Dr. Abraham George – Founder
As founder and main benefactor in the initial ten years, Dr.George and his vision for alleviating poverty and social justice 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 (see www.iijnm.org), 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 (see www.tgfworld.org/lead.html).
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.
To learn more about Dr. George, click here.
Beena Nair – Vice Principal
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. Prior to joining Shanti Bhavan in 1999, she taught at the Air Force School (CBSE) in Udhampur, the Residential Public School in Mussoorie, and at Saraswati Vidyalaya in Trivandrum. Throughout her teaching career, Ms. Nair has consistently been promoted to additional positions of responsibility, including House Mistress in a boarding school and Senior Assistant Teacher to the Principal in a day school.
As Vice Principal at Shanti Bhavan, Ms. Nair is responsible for scheduling classes, overseeing residential care of children and staff, and general administration. Among her many contributions to the school, Ms. Nair has been responsible for providing the foundation in the learning of Hindi – a challenge for many South Indian children who are not familiar with the language. Ms. Nair continues to monitor the Hindi program from the beginning 2nd Grade class, which she insists on teaching herself, right through to the 10th Grade class based on the ICSE exam, considered among the most difficult in India. Ms. Nair also coaches children in General Knowledge, a subject taught in Indian schools about government leaders, important historical events and other topical general information.
Ms. Nair is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in History. She holds a Bachelor of Education in the teaching of English and Social Studies, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in the 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.
Ajit George – Director of Operations
Ajit George is a passionate advocate of the transformative power of education for the underprivileged and socially discriminated. He has been the Director of Operations for the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project since 2008. His responsibilities include the management of various areas of operation, including fundraising, communications, partnerships, volunteer and teacher recruitment as well as strategic planning for the organization. Ajit also oversees the mentorship program for graduates of Shanti Bhavan as they integrate into college and the professional workforce. As Director of Operations, Ajit has expanded the donor base for Shanti Bhavan through both grassroots channels and grant and corporate-oriented focuses with new partnerships in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He has also enlarged the volunteer population at Shanti Bhavan by creating a program that continually draws high-quality and dedicated individuals from around the world. The school has hosted over 300 volunteers from 12 countries since its inception.
Ajit has a background in systems administration. Before working full time with Shanti Bhavan, he worked as an organizer at the Center for Human Rights in Dallas, TX, an organization working for immigration rights. Ajit spends two and half months out of the year working directly in the field at Shanti Bhavan. Watch Ajit’s TEDx talk on Shanti Bhavan: Click here for video.
Kate Elsinger has been working with Shanti Bhavan contributing her administrative experience since 2011. Her job duties include 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.
Meg VanDeusen – Senior Associate – Administration
Meg VanDeusen taught Shanti Bhavan’s 6th, 7th, and 8th grade classes during the summer of 2011 and has been serving as Senior Director of Administration since returning to the States. She remains highly committed to the success of the children and the mission of The George Foundation. In her role with the Administration team, Meg keeps the website up to date, creates newsletter campaigns, and maintains operational databases.
Meg is a junior undergraduate studying Anthropology, Women and Gender Studies, and Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she is passionate about creating equality in food access and in education in order to break down the barriers created by socioeconomic class and gender relations. She dedicates her time to maintaining HOPE Gardens, a hybrid community garden and urban farm which seeks to bridge the gaps between all residents in Chapel Hill.
Vivek George – Senior Associate – Administration
Whitney Beltrán – Social Media Lead & Consultant – Administration
Whitney Beltrán plays an important administrative support role at Shanti Bhavan, helping with everything from managing media relations and grant writing research, to assisting with technological roll out initiatives.
Whitney has been working with various non-profit organizations for over seven years, and across continents. She’s worked on the ground in South America on education, ethnographic preservation, and environmental initiatives, as well projects associated with the arts, education, sustainable food, and child nutrition in urban food deserts in the United States. Whitney has an undergraduate degree in Environmental Policy from the University of Tulsa, and an M.A. in Mythological Studies from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is currently pursuing her PhD.
Ashley Monroe – Senior Administrator – Volunteer Services
Ashley Brooke Monroe began working for Shanti Bhavan as the On-Site Administrator in January 2012. After spending six fantastic months on campus, she returned to the states and has served as the Senior Administrator for Volunteer Services ever since. Her responsibilities include interviewing all potential volunteers, helping train new volunteers and providing logistical support for both the team on the ground in India and here in the U.S.
Ashley also works as a teaching artist for Artists Striving to End Poverty and taught theatre at Shanti Bhavan for ASTEP’s 2014 summer arts camp. She lives in New York City and works as an acting teacher, theatre director and casting associate. She holds a BFA in theatre from the University of Oklahoma. Ashley is incredibly passionate about the life-changing education Shanti Bhavan provides for its children and looks forward to continuing her work towards that mission.