children at shanti bhavan

 

 

 

 

 

 

the terrorist attack on WTC

 

 

 

 

special prayer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BYU team with Dr. George & Principal

 

 

BYU dancers

 

 

grace in motion

 

 

dancers with their director

SHANTI BHAVAN FLASH NEWS!

It is with great pride and joy that we would like to announce that all fifteen of our first batch of children who appeared for the tenth standard public examinations conducted by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations, New Delhi, have passed with first classes.

The highest accolade is for Dr. Abraham George who envisioned and executed the concept of Shanti Bhavan that is true to Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy – “The weakest should have the same opportunity as the strongest.”

Congratulations to our students and our wonderful teachers, residential and support staff that have not spared any effort to work with and prepare our children for the last two years.

Update as of March 28, 2007

Young Indian Professionals’ Interactions with the Children

A few years ago, Nikhil Desai, an aspiring twenty-something professional from the corporate world of Bangalore, heard about Shanti Bhavan. He thought he would visit a school, nothing more. That visit marked a turning point in Nikhil’s life. In his own words, “the vision and dedication of the Founder, Dr. Abraham George, is something I never expected.” Nikhil resolved that he would come each year with three of his close friends to interact with our children and contribute to their growth.

Today, Nikhil is in the Indian Institute of Management at Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. His Bangalore-based friends are
TP Pramod who works at the Cypress Semi Conductor Division, Nagabhushan S Vaidya with Saken Communications Technologies, and Aruna Shekar, an employee at CISCO. Each year, sometimes twice a year, this determined quartet finds its way to Shanti Bhavan and into our children’s hearts.

In March 2007, these four friends arranged a day of team building games and challenges for our eighth and ninth graders. They had prizes for the winners and chocolates for all our children. In our children’s own words, “We understood the lessons in each game and also learned about ourselves.” They participated in games such as The Human Web, Situation Analysis, Association of Random objects, Team Rescue from a Sinking Ship, Pirates and Captains, Alphabets and Words, and Best Friends.

The children’s response was phenomenal. Here are a few samples from an exercise where each child was asked to bring an object and explain what it represented..

Karthika shared a small piece of granite from the grounds that, for her, represents “My mother’s work of breaking stones in a quarry as providing for the family, and a saga of love and devotion.”

Vijaya Kumar explained that his 21-gear bicycle represented “the generosity of ‘haves’ for ‘have-nots’. You are in-charge of where you go and the pace at which you go over the roads you choose, good or bad.”

Gowtham showed his ruler as “the yardstick of my life. The inches show the progress I have made, and the centimeters what remains to be done.”

Mani brought a weed that for him “represents perseverance. People try to displace you or your work. You can overcome.”

Manimala picked up a handful of sand. “This shows the people in my life who have made a difference but whom I take for granted. Though sand is always there, it is least noticed.”

Sheeba displayed a figurine of two doves. “One is myself, one is
Dr. George. I can never forget what he has saved me from. He is more than a Founder, a friend or advisor. He is my father in the truest sense.”

Children had simulated situations where individuals took turns being Principal of a School; member of a Family that Honors Human Sacrifice; making Three wishes; and obtaining an Income Certificate from a Taluk Office

Mahalakshmi, the winner from ninth grade was asked why she agreed to face the corrupt Taluk Officer even when she could be killed, and her response was, “somebody has to make a start.”

The most touching experience was when they described their best friends. Each stated a friend’s best feature, and gave constructive criticism. When they were asked to imagine a future without their friends, the children said not being with their friends would be “like a world without the sun,” “unimaginable,” “like emptiness,” “like being blind,” and so on. Some children broke down and cried.

Thank you, Nikhil, Pramod, Naga and Aruna. Your message, Nikhil, “Always stick to the truth” will stay with our children always.

