The Inspiring Story of Akshaya Patra

Akshaya Patra Reviews

Who knows our story better than you – the one reading this on Akshaya Patra’s website? Your tremendous support to our cause of ‘Unlimited Food for Education’ has taken us from one kitchen serving 1,500 school children back in the year 2000 to 27 kitchens in 11 states that feed over 1.6 million school children every day.

We are excited to share that you can now read more about us through a book written by none other than Rashmi Bansal. Rashmi is an IIM Ahmedabad alumnus who is known for her book ‘Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish’. Her new release – ‘God’s Own Kitchen: The Inspiring Story of Akshaya Patra – A Social Enterprise Run by Monks and CEOs’ showcases the unconventional path taken by our founders.

This is the exciting story of spiritualists and capitalists coming together to launch a unique start-up. And taking it to scale. A ‘Made in India’ success story using the head, the heart and a whole lot of soul.

Excerpts of comments left by readers on Amazon:

“This is one of the classics that I have ever read in my life. The journey of a mega project beginning from scratch is vividly described. The author is extremely talented in bringing out the scenes of the play right in front of the readers, as if it was a live show. Hard work and dedication of Team Akshaya Patra under the able guidance of Sri Madhu Pandit Dasa and Sri Chanchalapathi Dasa is an encouragement for all of us.”

“Inspiring story of Akshaya Patra written in great detail, the book is moving and inspiring, fills the heart with hope, brings out the goodness in us. Must Read…”

You can get it for your Kindle or buy a paperback from here

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Sanjana, a daughter and a school topper

Akshaya Patra

It’s just another day for her; she reaches school around 9 am, completes any pending homework, attends the morning assembly and gets on with Std VIII classes for the rest of her day.

Sanjana Borashetti, with two neatly tied plaits, is a school topper and is the go-to person for her classmates. In love with literature, especially poems, Sanjana has her own collection of poems written in Kannada in a class workbook. After school, she heads home which shelters seven people under the same roof; a home that has grown accustomed to living without electricity.

On living without electricity

Akshaya Patra Foundation

Until four years ago, everything was normal in this household. However, it took a different direction when her father could not repay a few loans and owing to mounting bills, the house lost its power supply. Four years on, the house continues to live without the basic need.

Sanjana’s father is a milkman and mother works as a domestic help. While her parents get busy in the morning, she starts her day with a prayer. At times, she helps mother fetch water from a nearby well (the family needs at least 10 to 15 pots of water every day), cleans the house, and helps her brother with his homework.

In school, she supervises many activities such as assembly, attendance and news (relevant current affairs are announced every day). Being the class monitor for a total of 36 students, she shares a good rapport with her classmates and ensures everyone is aware of upcoming activities in school.

Sanjana and her classmates play with a skipping rope

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If not electricity, there is a lot of hope for the family. In order to study and complete her homework, Sanjana uses a torch. “There are two torches at home. I use one while studying,” she says. Although they do not have access to electricity, the young girl excels in studies.

I want to put an end to bribes

To live without a few basic necessities can be a challenge. But a few get on without perceiving it as a hindrance. For Sanjana, television is a forgotten tool and lack of electricity is no reason to complain. With all the support that she gets from her teachers, she has been performing well in her academics and is also sure of her interests. “When I grow up, I want to become a DC,” she says. District Collector (DC) is one of the most competitive jobs in India and Sanjana wants to take up this role to put an end to bribes.

Her school is her support system

Akshaya Patra

Government Higher Primary School, located in Bairidevara Koppa, Hubballi, is well maintained, clean, and the students are enthusiastic. A section of this school was built under the ‘Freedom through Education’ project led by Round Table India.

For Sanjana, being in school amongst her classmates means everything. Be it studying or spending free time, she prefers school environment. During her lunch provided by Akshaya Patra, she gets to eat freshly cooked food; Rice and Sambar, and Pulao are her favourites. Back at home, food is prepared on an earthen stove using firewood.

When there’s time, Sanjana writes poems (she learnt poetry in a summer camp a year ago), collects favourite quotes from books and also collects information that would improve her knowledge. Books are her best company and she is grateful for the education she is currently receiving.

13-year-old Sanjana is one among the many students in India looking forward to fulfilling her dreams and The Akshaya Patra Foundation wishes her the best.

Nagamma dreams of becoming a social worker.

Akshaya Patra

Working for a social cause, acknowledging issues in society that need urgent attention and can be resolved are the noblest of all vocations. Here is an Akshaya Patra beneficiary who anticipates becoming a social worker from the profound suffering, deep woes and agonies she has endured in life.

We noticed the empathy in her eyes when she said with extreme determination that she wanted to become a social worker, giving herself for the welfare of children who cannot study because of hunger. Hesitantly, she told that she is not certain whether she can follow through with her goal, as she does not know whether she will be able to continue her education when she completes 14. We met Nagamma at the schoolyards of Government Higher Primary School, Tarabanahalli. She is a 12- year-old studying in Std V. She hails from an underprivileged economical background. She lives with her parents and two siblings. Her father Mahesha and mother Ratnamma work as labourers at a construction site for a meagre income.

Nagamma’s family is one among the 179.6 million people in India who are living below poverty line. They do not have a land of their own and stay in a mud house on government land. The house is thatched and has a tin sheet as door. We were humbled by seeing the deplorable condition of the house. The inside of the house was abysmal. The house had bare minimum utensils, and clothes strewn on a hanging rope. We could imagine the plight during rainy season; they told us that the water enters the house, and leaking roof adds to their woes.

