In 2002, during one of his many visits to project sites in remote locations, Rtn. Benjamin Cherian (RI Dist 3230 Governor Elect) found schools in villages and small towns in a state of disrepair. The conditions were so appalling that students had stopped attending class. At that point, he resolved that he would strive to make a difference for these schools and the children after he got elected as the Governor for 2004-05 in December 2012.

On his return to the city, he formed a team headed by Past President Rtn. Sudharsan Rao. It was Rtn. Sudharsan Rao who came up with the name ‘Schools into Smiles’. The team initially comprised of six people. This was in December, 2002. The team began to meet every fortnight to chalk out a plan that would lead them to identify schools and renovate them in the best way possible. Schools into Smiles began as an individual’s dream, but soon turned into a movement as it gathered momentum amongst various like-minded individuals and organizations.

By January 2003, two educational officers had been appointed to survey government and panchayat schools across five districts in the state of Tamil Nadu. Over 1200 schools were surveyed, out of which100 schools were shortlisted. (This list would later grow to 130 as more schools were added to the programme)

Estimates were drawn with the help of civil engineers as to how much it would cost to renovate these schools. By August 2003, these estimates were presented to the President elect of the various rotary clubs of RI Dist 3230. Several clubs came forward to adopt the schools. While smaller clubs volunteered to raise around Rs.2 lakhs, bigger clubs were able to raise Rs. 7-8 lakhs.

These schools were adopted through different Rotary Clubs which reconstructed the schools and added new classrooms, compound walls and good toilet/water facilities, besides providing noon meal kitchens, desks and benches. The Rotary Club of Madras sponsored 10 schools while RC Pallava adopted about 9 schools. These clubs still continue to sponsor all further activities that are taking place under the Schools into Smiles programme.