Viewer’s Guide

The story of Shanti Bhavan and its children is hard to encapsulate, even in a work as ambitious as Daughters of Destiny. Condensing 20 years into four hours is tricky! In our experience, viewers often have questions after, and that’s what this Viewer’s Guide is for. We’ve listened to the questions that have been asked, and tried to anticipate those that haven’t, and provided you with the best answers possible. If you find after reading what’s here that you want even more information, check out Glamour’s 2017 interview with Ajit George, Director of Operations; it’s one of the best pieces about the work and history of Shanti Bhavan.

Also, feel free to share any of this information with friends and family!

Again, thank you for your interest in Shanti Bhavan and its children! We’re incredibly proud to share Daughters of Destiny with you, and we hope you enjoy it!

Where Are They Now?

Karthika is now a lawyer in Delhi. Her success is a result of her upbringing at Shanti Bhavan, along with perseverance, dedication, and access to opportunities most children of her background never have. She has moved her family out of the quarry and to a better home, and continues to work towards improving their lives, as well as the lives of others.

Since the Daughters of Destiny release, Manjula has completed college and is a registered nurse working in the Obstetrics Department at St. John’s Medical College and Hospital in Bangalore. Since the COVID-19 crisis emerged, she and her team have been crucial to the hospital’s operation. Manjula’s family, including her mother and sister, are doing great. They have had a recent addition to their family—Manjula’s second niece was born in 2019!

In the coming years, Manjula would like to return to school and pursue her Master’s degree in Obstetrics.The birth of a newborn never ceases to amaze Manjula, she says, despite the numerous times she has now seen it. “To know that I play an integral part in both the lives of the mother and the baby makes me happy. Handling a newborn from as small as 500 grams [1.1 lbs.], and their struggle to live through all odds, gives me the strength to work every day. I wish to pursue my studies in this subject because I know that every child born deserves the right to be born healthy.”

Since the filming of Daughters of Destiny, Preetha has continued to grow as a confident young woman. The passing of her father from alcohol-related complications proved difficult, but also motivated her to develop a better relationship with her mother and brother.

After Daughters of Destiny, Preetha lived abroad in Germany for a time, where she pursued her passion for music. She recently returned to Bangalore, and continues to follow her dreams.

Thenmozhi, now in 12th grade, continues to navigate between Shanti Bhavan and home, with the hope that someday she’ll be able to improve her family’s life. Instead of Veterinary Science, Thenmozhi has decided to pursue Computer Science (she still loves animals though!). Her favorite subjects are Math and Computer Science, both of which she excels at. She’s also a great soccer midfielder, and plays on the senior girl’s team at Shanti Bhavan. Thenmozhi’s mother remains at the same job. Her older sister, 25, has joined her mother at work. Her brother, 15, is studying at a local government school. Both of her siblings speak a little bit of English now, which Thenmozhi taught them.

Since Daughters of Destiny first aired, Shilpa received a Master of Science degree in Psychological Counseling, and a Master of Philosophy degree in Child and Adolescent Psychology. She has now been accepted into the PhD program in Clinical Psychology at Hofstra University, Long Island, New York, starting Fall 2020. Her memoir, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter, published in 2017, is a first-hand account of her struggle traversing the two contrasting worlds she lives in—one of poverty and the other of higher education. She is committed to serving children and families struggling with psychological difficulties, and works toward making mental healthcare accessible to underserved communities in India.


Shanti Bhavan is a nonprofit residential school in Tamil Nadu, India, providing free, high-quality education to the region’s poorest children. The school is comprised of a central academic building, multipurpose spaces for assembly and performances, separate dormitories for boys and girls of different ages, a playground for the younger children, a basketball court, an athletic field, a farm where much of the school’s food is grown, and residences for permanent staff and volunteers.

Shanti Bhavan’s current boarding school is located in Tamil Nadu, 1.5 hours southeast of Bangalore.

Shanti Bhavan is a non-religious 501(c)(3) non-profit organization founded in 1997 by professor, entrepreneur, and author Dr. Abraham George.

