In 1961, Vernon and Mildred Hart, owners of a successful furniture business in Watsonville, CA traveled to Kodaikanal, South India for a short-term missions assignment. There, they served as house parents at a hostel for missionary children.
The Harts were assigned Peter the driver from the nearby village who didn’t know how to maintain an automobile. Vernon taught him some simple repairs, and the driver was enormously grateful for the instruction.
Soon, the couple realized that the local people lacked many of the practical skills that westerners take for granted. In India, knowledge and skills are usually shared only with relatives; training is a precious commodity and not freely given away by outsiders. As the Harts showed natives how to care for a building, operate electronics – even make beds – they became a respected and beloved curiosity to the local villagers.
In the process, Harts fell in love with India’s people. They developed a burden for those in poverty who had no visible means of acquiring a trade or professional skill to support themselves.
By the time the Harts returned to the U.S., God had given them a vision to start a Christian technical school for young Indians. Prakash Association USA was incorporated in 1968, and for five years board members worked to raise financial resources.
The Harts returned to India in 1973, and Prakash Institute of India was chartered in accordance with Indian law in April 1973.
Choosing a Location
The Harts discovered there was a concentration of Christian missionaries in central India. By partnering with the Christian College Hostel at St. Thomas Church in Amravati to use the college facilities, they were able to select and enroll the first class of Prakash Institute students for the 1973-1974 academic year.
Meanwhile, the larger village of Nagpur was chosen as a permanent location for the Institute, due to its accessible roads, central location and affordable property. Prakash Association USA acquired 41+ acres of land, considered unusable by local farmers, at bargain prices.
Building the Institute
Staff quarters were the first order of priority, followed by a surface well. After dynamiting through black rock, workers hit the first streams of water on the property, and those wells are still used today as storage.
By 1976, the property was secured with fencing, the cornerstone of the administration building was laid, construction on the hostel wing was begun and the first crops on Institute property were cultivated. Construction was completed by mid-1977, and the inaugural class of 35 students was enrolled on the Prakash Institute of India campus that fall. The first courses offered were Welding, Bicycle Repair, and Spice Making.
Later Refrigeration and Air Conditioning were added and then in 1996, the Institute launched its Computer Operation course, and the Electrician course was initiated in 2000. Over time, hostel space and classrooms were added. Current capacity is 112 students.
Today, Prakash Institutes of India has more than 2000 alumni who are employed throughout India in trades, working for large companies or operating their own businesses to serve their communities.
Ruth Girls Institute (RGI)
In November 2003, in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Prakash Institute, staff, students, alumni and board members gathered to break ground for Ruth Girls Institute. Construction was completed in the summer of 2006, and RGI’s first students began courses in Tailoring & Cutting, Dressmaking and Food Processing in fall 2006.