Meet The Team

We are an international team of people who believe in the power of education and human empowerment through giving care, love, encouragement, and an opportunity for self-development. We have different cultural and educational backgrounds, but we share a passion for creating this community space to help encourage people to learn, explore, co-operate, and live a better life.

We work for a small community on the outskirts of Varanasi. They are the heart of the Ganga Learning Centre. We are a team of teachers and passionate change makers from India, Germany, Serbia, and the United Kingdom.

Brigitte Bhavani Ganter, Board member – Project leader and Financial manager

“My vision is to support children on their path of life. Sustainable education is one of the basic needs to learn for life and build up skills in multifold ways. Education and social development are interlinked and to bring this to the children, women and families of a community is crucial for the development of self-esteem and economic independence. To strengthen each member as well as the families is part of building a strong community. Support in a long run is always to support people to make them capable to help themselves and be independent – and my aim is “the long run”

Bhavani brings in ideas and skills from a long experience of teaching on all kinds of different topics (eg. Software, Financial management, Yoga, Ayurveda, Energetic Healing) and besides being responsible for the project as the project leader she see it as her special task to provide funds for the project by fund raising in Germany in various ways as well as networking there.

Bhavani has 22 years of experience in project administration, financial management of projects, management and support of projects worldwide. Teaching and training new project managers and local people esp. in financial management of projects as well as budget planning nearly 20 years. I have a long term working experience in projects in Africa and Asia.

Bhavani is a dedicated yoga teacher and Ayurveda therapist. She has conducted teacher trainings as well as courses and permanent classes for the past 12 years and supported people through health counseling and energetic healing.

E-mail: bhavani@gangalearningcenter.org

Manishankar Tripathi, Founder – Project manager

“I’m blessed to have learnt tabla, an Indian classical instrument. As a musician, I’ve visited Europe many times over the last 20 years. For me, it’s been a place for inter-cultural learning, making friends, spreading the beauty of Indian classical music, and finally, pondering about humanity, and different social and cultural ways to live together. Each time I learnt something I tried to incorporate in my life back in India. I always wanted to take the best practices from Europe and India, and use them to help build a better life for my community. I’ve met amazing people along the way. They became my friends and my family, and today we work together to reach our goal of creating a place to share knowledge, culture, our lives, and an opportunity to become better people. I love playing music, because that’s a heartfelt, deepest gift I can give to my friends. My work for the GLC is just like my music.” M. Tripathi

Manishankar is a professional table player and a businessman. He is responsible for local implementation of the project and he makes sure that international cooperation expectations and local reality meet. He bridges different cultures with a deep wisdom and understanding of local forces and people’s sensibility.

E-mail: manishankar@gangalearningcenter.org

Milica Bojic, Founder - Project developer & Communication manager

“People often ask me “Why did you choose Varanasi?” I tell them that it chose me. When I visited first time I was deeply saddened by the situation regarding gender inequality in Varanasi. My activist spirit that always wants to improve and move things initiated an exciting journey that has transformed me as much as or even more than my actions have transformed the environment of my influence. My vision was to create a safe and supportive space for local women to spend time together learning and working while creating education opportunities for their children.

For me, community development is all about creating possibilities for improvement within the framework of the values of the community. My job is not to fix anything but remind people on how beautiful they are because sometimes we forget it.

I question the perception of poverty based on the concept of a linear progress rooted in the Western business and governing practices. Material wealth is only one of the components of a person’s wellbeing. This is why we need to rethink the whole idea of poverty alleviation and move towards building happy communities that live in balance with nature and each other.

I’ve observed grace and deep wisdom of being a dedicated nurturer from Indian women who have an amazing strength of dancing even when it rains. I am honored to be a part of their community.”

Milica nurtures the international network of people who make and support our community. She’s dedicated to the GLC development and she often spends time in Varanasi learning about culture and local needs while pondering ways to satisfy them in the most efficient and yet meaningful and sustainable way. Ideas born in talking circles and “Aha!” creative moments are her favorite. She often gives “a headache” to the local management who’s kindly asked to carry out one more “little task” that makes this centre vibrant and responsive to its community aspirations.

E-mail: milica@gangalearningcenter.org

Paul Knight, Board member – Fundraiser and Strategist

“I feel very fortunate in life. The NHS saved me at birth, I had great educational opportunities based on ability and not money and I have worked in Healthcare for 40 years, which in itself is very emotionally rewarding. But most of all I have been brought up in and have a lovely family. A Sea of Love. I believe fundamentally that everyone should have the same opportunities in life that I have been blessed with. Its time that I gave a bit back.”

Paul is a semi retired Pharmacist and Retailer .His strengths and experience however lie in Business Direction, It is those Operational and Motivational skills that he brings to the GLC.

E-mail: paul@gangalearningcenter.org

Maxine, English granny

When I retired I was very sad thinking that a major part of my life was gone. Instead I discovered Granny Cloud and GLC. Now I am learning again how to connect with youngsters in India, how to help them learn to speak and understand English. While I have to go back to basics and learn to present concepts in ways that the children will appreciate and understand. How wonderful! I am able to keep on learning and I hope the youngsters In Varanasi are also able to learn.

All her working life Maxine has been a teacher. She was and is passionate about teaching, about the interaction with young people at secondary level and sixth form and helping them learn about themselves and the world around them. Maxine also loved the subject she taught which was English, both Literature and Language. She have become fascinated by the way the language keeps changing and adapting to the changing world around us.