Update as of September 30, 2006

The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints continues to support us through their Humanitarian Assistance program. Glen and Margene Erickson, Country Directors for India, and Dr. Gary Lambert and Mrs. Peggy Lambert, both humanitarian volunteers (who are currently teaching English Literature and music at Shanti Bhavan), have recommended that Salt Lake continues its support. They are assisting us in procuring two commercial size washing machines to deal with our laundry needs at Shanti Bhavan. They have approved a container of hygiene kits and educational supplies, food items and clothing. We need to send our proposals on a regular basis.

Ms. Mariam John, cousin of Dr. Abraham George, donated Rs.700,000/- . She and her daughter Maya Alunkal worked as volunteers for a fortnight at Shanti Bhavan.

Dr. Vijay John, brother of Mariam John, also spent two days at
Shanti Bhavan.

Dr. John is Professor and Head of Department in Oil Extraction , at Tulane University, Louisiana, USA. His daughter, Mira, spent a month as a volunteer this summer. Dr. John’s mother donated Rs.300,000/- towards the Shanti Bhavan Endowment Fund.

Three volunteers, all business graduates from Wharton, University of Pennsylvania, USA, spent a fortnight in May to work with our eight graders. Irene Tse, Kerith Dilley and Felipe Arratia taught the children how to undertake SAT tests, how to make a business plan, about leadership and communication. Their efforts met with resounding success. We invited some of our staff who were on vacation to attend a day-long workshop with them.

Dr. Paul Ithoop, brother-in-law of Dr. George, and a donor, visited with a relative.

Dr. Ittoop examined approximately 20 patients with lung and breathing problems at our Baldev Clinic.

Fay Prendergast, British, theater director from Torino, Italy, directed our School Day performance last year. We mourned her sudden passing this year. Her sister from the USA sent us a sum of money collected by Fay’s friends for the Shanti Bhavan Endowment Fund, as Fay had wished.

Joseph Mathew whose film, Crossing Arizona, was an entry at the Sundance Film Festival in the USA last year, was hired by us to make a film on Shanti Bhavan. The purpose of the film is to raise funds, and bring about awareness of our unique long-term approach to solving the problem of poverty.

Committed and dedicated professionals from Europe and North America have spent from a month to three months working as volunteers with our children in various fields such as computers, academics, art, music, dance, sports and games. We have listed them individually in the Principal’s quarterly report. Their contributions have been outstanding, and they have all positively enhanced our regular academic program.

We had invited the Chairman of Ashok Leyland to be Chief Guest for our School Day celebration this year, but he was unable to attend.

Public Relations

 Dr. George was featured on the cover of Stern Business School Alumni magazine. The lead article was about his professional achievements and his philanthropic work. It was an honor for all of us to see him chosen among many eminent people for this prestigious publication of his alma mater. Dr. George was interviewed by
The New York Times
in July this year. NDTV 24x7 featured
Shanti Bhavan in a prime time news segment twice this year.

The Need of the Hour

So far, the Endowment Fund has been funded mainly by
Dr. Abraham George and his family members. Recently several others have begun to make contributions. Mr. Sreedhar Menon has launched a campaign to raise sufficient funds to establish an endowment that would pay for the college education of our children.

Appeal to corporations, foundations and wealthy individuals to join forces with us in strengthening this unique model that addresses poverty.

Shanti Bhavan children spend 3 days at Pegasus Camp

The Pegasus Institute for Excellence conducted a superb three-day camp free of cost for our sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Our teacher, S. Vijayanthi was responsible for contacting their organization. Subsequently, two of their senior officers visited Shanti Bhavan and promptly offered to conduct the training sessions and host our contingent of staff and children without charge. They asked us to write a letter specifying what aspects we would like them to focus on for our children. Vijayanthi, Johnson, Daniel, Shanthi Mary, Nancy and the principal accompanied the group of 41 children.

We took our children by train from Hosur to Bangalore. Pegasus sent a young woman (ex-Naval) officer to receive us and provided transport from the train station in Bangalore to their camp about two plus hours away, near Nandi Hills. They were all very impressed with our children right from their initial individual introductions. Treks, obstacle courses, rappelling, rescue exercises and a mock production line were some of the “learning by doing” exercises that we were all put through. Each exercise brought out something we wanted, such as, seizing a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, extending help to those in need, character formation and leadership skills. After the second day, they changed their plan to challenge our children with a higher level of work as they found the children very enthusiastic and persevering. There was not a moment in the day to sit back and relax except around the campfire at night. The Pegasus support staff also enjoyed having our children around.

