Nestled in the Indian Himalayan foothills, Shanti Niketan Children’s Home has been a home for vulnerable children in need of care and protection for 34 years.
And it is still considered ‘home’ for many alumni reintegrated into society across India.
With the simple idea: “Take Root Below, Bear Fruit Above”, the Home and its Directors Hmuni and Suvarna are an illustration of what it means to make ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’
Shanti Niketan took root on the site of a 100-year-old leprosy mission hospital. Since that time, the Home has slowly rejuvenated the property, making it more suitable to the needs of 90 boys and girls and nearly 20 staff who live there.
Along the way, a Canadian charity, Child of Mine, became a financial partner with the Home. Off campus, Child of Mine helped alumni pursue post-secondary education or vocational training.
On the campus, they helped with property improvements. At first the focus was on smaller-scale projects such as painting, pavers, and fixing leaky roofs. But there were greater needs to be addressed.
In 2012, EMI was invited to work with the Home to develop a master plan. During the planning process it became clear that a new boys’ dormitory was the key to the future development of the campus. (Girls had been served first by a modern facility built in the mid-90s.)
Just as the project was gaining momentum, however, Shanti Niketan faced a major transition. The Home needed to integrate with state protocols and authority mechanisms for registering and caring for orphans and vulnerable children.
It was a challenging, uncertain, multi-year effort that set all plans for future development on hold. But now by the grace of God, Shanti Niketan is a registered, state-sponsored, NGO provider of care and protection for vulnerable children.
And this old rendering of a new boy’s dorm has finally become a reality.
It took over nine years, but the impact will be lasting.
Browse the photo gallery to learn more about dormitory project impact.
The dormitory also represents a mountain of team effort and cooperation:
EMI design and construction oversight, Child of Mine’s capital fundraising, and Home alumnus, Bhagat Singh, who took on the challenge of dorm construction as contractor during Covid.
But most importantly, it was Shanti Niketan leadership and staff who persevered through it all.
Suitably named ‘Shalom’, the building stands for a work of God’s grace in bringing the Home through many challenges to a place of greater wholeness.
Still, there is nothing spectacular about the daily rhythms of the Home. There are responsibilities, routines, school and study times, exercises and free play. And many Shanti Niketan staff have been patiently caring for children for decades.
Numerous Home alumni now have families of their own and contribute to society as nurses and teachers, tradespeople and professionals, in business and academics.
But one new profession was recently added to the list.
Ashok was a teenager at Shanti Niketan when EMI first started working there. In fact, he took part in a mini ‘career fair’ an EMI design team held on the campus.
A group of older children had the chance to learn about civil engineering, architecture, and surveying and ask questions.
Hmuni remembers, “When the EMI team first came, Ashok was one of the boys looking closely at the drawings."
“I remember EMI people used to come to help the Home,” Ashok said, “At that time I knew who is working for God, for the children, for needy people...”
Recognizing a growing interest in drawing and computers, Ashok pursued and completed studies in architecture. Then this Shanti Niketan alumni joined an EMI internship in Delhi across 2022.
Now as an associate staff architect, Ashok is part of the design team.
“When Ashok said he wanted to do architecture, we were very happy,” Hmuni recalls, “he would be our first child to become an architect!
“Now, of course, there are many other places he can work, but he chose EMI to serve the Lord.”
November, 2023 will mark 25 years since EMI started putting roots down in India, making its own ‘long obedience in the same direction.’
Because of that, we now have the joy of seeing a person who benefitted from EMI's service to a ministry now serving other ministries by joining EMI.
Ashok never got to live in the new boy’s dorm at Shanti Niketan. But he doesn’t make much of this.
He's more excited about the opportunity to help other children's homes in India as an EMI architect.
“As I grew at the Home, the staff gave me roots and a strong foundation,” he says, “they serve God and sacrifice their lives for children…
"Now it’s my turn to bear fruit and serve others.”