About Grassroots India

Company Mission

Grassroots India, a Company 8, has as its mission the following primary objectives:

  • To undertake charitable activities for the development of the vulnerable by providing services for emergency relief, basic care, and education
  • Promote commerce, arts, science, education, religion, public health and charity
  • Promote mutual respect through cooperation of men & women desiring to achieve peace, harmony and brotherhood
  • To support pilgrimages at the holy places and to support research into and understanding of religious texts, practices and symbols
  • To cooperate with other companies, associations, trusts and societies having similar aims and objectives
  • To promote education at all levels and in all streams

Grassroots India programs are non-sectarian and open to all castes and religions.

2016–19 Priorities – Odisha, India

  • Promote concepts of gender equality and the healthy development of women’s role in society
  • Promote universal love and tolerance of differences in religion and caste in an effort to build community peace
  • Uplift young women who have been marginalized and/or abused
  • Enhance child welfare and protection including progressive elimination of child trafficking, sexual abuse, and child labor
  • Offer under-privileged women and children access to basic care and education
  • Empower youth to express themselves and be involved
  • Promote individual creativity, self-governance and self sufficiency
  • Vocational and life skills training
  • Emergency relief
  • Appropriate interventions in family planning, health, nutrition, safe water and sanitation
  • Link rural needs with urban resources


Future Plans


  • Purchase our own land and build a training center that can house more students, a garden and cows.
  • Offer more workshops on organic agriculture and animal husbandry.
  • The Board of Directors & Advisors will seek program sustainability and financial security through fund-raising efforts to establish a corpus of 5 crore that will generate enough for an on-going program to help hundreds of girls each year indefinitely.



Board of Directors & Advisors

Grassroots India was incorporated as a nonprofit Company 25 (now a Company 8) in 2008. Debbie Pennington and Dr. Nivedita Das, Ph.D. have served as the directors since the company’s inception. The Board of Directors and Advisers do not receive any salary or remuneration for their services.

Board of Directors


Debbie Pennington is currently the founder and director of Grassroots Asia and Grassroots India, both charitable organizations that serve under-privileged and marginalized segments of society. Debbie has been the visionary and developer of several successful businesses over the last 40 years, including the Golden Key, a marketing business in the US that promotes resort tourism. She is a dedicated Kriya Yoga practitioner with a strong interest in spirituality. Her world travels have taken her to many sacred pilgrimage sites and to remote regions in Asia and Africa to document children in difficult circumstances. Her award-winning photos have been featured on the front page of the New York Times and at ECPAT’s Convention on the Rights of the Child: Agenda 2000, a groundbreaking global conference of 1,000 top representatives from government, media, and NGOs who met in Stockholm to change world policy for children. She attended as a delegate and international press coordinator. Debbie has been a consultant for numerous notable international business development projects and has extensive experience in media, public relations, travel, photography, real estate, marketing, sales, banking and emergency medicine. She has now retired from business and dedicates herself to a life of yoga and managing her charitable projects.



Dr. Nivedita Das, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist, professional life skills trainer, corporate trainer, and faculty in Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour. She specializes in communication skills, psychometric tests, stress management, and soft skills. Nivedita received her post-graduate in clinical psychology from the University of Delhi and Ph.D From Utkal University, Odisha. She is also a law graduate from Utkal University, and a Gold Medalist in psychology at Berhampur University. She is the recipient of the National and All India Post Graduate Scholarship, and has done an Advanced Technology Management Course from NIIT. Nivedita is a visiting faculty to various Management Institutes teaching MBA, BBA & PMIR students. She served on the Orissa State Social Welfare Board from 2006 – 2009 and has served on the Grassroots India Executive Committee since 2008. Nivedita is an avid reader, with an interest in many topics including spiritualism and parapsychology. She presents research papers in many International and National Seminars and has produced several publications, including Empowering Destitute Women, a book inspired by her work with Grassroots India.



Board of Advisors


Manoj Fogla Ph.D. has been a fellow member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India since 1990. He holds a Bachelor degree in Law, a Master’s degree in Philosophy, and a Ph.D. from Utkal University with Doctoral research on Social Accountability Standards for Voluntary Organizations. He specializes in CSR, legal, governance & finance issues related to voluntary organizations, and is a consultant to various Corporate Entities, International Funding Agencies and Voluntary Organizations. Mr. Fogla is the author of Handbook on CSR for Corporates & NPOs, published by Credibility Alliance and FMSF, and several bestselling professional books in India, including Comprehensive Commentaries on Taxation of Trusts & NGOs. He has also authored Commentaries on FCRA 2010, Legal and Financial Handbook for Voluntary Organizations, the monthly CSR newsletter CSR Made Easy, and the monthly newsletter Standards & Norms (FCRA and Taxation issues published by FMSF, India). He is on the Board of Governors/Management of several institutions including Xavier Institute of Management Bhubaneswar, Silicon Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar and Asian School of Business Management, Bhubaneswar. Mr. Fogla is actively engaged in facilitating seminars, workshops, evaluations & investigations throughout South Asia.


Ms. Bishakha Bhanja has been working in the field of development for 25 years. She completed her post-graduation in Political Science and is currently pursuing her Ph.D from Utkal University. After a short stint of lectureship she joined Oxfam as a Project Officer. She has worked for several international organizations and been associated with many women’s organizations, and the women’s movement, for many years. As an active member of National Alliance of Women Odisha chapter, her main forte was gender analysis. Bishakha is currently the regional manager for Water Aid and is an advocate for transparent implementation of government grants for thousands of sanitation systems in Odisha.


Mr. Benudhar Senapati is currently a member of Ruchika Social Service Organization, well-known for its work in the field of women and child development in Odisha, including the development of over 120 schools, Childline, Helpline, and shelters for women and children. Benudhar holds Post Graduation degrees in Economics (UU), Education (B.U) and Social Work (UUC) as well as a Diploma in Marketing Management. He has 28 years of experience working on various projects for child rights activism, managing developmental projects for children’s education, child rights and child protection, and the rescue and rehabilitation of destitute women. Benudhar has attended and presented papers at several national and international seminars, and is a talented writer of biographic books, poems, articles and stories. For the last 10 years he has been working as a member of the Child Welfare Committee and is a Master Trainer in the Juvenille Justice System. He has been a source of continuous support for Grassroots India since 2008.


Bidyut Mohanty, Ph.D. is the Head of the Women’s Studies Unit, Institute of Social Sciences (ISS), New Delhi (Honorary). She is a visiting fellow in Orfalea Center, Department of Global and International Studies, University of Santa Barbara, California (UCSB). From 2007-2011 she taught a course on Women, Culture and Development. She has been engaged in research and training of elected women representatives at the grassroots level for over 20 years. Her publications include several edited books including Women and Political Empowerment (1995 - 2006), Local Governance in Search for a New Path and Panchayats, Women and Health for All. She is also an Odia short story writer with three books to her credit, including GalliAaili: Brahmanaru Kahani.