By the time we left, they said they want a long-term relationship with The George Foundation. They would like to do this every year for our children, preferably for two batches – grades nine and eleven. As their organization shares the same values as The George Foundation, I gave them our new brochure.

The children were sad to leave because of the fun activities and the food. Pegasus went out of their way to treat our children with special things. They could hardly believe that our children were from deprived backgrounds. What impressed them was the children’s openness, clear speech, respect for rules, interaction with all staff regardless of rank or status, spontaneity and freedom with the principal, teachers and aunties. They were also impressed with their general knowledge and sense of humor.

The staff of Pegasus has requested to meet Dr. George when he is next in India – during Jan or Feb 07. Most of the officers (ex-Army and Navy, plus civilians) were reading his book. They have visited our website. They would also like Dr. George to visit Pegasus Camp when he is here. They know that Dr. George is ex-NDA ( National Defence Academy) and a former Artillery Officer.

We were truly proud of our staff and children. They proved themselves second to none at Pegasus. This is true. We are most grateful to Pegasus and its staff for making the camp a memorable event for all of us.

Lalita Law, Principal

Update as of September 30, 2005

The new batch of 24 pre-school children (ages 3 ½-4 years) joined Shanti Bhavan in June 2005 at the start of the academic year.

Recent eminent visitors included Andrew Whitehead, Director for the BBC, India , and senior managers of Infosys, Bangalore , including a Board Member. Joseph Joy and friends from Microsoft, Bangalore visited. The Chairman of Usha Martin, Mr. B.K. Jhawar and Mrs. Jhawar, visited. Former Joint Secretary, Mr. Shiv Kakodkar and his wife, Dr. Prabha Kakodakar, also visited. Mrs. Edda Sehgal, wife of Mr. Suri Sehgal, of the Sehgal Foundation, also visited with her nephew, Jay Sehgal. Dr. P.V. Rao from Bangalore brought a team of dentists to inspect our children's dental health.

Titan Industries donated a sum of Rupees five lakh to the
Shanti Bhavan Endowment Fund. Titan is the first company in India to support our cause in a significant way. Don Ringler of Creative Associates, USA , has been regularly sending books and movies of classics for our children.

Five educational assistant volunteers from the U.S. and one theater volunteer from the U.K. enriched the learning experiences of our children in manifold ways academics, sports, music and theater. Four medical volunteers for Baldev Medical & Community Center gave our children several health sessions that were both useful and enjoyable.

School Day celebrations this year were in the form of a theater performance directed by Fay Prendergast, a British theater director from Italy . The theme was Shanti, which means Peace, and the children's presentation of drama, dance and song was entitled,
A Peaceful Kingdom .
All of our 180 children participated. The staff of Shanti Bhavan threw themselves into the preparation for the performance.

The construction of the extensions to Teachers' Quarters and the existing school building are both underway.

Shanti Bhavan in World News

Thomas Friedman, the noted columnist for the New York Times, wrote an op-ed piece on 20 May 2004 about the Indian national election results, pointing out that the poor in India voted out the ruling government because the benefits of the economic reforms are being confined to only a small minority. His article (carried by hundreds of other newspapers in many countries) described good governance and better education as the necessary ingredients for India’s success in the future.  In explaining his argument, Mr. Friedman cited Shanti Bhavan as an example, and quoted Mrs. Lalita Law, our principal, and
Dr. George, our founder. Dr. George has been among those who have been pointing out over the past several years that the benefits of the recent economic reforms in India are not reaching a great majority of the citizens – the country’s poor.  For a full text of the article, please click here: Tom Friedman

Affiliation:

Shanti Bhavan has been granted affiliation to The Council for the Indian School Certificate Examination, Delhi, with effect from March 2004. The Council is a nationally and internationally recognized
non-governmental, non-profit examination board for quality education in English-medium schools both in India and abroad. The Council conducts school-leaving examinations at both the tenth grade level, and twelfth grade levels. We are appreciative of the support of the Council for our children from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

The curriculum we follow up to the eighth grade is a combination of the above prescribed ISCE course, elements of the International Baccalaureate approach, and the syllabuses of elementary and middle schools of excellence in India and the U.S. This is in keeping with our goal to provide world-class education for our children.

