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.
Natasha Khanna – Director of Communications
Natasha Khanna has been the Director of Communications for Shanti Bhavan since the Fall of 2010. In this role, Natasha provides fundraising, communications, and donor and media relations support to Shanti Bhavan’s Director of Operations.
Prior to serving as an on-site teacher at Shanti Bhavan for seven months, Natasha worked at Robinson Lerer and Montgomery, a communications firm specializing in crisis management. In this role, she worked on teams providing strategic council to numerous Fortune 500 companies spanning the healthcare, consumer and financial services industries. She has also held public and media affairs positions for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and The Society for Human Resource Management. Natasha received her B.S in Media Arts and Design from James Madison University in 2003. She is currently studying Social Policy at The University of Michigan, where she is receiving her Masters in Social Work.
Rahil Tejani – Director of Administration
Rahil Tejani served as the On Site Administrator (OSA) at Shanti Bhavan in 2011. After serving as the OSA, she returned to the U.S. committed to the success of the children and the mission of the George Foundation and since then has helped with researching and writing grant opportunities, fundraising and serving as a mentor to the graduates. In her role with the Administration team, Rahil keeps the website up to date, creates newsletter campaigns, and maintains operational databases.
Prior to her term as an OSA, Rahil worked for Aga Khan Development Network, American Red Cross and various other nonprofit organizations, both in the U.S. and abroad. Rahil graduated from the University of Dallas with an MBA in Not-for-Profit Management. She also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Political Science. Rahil studied at the Middlesex University in London, UK concentrating on Third World Studies.
Maura McNamara – Senior Associate of Volunteer Services
Maura McNamara has been the Senior Associate of Volunteer Services since spring 2011. After serving as a volunteer English Literature and Language teacher for the 11th and 12th grades at Shanti Bhavan in 2010, she returned to the U.S. committed to serving the school and the mission of the George Foundation. In her role with the U.S. Operations team, Maura works with the Director of Volunteer Services in reviewing applications, conducting interviews, and holding trainings for future volunteers.
Before joining the Shanti Bhavan team, Maura worked in the Outreach Department at Sesame Workshop, where she supported the development and distribution of “When Families Grieve,” a support kit for children of military and civilian families coping with the loss of a parent. She has also interned at ABC and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. She received her BA in English from Columbia University in 2011 with honors and currently works as an actor and illustrator in New York.
Meg VanDeusen – Senior Associate of 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.
Dimitri Zakharov – Senior Associate of Administration
Dimitri Zakharov has been working with Shanti Bhavan’s operations team since December 2008. He has been responsible for organizing grassroots fundraising campaigns, creating web media and newsletters, organizing events, interviewing and coordinating volunteers, and maintaining operations databases. He has also been a part of the various communication efforts, such as Shanti Bhavan grants, videos, and publications. Dimitri has traveled to India twice to observe the school and help with on the ground operations.
Dimitri received a B.S. in Finance and International Business from the New York University Stern School of Business. He currently works at Capital IQ, a financial research and technology firm, where he works as a sales associate representing dozens of finance firms in New York City. Since an early age, Dimitri has studied a variety of musical instruments, including guitar, saxophone, ukelele, clarinet and flute, which he has had the privilege to perform at Shanti Bhavan.
Vivek George – Social Media Lead
Vivek George has been dedicated to Shanti Bhavan for many years. Leveraging various ventures in the social media space, Vivek is helping to build a strong digital following for the Shanti Bhavan Children’s Project.
Before joining the SB team, Vivek ran a mobile application startup called Dimmi. Before doing his masters Vivek worked for Shanti Bhavan, in India for two years. Additionally, Vivek was one of the first volunteers of the school. Vivek recently completed his MBA from New York University’s Stern School of Business and writes a blog about the new media space which you can follow at: www.vivekmgeorge.blogspot.com.
Maria Reyes-Gaskin – Social Media Analyst
Maria Reyes-Gaskin joined the Shanti Bhavan team in July 2011 and manages all things social media, from updating platforms to gathering content.
Maria Reyes-Gaskin currently attends New York University’s Stern School of Business and will graduating with a degree in Marketing and Latino Studies in 2013. Prior to working with Shanti Bhavan, Maria worked on social media for start-ups and compiled reports for a market research company. In her free time, Maria enjoys the arts, including photography, music, and film.