Akshaya Patra Reviews

The responsible sister

Nagamma has two siblings, a sister, Savithri and a brother, Chandrashekar; who studies in standard V and II respectively, in the same school (Government Higher Primary School, Tarabanahalli). Though Savithri is younger than Nagamma, she also studies in Std V with Nagamma. Nagamma had to discontinue schooling to take care of her little brother and had missed a year of school. The three children are beneficiaries of Akshaya Patra.

Nagamma told us that it was she who had helped raise her 7-year-old brother from a very young age as both her parents work hard for making ends meet. Bringing up three children is a herculean task for them. She said, “I used to bring my younger brother to class, as there was no one to take care of him at home. At first, my teachers disallowed it but later on when I could not attend classes, my teachers gave permission to bring him to class.” She added, “I am more than a mother to my little brother.”

‘Reading is a hobby, but has no time’

When we asked her, what her favourite hobby is, she told us, ‘reading’ but, she added that she does not get time for reading at home. She has to do innumerable household chores like taking care of her siblings, bringing water from the tap, washing clothes and utensils, preparing dinner among other things. Such a heavy responsibility on such small shoulders was a humbling experience for us.

An intelligent student

Her teachers are fond of her as she is very intelligent and hardworking. As soon as she reaches home, she does her homework and prepares the dinner before her parents come home from work. Though she likes studying all subjects her favourite subject is Maths since she likes to solve problems. She said, “When I am able to solve the problems correctly, I feel happy.” Her favourite teacher is Latha Miss, Nagamma says that she teaches very well and is ready to explain the mathematical sums a number of times, if required, without losing patience. Nagamma likes to play different games like Kho-kho, throw ball and the like. She has participated in running race competition held at Cluster Level. She wishes that the school has a bigger playground so that she can practice more.

‘The Possibilities’ – A film by Akshaya Patra

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‘One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood’. – Agatha Christie

Agreed.Childhood is those years of life which are cherished by most of us, but the story is not same in many cases. Akshaya Patra captures an overview on its latest film – ‘The Possibilities.’ This compelling film brings to fore the plight children go through when they are not presented with a childhood they deserve.The film will be released on the eve of Children’s Day – 13th November, 2014.

‘The Possibilities’ portrays various struggles the child protagonist undergoes in order to survive. And how just one wholesome mid-day meal served every day at school can change his life.

  1. R. Rahman and Viacom/MTV have kindly offered the famous soundtrack ‘Naan Yen Piranthen’ as background music for the film. The child’s role is performed by Chetan, a Malayalam child artist. The film is expected to reach millions bringing their attention to possibilities in life of a child who is affected by hunger and how mid-day meals can change it.

The Possibilities’ relays a strong message about the importance of the mid-day programme. We believe the film will touch many hearts and bring nutritious food to more underserved children of our nation. We are immensely delighted and honoured as the legendary musician; Mr. A. R. Rahman has kindly agreed to donate his popular track ‘Naan Yen…’ as a background track enhancing the impact of the film. We are also grateful to Viacom/ MTV for helping us use the track for the benefit of children. The music complements the essence of the film and sends out a powerful message,” said Chanchalapathi Dasa, Vice Chairman of The Akshaya Patra Foundation

The Akshaya Patra Foundation, an NGO headquartered in Bangalore, implements mid-day meal program in partnership with Government of India and various State Governments. The organisation is commended for its hygienically prepared nutritious food. This world largest (NGO run) mid-day meals program reach 1.4 million children from over 10,000 schools across 10 states in India.

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Not everything is in our hands to change in a child’s life.

 

Akashaya Patra Foundation Mid Day Meal programs

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The Akshaya Patra Foundation is actively engaged in the ‘mid day meal’ initiative started for the noble cause of feeding millions of school going children in India. The motivating force which triggered the setting up of this program is the Spiritual leader His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who while in Calcutta saw a group of children fighting with street dogs over scraps of food. From this minor, yet heart breaking incident, came the determination that no one within a ten mile radius of Hare Krishna Group center should go hungry. The Akshaya Patra program had a simple vision:  “No child in India should be deprived of education because of hunger”. Because of India’s enormous population, this was a challenging vision difficult to be realized.

In June 2000, the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal program was started in Bangalore by feeding 1500 children in 5 schools. At that time there was no State run school meal program in Karnataka. Within a few short weeks hundreds of requests were received from teachers who expressed the dire need of such a scheme. Akshaya Patra recognized the need for midday meal programs in other parts of the country and expanded the program to other areas. In August 2003, it opened a kitchen in Vrindavan, in northern India.

In July 2004, it began a midday meal program in Hubli-Dharwad. By November 2004, Akshaya Patra had also commenced a pilot program in 25 schools feeding 5,200 children in Jaipur, Rajasthan.

As the urban operations grew, Akshaya Patra recognized that in order to reach the majority of India’s most undernourished children; it also needed to serve the rural districts. In August 2005, Akshaya Patra began services in the region of Baran, located in east Rajasthan, in response to the number of starvation deaths in the area. Neither the government nor Akshaya Patra was able to serve these communities adequately on its own, but as partners, their mutual goal was achievable.

Today, the Foundation extends its mid day meal facilities in the following states: Karnataka, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, Assam and Andhra Pradesh. It is a fluent demonstration of public-private partnership as it is run with part subsidies from the Government, besides financial support from corporates, individuals and philanthropists. AC Nielsen, an independent research firm, performed an impact assessment in 2010, measuring key indicators such as enrolment, attendance and health. The study demonstrated an increase in enrolment, especially among the female students, and better health and improved performance among all students who received school lunches.