Operating Committee

The committee welcomes three new members in place of three members who are no longer with the Foundation. Dr. Uma Hiresave, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology, NIMHANS, Bangalore has followed the growth of Shanti Bhavan from its inception in 1997.
Dr. Vikram Kamath, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurology,
St. John's Medical College, Bangalore is the husband of Keerthi Rao Kamath, our clinical psychologist, currently on leave of absence.
Mrs. R. Satyan, former board member, readily accepted to be part of the operating committee. Mr. Jude Devdas, Mrs. Lalita Law and
Ms. Beena Nair are still part of the committee. This committee had its first meeting on 25th August 2003. Dr. George was a special invitee.

Staff and Children

Love blossoms in the gardens of Shanti Bhavan

Mr. Anil Kumar from our Facilities Department wed Shanthalakshmi of Siddenahalli Village on 21 February 2002. Anil and Shanthalakshmi met while both were working at their tasks in the gardens of
Shanti Bhavan. The bride's family and community members, all Hindus, participated in the Christian marriage service at the Faith Kamsam Church in the industrial area of Laggere, outside Bangalore. The bride was robed in a white wedding gown, complete with veil, tiara and
high-heeled shoes. She was christened 'Shantha'

While we rejoiced at their happiness, Dr. George jokingly remarked that the wedding is proof of The George Foundation efforts of converting innocent young women (village belles) to Christianity!

Shanti Bhavan has 140 children at present. A new batch of 24
Pre-schoolers - 12 girls and 12 boys, was welcomed to the
Shanti Bhavan family in June 2001. The Fourth Grade commenced from 1st June 2001. Several staff members have been employed to meet the growing needs of the institution. Administrative Staff, teachers, including a trained physical education teacher, caregivers, kitchen, cleaning, laundry, horticulture and security staff has swelled the ranks of on-campus and off-campus personnel. A second medical doctor has joined the Shanti Bhavan medical team. The Western music teacher will now spend two days on campus to cater to the growing number of aspiring young pianists and singers. A volunteer art teacher from LDS Humanitarian Services, Mrs. Ethel Caldwell, has undertaken the art program to help our children develop their artistic inclinations. Mr. M.K.Srinath, Environment Educator, and former Director Worldwide Fund for Nature, India, has been hired as a consultant to teach our children about respect for wildlife, and animals in general. The children are very enthusiastic about his campus visits and keep talking about caring for animals.

The Newshour with Jim Lehrer / Public Broadcasting System(PBS, U.S.) July 25, 2001

PBS Lehrer News hour featured Dr. Abraham George, Founder and Managing Trustee of The George Foundation in its program on national television in the U.S.A on 25th July 01.

Fred de Sam Lazaro had interviewed Dr. George at Shanti Bhavan in February 2001. Fred and his team spent an interesting and enjoyable half-day with Dr. George, staff and children. The text of the interview will give an idea of the impact of Dr. George's vision for poor children in India.

PBS interview

Shanti Bhavan & The George Foundation Reactions to the Terrorist Attack on the U.S.A

It was the evening of September 11th, 2001. The time: 1945 hrs Indian Standard Time. Mr. R. Devdas called from Bangalore to ask for the latest information from the TV news, as there was no power there. He said the World Trade Center has been bombed. By the time the TV in the dining hall was switched on to the BBC news channel, residential staff was escorting children to their dormitories after dinner. The remaining staff watched in horror as the shocking drama unfolded on the screen. In between, we switched to CNN for confirmation. Our immediate fear was for the safety of Dr. George, our founder, who was in Washington D.C that day and was due to travel from there to New York.

