India—one of the world’s fastest-growing economies—is taking several measures to ensure inclusive growth.
Creating access to quality education is one such critical measure. A good education can connect the underprivileged with life-changing opportunities, such as well-paying jobs, enabling them to build a secure future. Institutions like Shanti Bhavan are playing an important role in enabling this vision.
A non-profit residential school on the outskirts of Bengaluru (Karnataka), Shanti Bhavan is empowering children from poor socioeconomic backgrounds to break the cycle of poverty by providing them quality education—from preschool to university. The initiative, supported in part by ExxonMobil, also provides food, housing, clothing, and medical care for its students.
For three young Indian women—Janani, Rasiga, and Anjali—Shanti Bhavan had a transformative impact: it opened up their world for them. From being supported by ExxonMobil to working for the company today, they’ve come a long way. Discover their inspiring journey from poverty to a future filled with opportunities.
Janani: Upstream Asset Surveillance Engineer, Bengaluru Technology Center, ExxonMobil
Janani, fourth from the right, and other young girls and mentors from Shanti Bhavan
Janani says Shanti Bhavan gave her opportunities she would not have had, putting her on the path to become the first female engineer to graduate from the school.
“Usually the girls back home, once they come of age, they’re married off. Most of the time they’re not allowed to work,” Janani says. “I was lucky to have a mother who saw the importance of education as an alternative for her daughters.”
Her mother, who was a domestic help and the family’s breadwinner, had suffered severe burns that left her unable to work when Janani was younger. Even though her father worked as a laborer, money was tight, and Janani’s education seemed unlikely.
“A neighbor had been caring for me and my sister while my mother recovered, and her daughter was studying at Shanti Bhavan. When she saw our struggles, she suggested my mother send me too,” Janani explains. Thus, at the age of four, she left home to start a new life at Shanti Bhavan.
“My parents wouldn’t have been able to afford a prestigious school for me, so I’m grateful for the sacrifice my mother made when she brought me to Shanti Bhavan 19 years ago,” she says.
“Shanti Bhavan opened a world beyond the troubles of my family or the village I came from. It gave me the opportunity to dream. I wouldn’t have had the confidence to work for a company like ExxonMobil if it was not for my education.”
The school also provided her with an opportunity to meet professionals, including engineers, doctors, and business experts, and learn about different careers.
“One thing that got me through college was the advice I received from an ExxonMobil employee during an employee-engagement program in high school. They said that it doesn’t matter what college you graduate from, what really matters is hard work and your commitment to achieving your goals,” says Janani.
“Today I can proudly say that I’m Shanti Bhavan’s first female engineer. I’m a confident young woman with a voice of her own, working for ExxonMobil, where I strongly believe we’re doing everything we can to help advance India’s access to energy.”
Rasiga: IT Customer Insights Analyst, Bengaluru Campus, ExxonMobil
The opportunity to play football with other students is one of Rasiga’s favorite memories from Shanti Bhavan
Rasiga says her journey has taken her further than she could have imagined.
She arrived at Shanti Bhavan at the age of three since her parents were unable to afford education for all four of their children.
“Shanti Bhavan took care of everything: accommodation, food, clothes and education. My parents considered it an opportunity to give me a better life. I was fortunate to have a second family that cared for me and loved me like their own,” Rasiga says.
“If I hadn’t started at Shanti Bhavan, I would probably have not studied beyond the 10th grade, getting married right after without any career prospects,” she adds.
“In fact, I may not have received an education at all if it wasn’t for Shanti Bhavan. That’s why it’s so important that companies like ExxonMobil support Shanti Bhavan’s mission in any way they can.”
Some of Rasiga’s favourite Shanti Bhavan memories are from the school’s football ground. “It felt great to be back there recently with my ExxonMobil colleagues for a football match. It’s a nice opportunity to engage with the youths studying there and just be an example for them to look up to.”
Anjali: IT Compliance Analyst, Bengaluru Campus, ExxonMobil
Anjali, back row, far left, with other former Shanti Bhavan students
Anjali says it was life-changing to have access to the kind of education Shanti Bhavan offers.
“I’m who I am today only because of Shanti Bhavan. If it wasn’t for them, my life would have turned out very different … a bitter one,” Anjali says.
She came to Shanti Bhavan at the age of three. “My mother wanted me to have an education, so I wouldn’t go through the same struggles as her. She wanted a different life for me,” Anjali says.
“So, when we heard about Shanti Bhavan through a family friend, my parents enrolled me. Without that, I would probably have ended up working as a domestic help at a very young age with no proper education and, therefore, no future.”
It was life-changing for Anjali to have access to the kind of education Shanti Bhavan offers. She knows from personal experience how donors like ExxonMobil and others enable institutions like Shanti Bhavan to continue their work.
“A world-class education can be transformative for children from underprivileged backgrounds. Support from organizations like ExxonMobil helps to ensure children like me have an opportunity to dream big and to change their lives,” Anjali says.
Anjali’s career eventually led her to ExxonMobil, where she’s excited about the company’s role in advancing India’s access to natural gas-based energy.
“I remember being part of an unprivileged community with limited to no energy access. We used logs, sticks and bark to light fires for cooking and light,” Anjali says.