a residential campus where every child’s physical needs are taken care of. Our sprawling campus is composed of dormitories for all students, sports fields, an organic farm, and plenty of greenery. Along with residence, every child receives clothing and personal care items, farm-to-table meals, school supplies, and medical services.
- Social skills: Beyond academics, we emphasize instilling social skills so that our students can eloquently articulate their thoughts and ideas, stand up for what’s right, work as part of a team, generate and follow their vision, and be an example for their younger peers. Most importantly, the students grow up with a stalwart belief in helping others in need.
- Extracurricular activities: Along with meeting physical needs, we also emphasize opportunities to explore interests outside of academics. Built into the daily schedule is an hour of playtime where students can play sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball, and badminton. Through our music program children can explore world music through instrumental practice and vocal coaching. Beyond sports and music, students also participate in activities that foster communication skills through public speaking, developing arguments through debate, and creative writing.
- Humanitarian values: We educate our students to embody core values and ideologies that contribute to a just and fair world. From a very early age, children are taught to be kind, humble, non-discriminatory, and open-minded to different belief systems. Growing up in a system where their families are treated unfairly due to their social status (or lack thereof), the students can see firsthand how their actions have the power to trump injustice.
- Guidance beyond Shanti Bhavan: As we equip the students to participate in the 21st-century workforce, a college education maximizes the potential of success. Thus, we continue to financially and academically support our graduates in their pursuit of higher education in India and abroad.
As a beneficiary of our intervention, Soundarya, after 14 years of education and care at Shanti Bhavan, recently graduated from one of the top colleges in Bangalore with a degree in Computer Applications. In college, she discovered a passion for web design, graphic design, and animation, which she hopes to explore further. For now, Soundarya is excited about taking the first steps in her professional life and being able to give back to her family.