For the next couple of hours, adults who were not on duty with the children, stayed glued to their television sets. Most of us were unable to sleep, and we awaited news from Jude Devdas in Bangalore. Jude tried for several hours to get through to Mrs. George in New Jersey. In the wee hours of the morning our time, Mrs. George confirmed that her husband and their son Vivek in New York University were both okay.

At assembly the next morning the news was conveyed to the children and all staff. The principal let them in a special prayer for the people of New York and Washington who were suffering. Some had already seen the horrific images on the morning news. Everybody was visibly shaken. A few cried. There was fear, anger, sadness and concern. One girl wrote, "If other people destroy my country, I would be very angry and do the same thing to their country." A little boy wrote, "If I were in the U.S. I would join the rescue operation and take people out of the buildings." A third child said, "If I were there I would build a hospital and a restaurant." Another boy wrote, "I would take people to hospital and help people who lost their family." In the course of the day, several parents phoned to ask whether Dr. George was safe and to express their concern. The local village day staff initially reacted with amusement born out of their ignorance. Later, when they saw the newspaper pictures, they understood that something terrible had happened, and discovered a newfound interest in watching TV news. One of the laundry staff said that Dr. George should come and stay safely at Shanti Bhavan instead of such a dangerous place as New York. That night and the following nights, many of the children had difficulty sleeping.

For the next fortnight, at morning assemblies and evening prayers in their dormitories, children and staff prayed for the people of the United States of America. In their classrooms, the children expressed their feelings in drawing and writing. The children also wrote about the attacks on the US in their letters to their parents. Staff members took the initiative and met to discuss how they could conserve resources and cut down expenditure in the light of the downward spiral of the U.S. economy. The children also expressed their dismay at the financial market losses incurred by Dr. George. A little girl put it simply, "Now in the U.S.A money is less." They keep reminding each other not to waste money by scribbling in their books, leaving lights switched on, and faucets flowing. When they were taken on a picnic to Bangalore's Cubbon Park this week, some of the fourth graders said, "Why are we wasting money?"

The Preschoolers and kindergarten children saw a small aircraft on display in front of a tall building in Bangalore and asked, "Is this the plane that bombed the World Trade Center?" The children are coming with new aspirations each day, such as, "I will not do anything like this in my life," and, "I want to be a good grownup, not a bad grownup." Their childhood innocence has been marred by the behaviour of "grownups."

In Bangalore, Mr. R. Devdas emailed Dr. George with a message of concern from the TGF family. His email stated that it was a great tragedy for America, and an inhuman act. He also assured Dr. George that our prayers were with him and his family, friends and co-workers. Mr. Devdas also emailed Dr. George's neighbour, Roger, with condolences for the death of his wife Angela who was at a business meeting in one of the World Trade Center towers when a plane went through it. A prayer meeting was organized in the Devdas family home at 10 p.m. IST, on 26 September 01, to remember Angela and all those who lost their lives in the tragedy.

The faculty of the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media also emailed their expressions of concern and sadness at the tragedy.

All of us were afraid of losing our leader, Dr. George. Dr. George had driven by the Pentagon on his way to Baltimore just 20 minutes before the attack. His parents had watched the entire episode from their condo across the Hudson River. His son, Vivek, studies in New York University just a mile away from the World Trade Center. Dr. George used to have an office on the 29th floor of 1 WTC when the last bombing took place in 1993. With the tragedy for the American people has caused great financial losses. TGF has taken a decision to cut costs with immediate effect. We realize how close we came to becoming bereft of Dr. George's dynamic leadership and enduring vision. This time around, we consider ourselves fortunate to have
Dr. George's presence in our midst.

News dispatch by Dr. George from New York on the World Trade Center tragedy.