No other program offers world class education, intensive intervention, or continual support while still being completely free of charge. Our focus is achieving results through top-level education, long-term mentoring, and professional guidance.

A student typically joins Shanti Bhavan at age four. Shanti Bhavan provides support until that student graduates from college, and even beyond—more than 17 years of direct intervention. In their pursuit of professional careers, we continue to guide and mentor them.

Children recruited to Shanti Bhavan come from families that earn less than $2.00 per day. 60% of the children come from rural villages and 40% from urban slums. 95% of the children also belong to the Dalit caste (formerly known as the “untouchables”). Our students primarily come from the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Children are selected by an experienced recruitment team using the following criteria: 1) the family must be under the poverty threshold of $2.00 per day, with preference given to single parent households, 2) the family must be committed to keeping the child at Shanti Bhavan for the duration of the program, and 3) the family must pledge not to withdraw the child early for marriage or work purposes.

Yes, all of Shanti Bhavan’s children come from families who make less than $2.00 per day and, in many cases, much less.

Each child remains in the Shanti Bhavan program for 17+ years, during which time some families achieve a degree of financial stability. This happens rarely, but when it does, we’re very happy for it! It means those children might gain a slightly more stable foundation upon which to build their adult lives.

Poverty is more than a lack of money. It is a multifaceted problem that can permanently and negatively impact lives at ages as young as 2 or 3. Some of the hidden markers of poverty include:

  • Lack of electricity makes it impossible for a child to study.
  • Poor nutrition can impair a child’s mental, physical, and emotional growth in ways that can not be corrected for later.
  • Poor hygiene contributes to illness.
  • Lack of healthcare can lead to illness or disability.
  • Lack of availability of toilets forces girls to walk a mile or more for privacy.
  • Unsafe living or working conditions (and many of our children go with their parents to work) can lead to injury or disability.
  • Sexual abuse, alcoholism, and other damaging behaviors are disproportionately present in impoverished communities.

We address these issues by offering a clean, safe, and supportive environment that provides each child with clothes, nutritional meals, medical care, and the proper facilities to grow and learn. We admit 24 children each year—12 boys and 12 girls—to ensure that each child has ample resources and the individualized attention from staff and volunteers to be able to succeed in a rigorous academic program.

Students take classes ranging from chemistry, physics, mathematics, and computers to Hindi, English, creative writing, civics, geography, and literature.

Students can participate in choir, music lessons, dance, public speaking, debate, trivia, spelling bee, leadership classes, soccer, volleyball, basketball, and more. There is also an annual arts camp held in June each year.

We are preparing our children to be global citizens, able to pursue professions of their choice. Our curriculum adheres to the highest national standards, set forth by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). The 10th and 12th grade board exams set forth by the CISCE are given in English, and in order to best prepare our students for these exams, the language of instruction at Shanti Bhavan is English.

When one of our children is not performing well academically, we provide a wide variety of support. This can include peer-to-peer tutoring, individual help from teachers, mentorship from graduates and older students, and access to volunteers with expertise in various subjects.

Yes! Shanti Bhavan covers college tuition and room and board for all of its graduates.

Most education NGOs stop tracking their children once they graduate from a program. They mark success by whether a child is “literate” or not, or whether they have passed certain tests/criteria. However, once these children leave the NGO or education program, they do not have the tools, support, or ability to further their education or acquire meaningful jobs. Within five years, many of them return to the same circumstances—abject poverty—from which they started.

Most of the parents of Shanti Bhavan children are “literate” and have had some form of education. All of them are still poor—literacy did not help them escape poverty.

Shanti Bhavan marks success not by whether their children are literate, or whether they have passed a specific test, but where their children are five years after they graduate from the program.

  • 97% of all of our children graduate from high school.
  • All of our high school graduates have been accepted into top universities across India and abroad, including the United States and Japan.
  • 98% of our children graduate from college.
  • 97% of our children go on to work full-time at multinational companies including Amazon, Deloitte, EY, Goldman Sachs, Mercedes Benz and more.
  • All of our working graduates are the primary or sole income-earner for their families.
  • Our working graduates give back 20-60% of their salaries to their families, communities, and others in need, tackling a variety of issues: basic necessities, housing, healthcare, education for siblings, repayment of generational debt, and much more.

