India – Gandhi Ashram

Gandhi Ashram

Vision: Giving the poorest children a future through education focused on music.

Gandhi Ashram was born when Fr Edward McGuire SJ, a Canadian Jesuit who went to India in 1954, was asked by his Superior to start a school for poor children in Kalimpong, in the Jesuit Province of Darjeeling.

Today about 315 boys and girls between the ages of eight and 17 study at this unique school, which has earned fame for its academic excellence and for its orchestra. Fr McGuire started the string orchestra with 11 children in the year the school was set up. Today, the orchestra is still going strong, specializing in music from western classical tradition as well as national and local folk music. Music instruction is integrated in the curriculum of Gandhi Ashram, which is open to all children of the very poor whether they display musical talent or not.

Unlike India’s public schools, Gandhi Ashram is completely free-of-charge. The students do not have to wear uniforms, which eases the burden on their parents who usually cannot afford such costs. Thanks to fundraising, the school employs highly qualified teachers and provides each student with the use of a violin, school supplies and three meals a day. Most children walk many kilometres daily to get to school and a few, who live too far, are boarders.

Many students from Gandhi Ashram have gone on to further studies. Four joined the Indian Army Symphony Orchestra and one of the most promising students, Kushmita Biswakarma, won a scholarship to study at the Music University of Nuremberg in Germany.

Director: Fr Paul d’Souza SJ

Visit the Darjeeling Jesuits’ website: http://www.darjeelingjesuits.org

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