Brigham Young University visits Shanti Bhavan

History was made in a remote village, Baliganapalli, in Dharmapuri District, Tamil Nadu, in Southern India. Modern dance from the United States of America was brought to rural India, probably for the first time, thanks to Dan and Ethel Caldwell, our friends and
co-workers from LDS Humanitarian Services. The Dancer's Company from the Department of Dance, College of Human Health and Performance, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA, danced their way in to our lives over a magical day and two nights, on the 2nd and 3rd of August 2001. They were our honoured guests and we were privileged to spend some unforgettable moments with them.

Caroline Prohosky, Artistic Director, and Marilyn, together with their group of twenty dancers, spent the day giving creative dance workshops to our children from Pre School through Fourth Grade. The children learned to experience energy in nature and within themselves, and to express these in movement. The dancers' techniques were so expressive that language or accent was no bar to communication and learning. Their rehearsal was conducted in a way that the staff and children were able to appreciate the meaning of their movements and gestures. The rehearsal was a promising prelude to their evening performance.

Three hundred village guests from the villages surrounding
Shanti Bhavan, staff of The George Foundation office in Bangalore, staff of the foundation's health projects, and staff and students from the Indian Institute of Journalism & New Media, with the campus population of Shanti Bhavan, formed the audience for the dance performance. We experienced the zest of the Wild West in their first number, Rodeo. They took us on a trip Down Under in Ancient Walkings, a dance inspired by aboriginal cave paintings. Humour and good spirits came out in Songs without Words where the dancers made music with their bodies - foot tapping, hand clapping, finger snapping, heel clicking, head nodding, knee jerking and shoulder shrugging. In Hambone for Two, couples communicated through gestures, body movements and facial expressions. The dancers used ribbons of broad elastic to form shapes like triangles, squares, trapeziums and the like, in imitation of a butterfly in Chrysidiria. Their upbeat and lively finale, Upfront, captured the hearts of all. The students themselves choreographed it. Sheer joy of dance was the hallmark of their spectacular performance.

The success of their performance was in no small measure attributable to their superb co-ordination backstage. Their stage management, lighting and sound were all executed efficiently by their stage production team. Their combined achievement was a lesson in teamwork for us all.
It was a learning experience of a unique kind because they brought us more than just their expertise in dance. Their individual and collective dedication, commitment and discipline impressed us. The children responded spontaneously to their genuine warmth and caring. Nobody will ever forget what she or he learned that day.
A thousand thanks from all of us from Shanti Bhavan BYU Dancers' Company. Come back to dance with us!

Please click here to view children's expressions on BYU Dancers

Visitors

Our most eminent visitor has been Sri IK Gujral. In the words of the former prime minister in the Visitor's Book: " I am highly impressed both by the idea and the venture. It's unique in perception and equally remarkable in the dedication of the staff and the trust. My compliments to George.Now I see what a single man's vision can do. Thanks."

The parents of our children are regular visitors. They have all met
Dr. George on two occasions in July and August of this year. Their questions were answered and their doubts were clarified. Dr. George reiterated the policy of taking one child from each family, and the rationale behind it.
Visitors from different walks of life continue to visit Shanti Bhavan. We have had the opportunity to welcome artists, dancers, architects, journalists, doctors, government officials, scientists, social workers, volunteers, entrepreneurs, agriculturists and curious onlookers. Their unanimous response has been, "The children look happy." They also appreciate the openness of the children and the dedication of the staff.
We are very grateful to Dr. Raphael Parambi, a dentist from Bangalore, who spent a good part of his Sunday with the children and staff.
Dr. Parambi taught the children about the importance of dental hygiene, and personally demonstrated how to brush the teeth of each of our 140 children. The children found his presentation entertaining. He also recommended dental treatment for about 16 children. The children are very particular about brushing their teeth properly each night as a result of the dentist's visit. Colgate, Bombay, was kind enough to donate children's toothbrushes and miniature tubes of toothpaste as well as fun workbooks about dental care for our children.
A volunteer Lorelle Angelo, from Ontario, Canada, , spent the month of August 2001 with us to help out with the music and singing program for our children. Lorelle is training to be an opera singer in her home country.
Our most eminent visitors in early August were from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. It was the experience of a lifetime for us.

 

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