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Santosh Passi founded Kaaya Learning Centre; a social enterprise nestled in the Himalayan Foothills near Dehradun. This self-sustained campus promotes rural eco-tourism and experiential learning while aiming to restore ecological health.


Santosh holds a master’s degree in public policy from Duke University. Also, as an alumnus of Indian Institute of Forest Management (IIFM), he has expertise in rural development, environment, forestry, ecotourism, and allied sectors. 

However, more than a professional, he is a seeker first. His journey has been more about looking inwards and making sense of the world around him. experiencing, engaging, and expressing his ideas through Kaaya. Marriage to a like-minded partner gave him the boost to follow his calling.

Santosh Passi founded Kaaya Learning Centre

Development and growth is a natural process we all go through, on a personal or societal level. However, often we tend to lose our connection with nature, self, family, and community. We tend to forget that it is our immediate environment, the microcosm, the habitat, soil, water, air, trees etc that sustain and nurture our body & mind. 

Foundation of Kaaya

Santosh Passi recognized this and laid the foundation of Kaaya – a physical space that explores nature-based solutions to imminent crises of mankind.  

KAAYA in Hindi means ‘body’, the outer physical form. It was envisioned that the person who visits/inhabits will naturally rub off its soul. Thus, Kaaya began to take shape in 2012 with a small mud earth building, using locally available material within the limited resources. Slowly, it became the Kaaya Learning Centre, a space for living, creating nature art, building, learning and living sustainably.

Though it was not easy to live like a farmer, one also must think like them. Using personal reserves for cash needs, diversifying & minimising risks, recycling & reusing, learning to save money; finding ways to survive and grow sustainably became the working format. It was the Intent, trust, and integrity combined with lots of innovative programming in collaborations, reaching out to ask for support, that eventually began to get urban visitors.  

Kaaya’s Impact To The Society

Working closely with farmers resulted in positive outcomes. It is the village that became a teacher, sharing how they grow food, take care of cattle, and engage with nature.  Kaaya connected both, the rural & the urban; In the process, urban consumers began to get sensitised to rural life; and their demand for rural products in turn inspired village communities and artisans to produce more. Now, reverse migration has become a reality. They are now looking towards ways to channelize this energy.

Kaaya became aware of environmental issues such as river streams drying up or loss of biodiversity. This led them to consider themselves as ‘learning ground’, instigating the concept of an eco-school centred around ‘experience’, ‘engage’ and ‘express’.

The Impact & growth potential became visible when annually around 500 students started coming from different parts of India and even abroad to receive practical and hands on-learning at Kaaya. The scope of their programming as a ‘learning ground’ (9 villages, 3500 Ha land area, and 605 rural households), was promising where students and volunteers undertook ‘live projects’ to address local issues in the neighbourhood. More like an incubation space to learn and execute ideas of sustainability into practice. 

Through the Kaaya plug`n play system, people are encouraged to create their own program and events. Kaaya offer’s space, boarding and lodging facilities in 8 Mud cottages that can accommodate 22 people on double sharing basis, up to 40, adjustment basis. A Nature Café for providing nourishing organic food that can seat 40 people, Lounge and Library, Outdoor cooking area -Kitchen Garden, Meditation Hall, Small Amphitheatre, Splash Pool, Sit-outs etc.

Regular demand led them to start Kaaya Eco School. It offers a structured, wholesome, and ecological approach to outdoor, rural experiential learning. The Kaaya Eco School complements traditional educational opportunities provided in school environments by engaging students through a variety of hands-on learning experiences and interactions in a wooded/natural environment.

However, Covid years literally stopped this movement

As nature adapts, so did Kaaya. Kaaya Eco School began to offer direct programs for youth aiming at developing their social skills/emotional intelligence/self-confidence. They include summer camps, workshops, and custom design events that may appeal to parents rather than Schools.  

As a social enterprise, Kaaya is designed to sustain. A Registered Company manages the campus’ the “hardware” (boarding & lodging as revenue streams) and is led by a team of local women. It is the Kaaya’s programming, or “software,” that makes it unique. A core group of urban enthusiasts design & support Kaaya programs as volunteers. They also get trained resources for certain activities, whose cost Kaaya bears.

Kaaya hosts school and college students for outdoor learning workshops. Participating in such camps provides a clean slate to youth. Free from their past labels, they use different activities as well as the free time to communicate freely and explore new friendships. Such camps also interest parents, as they want young minds to develop social skills, emotional intelligence, and self-confidence when they face the real world. Through custom design workshops, College students engage in complex topics including assessment tools, inventory mapping, waste recycling, climate change, sustainable practices & social entrepreneurship among others.  

Santosh says, “Perhaps it’s time that we invest in creating an ecosystem, wherein social leaders/Mentors in different disciplines can work together and channelize youth energy in sustainable ventures” The ‘Padav,’ a mentor-mentee program is one such initiative in this direction.

Padav Fellowship is for such Mentors, who want to show the way to the youth. They can live as “residents” in Kaaya along with mentees for a short period. In a Departure from conventional Mentor – Mentee relations, this program focuses upon the relevance of ‘space’ as a facilitator to allow experiential sharing to happen.  

Kaaya is a space that every community must have to bring about change and development. It has shown that ‘just by being open and sensitive to your neighbourhoods, different possibilities can be explored.

 Santosh Passi says, “post covid there is a rush to mountains, without considering ecological carrying capacity, resorts are coming up with huge investments & cost to nature. There is a need to pause and reconsider where we are going! How can we sustain? Perhaps, as free individuals/ businesses in a conditioned societal setup, we need to re-imagine more”.

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”-Jimmy Dean

This quote suits Santosh Passi perfectly. He kept adjusting his sails till he found his calling. And finally he has successfully created a safe space for people to connect, experiment and initiate projects which help in connecting with nature, coming up with innovative ideas, supporting development and being part of bringing in change. 

Kudos to such change makers ! 

Contact, for more info [email protected]

+91 8279959201

What is Salamat Raho ?

Team NomadLawyer’s ambition is to positively impact the world through the stories of HumanKind. We believe in the art of storytelling. Through “Salamat Raho ”, we are creating a database for social good in the form of “Impact Stories”, which will help us achieve our goal and reach out to the world at large.


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