our team

Marni Foundation is established as a public charitable trust (Stichting). The Marni network is expanding to other cities / regions of India where like minded people have come together to replicate the Marni experience.


The key people behind Marni are:



Frank Zweerts

As a youngster Frank never showed any interest in education. Being blessed with an upbringing in a protective and financially secure family, and having a natural talent for sports and easy social contacting, he was surrounded with ample opportunities to “wing it”! His natural flair for business resulted in establishing a successful, international commodity trading company. He compensated for his earlier minimal attention to education, by showing the world that he could survive and succeed in the business world. But he also knew that he was lucky to have all the opportunities he had.

In 2009, semi-retired and financially secure, he became restless. On a chance travel to India, he was introduced to the wanting education environment in rural India. This changed his life forever. Thereafter he made it his mission to ensure that children in such environments got opportunities and a fair shot at education. Most of the children he is now supporting, lacked all the inherent benefits which he had taken for granted as a child and he felt compelled to give back and do his bit.

He now spends his time traveling and talking about the continuing efforts of the volunteers and raising funds for the various programs of Marni Foundation. He also spends a few months every year visiting the new families he has adopted in India.




Sindhu Shanmugam

Sindhu Shanmugam’s involvement in charitable and humanitarian programs started when she was in high school. A trip on her thirteenth birthday, as a first time volunteer on a medical camp to a rural village in India, expanded her small world and changed everything. For the first time in her life she was exposed to a world where people were struggling with impossible poverty and injustice. What she saw that day had a very profound effect on the way she shaped her life after that. Over the years she has been involved in over 20 foundations - mainly in the education and livelihoods space. She grew up in Chennai, India and spends a few weeks every quarter volunteering and teaching at schools and villages in India.

Inspired by the humble story, she joined Frank on this journey and used her experiences from her engineering and business education background to manage the school and livelihoods programs at Marni.

Sindhu also runs a successful design and user experience consulting firm based out of Hyderabad, India, which helps organizations move towards success with strategic, operational and design insights. As part of their CSR, they spend 25% of their resources and time consulting and working, with foundations and NGOs.




Elisabeth Ballard

Elisabeth Ballard's love for education comes from the fact that it was her way of escaping from dire conditions at home. She was brought up in the middle of the French countryside and started school at five, having to walk through the forest for an hour before reaching the school village. Through education, she was able to lift herself from her social background and attain the diplomas to become a teacher for whom challenges were only another pretext to prove that personal will and educational opportunities were the secrets for happiness and self-belief.

After having taught for over thirty years in the French Educational system as an English teacher (High School, then University), Elisabeth decided to take early retirement and teach in primary schools in third world countries.

One year ago, Elisabeth was invited to be a volunteer teacher in a basic community primary school in a small village near Bodgaya in the state of Bihar, India. Moved by the struggling story Elisabeth decided to take the story with her to Europe and find a reliable financial sponsor when the future of the school was in jeopardy. Now, she divides her time between Marni school and her own family in Paris.