Highlights

I can’t believe a year has passed and we are gearing up to visit our beloved Shanti Bhavan family again.

What a year it has been for our little school in the middle of nowhere! Apart from the fact that over 200 fantastic kids got a year older, wiser and smarter, there were so many exceptional moments. I’ll summarise some of the highlights here.

Poetry Award

Preetha in 11th Grade won the Times of India poetry competition – the only one of the winners who was not a university student. The Times is one of the largest circulation newspapers in the world and they chose her poem to print in their anthology. When I congratulated her on having her first poem published, she said humbly, that it was actually her second. She had been published in a “She’s the First” anthology two years earlier!

Preetha and Vice Principal, Ms Beena, at the Poetry Awards

Preetha and Vice Principal, Ms Beena, at the Poetry Awards

Scholarship to Japan

Yeshwini (9th Grade) was awarded a full three-year scholarship to an international residential school in Japan. She commenced in September and is now adding Japanese to her English, Hindi, Tamil and local dialect. She will study for the International Baccalaureat. It was a real dilemma for SB when she was asked to apply for the scholarship. Would she still be an SB kid if she graduates from a different institution? You bet! She would never have been selected if SB hadn’t helped her to become who she is today.

Yeshwini feeling the cold in Japan

Yeshwini feeling the cold in Japan

TedX talk

Ajit George, in charge of US Operations and a son of the founder,  gave a TedX talk using SB as an example. His main message was that, “The goal of a successful non-profit education program should not be education. [It] should be to permanently uplift a child from poverty. The goal is to break the cycle of poverty because, to a child who lives in poverty and has no other hope, it is the only benchmark that matters.”

Ajit George at TedX

Ajit George at TedX

Italy Trip

Meanwhile Harish, Vijay, Hannah Mercy and Bhuvaneshwari (Bug), from 9th Grade were selected to go to Italy for three weeks to stay with Italian families and experience a very different culture.

Four lucky 9th Graders in Milan

Four lucky 9th Graders in Milan

Documentary about first batch of students to graduate from SB

In May, a film about the first ever class to graduate from SB premiered in Canada. It was being made during our first year at the school. It’s called, ‘The Backward Class’, a name sometimes given to the lowest caste Indian ‘Dalits’ or ‘Untouchables’. The documentary shows that these kids are far from ‘backward’. There were nearly 200 documentaries shown at the Toronto Hot Docs festival. A record 200,000 people attended screenings. And the winner of the audience award was…. The Backward Class! Two of the students, now graduated from university and working in great jobs, were flown over for the Q&A sessions after each showing. The trailer can be seen at:

Backward Class wins Audience Award at Hot Docs Festival Toronto

Backward Class wins Audience Award at Hot Docs Festival Toronto

The film was also shown at the Whistler Film Festival in December where it received the Best World Documentary Award and the director, Madeleine Grant, won the Best Female-Directed Film award. This time graduate Mala went to the festival for the Q&As and won audience hearts for her poise and her articulate responses. The Elle Canada magazine did a beautiful photo shoot and interview with Maddie and Mala. The interview is at:

http://www.ellecanada.com/blog/2014/12/05/whistler-film-festival-photo-studio-diary-day-1/

Visali wows Carnegie Hall

As if it couldn’t get any better, 13 year-old Visali, was selected to participate in the Glamour Magazine’s Women of the Year Awards in New York. She was one of ten girls from different countries chosen as The Bravest Girls in the World: those striving for an education despite all odds. While on stage they received video congratulations from Nobel Peace Prize winner, Malala Yousafzai. Of the ten girls, Visali was further selected to give thanks for the award on behalf of the group. This was in front of the capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall. Unfazed by audience members, such as Hilary Clinton, she did an outstanding job. Later she mingled with politicians, celebrities and UN ambassadors with aplomb. Visali also received a personal letter of congratulations from Michelle Obama.

Visali centre stage - Carnegie Hall

Visali centre stage – Carnegie Hall

So many SB kids are now at university!

On our last day in India in March we had lunch with some of the school graduates (now university students) and some of the volunteers in Bangalore. They are all such a delight. Those who have already graduated from university have great jobs with big name companies and are now able to ‘uplift’ their families and communities from poverty, to use Ajit’s phrase.

SB uni student lunch with volunteers

SB uni student lunch with volunteers

Looking forward to 2015

As we welcome in 2015, I wonder what exciting opportunities it will hold for Shanti Bhavan. We’ll try to blog weekly when we return to teach for a month at the end of January. You can set it up to send you an email when a new post is added. Let me know if you need help to do this.

Kandy and Barney wish you a Happy New Year for 2015!

[NB: Thank you to volunteers and others for the photographs]

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