Destitute children, coming from a background of chaos, defeat, unpredictability and despair, will not have learned the rules of an orderly universe, acquired logical skills, or developed a trust in their own efficacy. Already by age four, they would be lagging measurably behind their more fortunate counterparts in the ability to reason and use language. Being a part of the social underclass, they may also be feeling and lacking drive or determination. Needless to say, without proper intervention the children will remain poverty's captives, a burden to themselves and a burden to society.
Shanti Bhavan seeks to provide the type of intervention that will overcome the cumulative negative effects of serious deprivation and mainstream children into well rounded, wholesome, productive individuals. Shanti Bhavan will bring order and predictability to their lives via daily routines, rules and regulations, and consistency in carrying them out. One-on-one tutoring is offered to children in need of remediation. Children are provided nutritious meals and superior health care. Staff members, volunteers, and surrogate parents are partners in children's learning experiences. Children's special interests and talents are encouraged and developed. Children receive developmentally oriented care, with nurturing, hugs, approval, and responsiveness, and they are intellectually stimulated with books, the spoken word, and through interchange of ideas. The results are both measurable and dramatic.
The educational program emphasizes the all-round development of children via a well-planned and executed curriculum. The program includes structured instruction in languages (vernacular and English) and arithmetic, both of which are developmentally oriented. For children five and above, each class comprising 24 students is conducted in a formal setting. For four-year old pre-schoolers, the learning environment is informal, and teaching is conducted alongside games and other activities. Children of all age groups will also acquire communication skills and team spirit from participating in informal group activities (examples: arts and musical activities, games, dramatic performances, etc.). Sessions in emotional intelligence and value development are also routinely conducted. Since advanced communication skills are a key part of leadership training, every effort is taken to further this potential. Older children have opportunities to engage in debates, oratorical exercises, and independent projects.
The children of Shanti Bhavan are provided state-of-the-art books, supplies, and equipment to aid in their learning. Computers, television sets, and audio-visual equipment are utilized for teaching/learning purposes. Children are able to watch, as a part of evening and week-end entertainment, videos of educational and cultural programs, i.e., videos on:
- wild life, marine life, and domestic animals,
- people and cultures,
- events (music concerts, sports, historic events),
- comedy (clowns, cartoons),
Also, artists are invited to Shanti Bhavan periodically to give evening performances for the children.
The goal is to make Shanti Bhavan a fun place to grow up--a place where staff are enthusiastic and where children love to stay. Children growing up in this environment are bound to develop a sense of security, abandon the inhibitions that curtail growth, and blossom into wholesome individuals. The key to a child's positive development would be support, encouragement and appreciation, and each success, big and small, would serve as motivation for trying even harder; there is no better medicine to cure poor self-esteem than success. As self-esteem and pride develop, children will begin to trust their own capabilities, take on more initiatives, and realize that they can indeed live up to their potential as full and equal members of society, so long as they persevere and apply themselves to the best of their ability. We hope that the children of Shanti Bhavan will grow up to be not just professionally successful individuals, but also to be good human beings.