About us

- explore -

Meet the team,
behind the Shakti School

Our origins

Tarini Dagnino, a Venezuelan living in India, is the founder of The Shakti School of Arts for Girls, and co-founder of The Feeding Rishikesh project, an NGO located in Rishikesh, northern India, that came into existence in March, 2020. She is also co-founder of Saving Lives with Love, Inc., a US government-recognized non-profit charity, running programs to support the poor in both Venezuela and India.

As Tarini started to spend more time with the children of the slums where she worked for many months feeding people during the Covid lockdowns in Rishikesh, she learned that the kids’ school had been closed for a long time due to Covid, and that they had nothing constructive to do, as most of them had no access to online classes. She felt a great inner calling to gather with the local girls and provide them with classes in English, art, yoga, music, and dance of various styles. Tarini has lived in India for more than 20 years, and knows well the tragic social inequality women live with, especially in the poorest areas where the majority belong to the lowest castes and suffer intense discrimination from the rest of society.

Muslims also face such discrimination. She wanted to offer a safe place for the girls to learn, where they would not be judged by anyone, and where they could develop their talents and have fun. That’s how the Shakti School of Arts for Girls was born.

The Shakti Family,
Our Co-Founders:

Varun Juneja

Varun Juneja has been an essential support to the Shakti School since its inception. A UK-educated economist from the Punjab, he has now dedicated his life to service of the poor in India. Founder of the Feeding Rishikesh project, along with Tarini Dagnino, he spearheaded the work of giving over 35,000 26-lb bags of basic foods to those in need during the Covid lockdowns, and initiated a kitchen that to this day gives free dinners each night to over 200 people. When Tarini started the Shakti School of Arts for Girls, Varun made great efforts to help locate the ideal building for the project. A masterful communicator and a man of great integrity, he continues to be an essential part of the Shakti School team.

Ram Das Batchelder

Ram Das Batchelder, an author of numerous books about spirituality, has been the head fundraiser for the Shakti School of Arts for Girls. His posts on social media have helped to put the work of the school in the public eye, and brought in many donations.

How I Discovered

- our staff -

The story of the Alam family

Every afternoon I would go out with the co-founder of the Feeding Rishikesh project, Varun Juneja, to serve food and distribute biscuits in the community of Chandreswar Nagar. One day, as the idea of creating a school was beginning to form in my mind, I met a young girl named Nashra, who very shyly asked me if I would visit her house. I noticed that she had tears in her eyes, and that she spoke perfect English, something that most children did not do. I asked her why she needed me to come with her, and she told me that her father had recently passed away. Sensing the gravity of the situation, I quickly finished distributing food and went with Nashra to her home. She introduced me to her mother, who told me that according to the Muslim tradition she wasn’t allowed to leave the house for 4 months after her husband’s death. Nashra informed me that the family was in a desperate financial situation, as their father, a blacksmith, had been the only provider. They were months behind in their rent, and the only income they had was provided by Nashra’s 14-year-old brother Adnan, who worked a few days a week as a blacksmith’s apprentice, earning just 140 rupees (2 dollars) a day.

During my visit I met Nashra’s older sisters, Nagma and Neha. Nagma told me, ”Mam, I don’t want your help. I want a job. Neha and I have walked through the market for weeks looking for a job, but we haven’t found anything, due to the Covid problem.” I was so impressed by this family, by their obvious integrity, intelligence, and excellent English. I wanted very much to help them and had the intuition that they could be the ones to join me in the dream of creating a school for underprivileged girls in the area – and as it turned out, they did!