Katharine Langley Hamel, English granny

I have involved with GLC for four years now and I am proud to work with the children and staff in this wonderful centre. I really enjoy my weekly Skype sessions with Prem, Ritu and the youngest children at GLC. I learn something new every time and we have fun talking, making things and sharing songs. I feel very lucky to play a small part helping them to become more confident in speaking English.

Katharine taught young children in schools for many years and worked in a university as a senior lecturer, training students to become teachers for twenty years. She is now retired and lives in the north of England. Katharine is still busy teaching English to young people from other parts of the world who have come to live and work in England. She has eleven grandchildren who often come to stay with her. Her grandchildren join our Skype sessions from time to time.

Prem Prakash Pandey, Assistant teacher

“I am really happy to work with the GLC. I like to support everyone who needs support. Not only that I teach but I learn so much about life through this project.”

Prem is our assistant teacher. He facilitates Skype English classes and he's teaching computer skills to the ladies and the children at the GLC. Prem also takes care of the volunteers and visitor who come to the GLC. He’s supporting international communications by providing regular updates, reports, and photo material. Prem is bright, fun, and great with kids!

Rani Vishwakarma, Chef and building manager

“GLC brought community spirit into our lives. I am glad to be a part of the project since the very beginning and every school day feed the children and prepare tea for everyone. I touches my heart hearing children say like one “Thank you, Rani ji!” before they start eating lunch.”

Rani nurtures children’s health and increases their ability to study and develop properly. Our cooking queen, Rani, daily takes care of nutrition at GLC. She makes the healthy and delicious food with much love for the GLC kids and delicious tea that busts energy level of the ladies in the afternoon when the children are gone.

Ritu Singh, Teacher

“My working with the GLC community has change my life perspective. I see now how together we can support each other and the whole community. I love teaching. I love children. It's my honor to teach our lovely children at the GLC.”

Ritu is the head teacher at the GLC Preschool. She teaches most of the classes: Hindi, English for beginners, math, yoga, art, and nature science. She also runs sharing circles in which children share their ideas, challenges, and they learn about culture, good manners, and beyond. Ritu is a well trained teacher who brilliantly integrates alternative teaching methods and creative work into traditional Indian education system. She has successfully been teaching and preparing children to join public education system. Ritu has a great sense of humor, joyous presence, and she’s a great dancer.

Sangeeta Sahani, Literacy teacher

“GLC gave me an opportunity to make a progress in my life. Actually, it gave me a new life. My mind opened up to the new horizons that I couldn’t have imagined before. I love learning and working with the group of ladies. I am proud of being able to feed my children and provide education to them.”

Sangeeta teaches literacy to the 15 women from the GLC community. She’s granted a GLC scholarship so she’s currently doing the 12th class of her studies. At the same time Sangeeta works at Cotton Flower as a great tailor and seamstress. As an experienced tailor she assists teaching at skill training program at GLC Skill Training Centre.

Seema Yadav, Literacy teacher

“Since I joined GLC my life has been changed – I have freedom to be active, meet new people and their cultures, learn and teach. I see that we are changing our community for the better and I am committed to support our work and make many more families happy. ”

Seema teaches literacy to the 15 women from the GLC community. She’s granted a GLC scholarship so she’s currently doing the last, third year of her bachelor degree in Art. Seema’s studying and working as an excellent tailor and seamstress at Cotton Flower while providing support to newcomers at the GLC Skill Training Centre.

Suneeta Verma, Community education manager

“My work at the GLC makes a difference in the local community and that is my greatest motivation. Our culture and tradition may place many restrictions around women’s freedom, but here we create a safe space for us to learn, share, and support each other with advice, care, and valuable information that improves our lives.”

Suneeta is the head manager of the Ganga Learning Centre. She supervises education programmes at the GLC Preschool and she runs skill training at the GLC Skill Training Centre. Suneeta is a teacher by profession and a tailor by vocation. She's been teaching at local primary schools for the last 25 years and became known as a great, trustworthy, caring lady who understands well the needs of the community and can provide guidance and support. She joined the GLC team from the very beginning and supported trust building and communication with the local community as she was, and still is, the face of the GLC in the local community. She takes care of education programs, leads the ladies group, and supervises all GLC activities on daily bases.

E-mail: office@gangalearningcenter.org

Val, English granny

In 2009 I read an article in Education Guardian asking for volunteers to read stories to Indian children for one hour a week using Skype and I have been a “granny” ever since.

In order for children to learn they need to be engaged and involved and to feel confident enough to “have a go” without worrying about “getting it wrong”. This isn’t easy at any time but especially difficult when you are interacting via a screen and are not physically present! I attempt to do this by introducing activities into the sessions which are fun and even by “acting silly” because if I can do this, they can do that! Consequently we jump and hop, sing and dance as well as make things and play games like “which is the odd one out”?

It is encouraging to see the children grow in confidence and understanding and I have learnt a great deal from working with them. Children no matter where they live are a joy and to be able to spend time with them is a privilege. I get much pleasure from working with the children and enjoy the challenge of thinking and looking for new things to do with them in our sessions.

Val is a retired secondary school teacher of history and for 31 years was head of history in a local community college. Val has three children of her own, including twins, but she is not yet a real granny so: “Working with young children at GLC for the last two years has been a huge learning curve but also a delight!”, Val says.

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