Posted by Leslie Bouche
Rotary Club of Ojai and Prashanti School, Puri, India

Prashanti School (PS), in Puri, Odisha, India, was started in response to a Category 5 hurricane that devastated the area in late 1999. (We have certainly seen recently how destructive these storms can be!)The founder, Elizabeth Burnett from Ojai, California, had an ongoing tutoring program in Puri. After the hurricane, there were so many children left homeless, the local government asked if she could take in a few of them. In January 2000, twenty-one children were delivered to her! The non-profit Prashanti School was born. These children needed immediate 24/7 housing, food, clothing, medical care, and schooling. They were ragged, sick and traumatized.   Back in the US, friends began a grassroots effort to provide funding to support these destitute children. Thus began World Family Foundation (WFF), based in Ojai, California, which in 2002 became a registered 501-c-3 non-profit to manage sponsorships and donations for the children of Prashanti School. WFF is an all volunteer service organization.Over the years, it became increasingly apparent that the need for programs like Prashanti School in Puri goes far beyond any single disaster. Many, many children in the poor village areas are still trapped in the cycle of extreme poverty and low expectations that has defined their families for generations. Lack of basic literacy is a core problem, especially for women, where, in the villages, the rate of literacy can be as low as 25%. Many women can’t even sign their names – they sign with a thumbprint.

Although the economy of India has been growing, the benefits often do not reach the lowest levels of society. In fact, recent studies have shown that the gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” has simply grown wider. 
Economic inequality in India may well be at its highest level in 92 years. Even as the wealth of the top 2% increases, India still remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Rotarians know that peace grows when underlying causes of conflict are addressed, such as poverty, lack of access to education, and hopelessness. Peace becomes possible when people feel they have the opportunity to better themselves and their lives, and when they know their children can have bright futures.

Prashanti School and World Family Foundation are dedicated to providing a quality, values-based education for impoverished children in the Puri area. The excellent academic curriculum is enriched by the weaving in of the human values Truth, Right Action, Peace, Love and Non-Violence. The program includes a focus on English language learning and computer literacy, as these are essential for higher education and for good jobs in modern India. PS is also committed to equal education for girls, and to helping girls and boys stay in school through high school graduation and beyond. The program also emphasizes selfless service and teaching the kids the importance of giving back to the community.


Tuition is free for destitute, indigent children who need full support and daily tutoring in the residential program, and at a very low cost for those from low-income village families. No other school in Puri offers this type of quality education that is affordable for very low-income families.

Prashanti School includes a boarding program for about 40 children between the ages of 5 and 16, and a day school with classes pre-Kindergarten through 7th grade with a current enrollment greater than 200 students. PS is adding a grade each year, and has nearly completed Phase One of a building project to construct more classrooms.


The Rotary Club of Ojai has partnered with WFF and PS by providing RC grants for three commercial grade water purification units, a District grant for laptop computers for each classroom, and most recently, an RC grant for a large water tank, tile work, and sanitary fixtures for the restrooms in the new school building. The loving participation by Ojai Rotary has also encouraged and supported involvement with Prashanti School by three Rotary Clubs in the Puri area (RI District 3262). These clubs have helped the school by partially funding one of the drinking water units, helping improve existing classroom facilities, and bringing blankets, warm sweaters, school supplies, etc. for the residential children. The Rotary Club of Srikshetra Puri, the Rotary Club of Sri Jagannath Dham Puri, and the ladies wing of the Rotary Club of Srikshetra, the Inner Wheel, continue to lovingly support the needy children of Prashanti School.

It is clear that as well as helping individual children and their families advance, this work in Puri is about helping mold the hearts and minds of these young people who are the future of modern India. Literacy, girls education, teaching good values, and a commitment to serving the community (Service Above Self) – this is a recipe that creates real, lasting change, and builds the foundation for a peaceful, healthy society. Like the ripples of a pond, the effects go out to the family, the community, to future generations and to the world.

Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty – Rotarians know that education with values and a commitment to service is positively transformative!