Shanti Bhavan marks success by whether a child is elevated out of poverty, remains out of poverty, and can uplift their families and others from poverty, impacting dozens or hundreds of others in need.

We strongly encourage our students’ involvement in the arts; in fact, we believe the arts are essential to any person’s growth and development. To that end, we provide instruction in music, dance, choir, visual art, debate, and drama. Once a year we host a ten-day art camp, where visiting artists share and teach performance, film-making, songwriting, and so much more. Many of our students have earned accolades and won awards for their poetry, writing, and photography. Every holiday, graduation, and special event at Shanti Bhavan is filled with dance, music, singing, and performances by students of all ages. Some of our graduates, like Shilpa, have gone on to write memoirs.

As a career, the arts are an extremely challenging professional choice in India. Ultimately, every Shanti Bhavan alum will have to make choices and navigate Indian society in the way that seems right for them, but there is little safety net between them and crushing poverty and rampant discrimination. We have a responsibility to our children and their families—who all have deep debt and tremendous financial need—to start them in their adult lives on the most stable footing possible. They need every tool and advantage at their disposal to succeed, and to that end, we encourage our graduates to pursue professional options that provide financial certainty and security. But our working graduates are all still very young—just a few years out of college. They have a lot of life ahead of them, and we’re excited to see where they go and what they do, especially when they pursue the arts as part of their lives.

Yes! From day one, Shanti Bhavan instills within its children the importance of helping others in need. Shanti Bhavan children are passionate about uplifting their communities, whether it is conducting classes in their villages, serving as role models for younger brothers and sisters, or educating their families on hygiene and health. Following college graduation, they seek leadership opportunities and jobs to bring about positive change in their communities. Additionally, many college and working graduates regularly return to Shanti Bhavan to teach and mentor younger students.

Our goal is to end the cycle of poverty through long-term, holistic intervention. This level of commitment means that, as an institution, we believe we can do the most good by spreading our resources to the greatest number of families possible. We hope that our graduates will go on to uplift their families and communities.

Shanti Bhavan’s mission is to empower young children to uplift their families and communities. We understand that school breaks are an important time for students to reconnect with relatives and friends.

Shanti Bhavan maintains a highly competent and dedicated team of full-time faculty, administrative staff, and support personnel. This team includes full- time Indian teachers who work at the school year-round, administrative staff to oversee the day-to-day operations, caretakers, maintenance, kitchen staff, and security. Shanti Bhavan also recruits qualified international volunteers to help carry out the institution’s mission.

Shanti Bhavan’s volunteer staff is composed of people from all over the world. These individuals come to Shanti Bhavan to share their talents for a minimum of one month, although many choose to stay longer. These volunteers help to support Shanti Bhavan’s full-time staff of dedicated teachers.

Shanti Bhavan was primarily funded by Dr. George in its initial years. In 2008, he and his family lost most of their assets during the global financial crisis. This made it impossible for him to remain the sole supporter of Shanti Bhavan.

Shanti Bhavan’s recovery from the 2008 crisis was spearheaded by its Director of Operations, Ajit George, and aided by longtime friends, supporters, and partners. Now Shanti Bhavan relies on a mixed model of support through individual donations, corporate and NGO partnerships, and grants.

Yes, Shanti Bhavan is a registered nonprofit in the U.S. and India. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity in the U.S., and also registered under the Indian Trust Act. It has 80-G tax exemption status and is FCRA approved in India.

If you live in the United States, your donation through our website is tax deductible. If you live in India and would like to donate, you can contact us directly at [email protected] for help in making a tax deductible gift through our Indian office.

There are several ways you can support Shanti Bhavan’s future!

  • Make a one-time Signature Gift.
  • Make a monthly Sustaining Gift.
  • Sponsor a Child either monthly or annually and get updates about them throughout the year.

You can find more details about all three types of donations on our Donate page.

If you are 18 years of age or older, you can volunteer at Shanti Bhavan. Visit our Volunteer page to learn more about how to apply to be a volunteer.