Ensuring that a child has access to nutrition and education, is giving that child a chance to dream of a brighter future. These stories give you a glimpse into the aspirations and dreams of a few of our beneficiaries.
A star of the future!
Deepak Raju Paswan, Thane
Deepak wants to be a kabaddi player, and his inspiration is Pradeep Narwal, who is a part of the Indian Kabaddi team and Pro Kabaddi League. He says, “Since I go for practice in the evening directly from school, it is more beneficial for me as I get to eat something (Mid-Day Meal) before I go for kabaddi practice. Earlier, when I used to go directly from home, it was difficult as then I used to practice with half-empty stomach and used to feel weak. I love the food here and feel that it takes me a step closer to becoming a world-class player.”
No child deserves to be left behind…
Priyanka Raut, Cuttack Odisha
For young Priyanka Raut, life hasn’t been easy. A while ago she and her mother were abandoned by her father, leaving them destitute. Already struggling to makes ends meet, both were left devastated by his leaving.
Priyanka enjoys debates and has won a number of competitions. In fact, she has taken it upon herself to enlighten her classmates about eating nutritious food, and praises Akshaya Patra’s Mid-Day meal to them! For herself, she says she looks forward to the days they get rice and paneer curry as that’s her favorite meal.
Making every meal a lesson in responsibility.
‘Kamala aunty’, as she is fondly known by the students of Government Primary School, Gubbalala, has been a caretaker for four years. She has created a routine that has organised the serving of the Mid-Day Meal at the school, making for an efficient process every day.
Every one of the 195 children served, follow a set routine:
- Take charge of their plate
- Ensure zero wastage of food
- Wash their plate after eating
Her dedication gives us a glimpse into the importance of every contribution that goes into the smooth running of the programme.
Igniting minds with proper nutrition.
Mohammad Abdulla, Telangana
The enrolment at PS Marks Ragon, a school in Madaka village of Telangana, has jumped from 97 in 2016 to 114 over the past three years. The school’s Headmistress, Mrs. Sreelatha is all praise for the Akshaya Patra Mid-Day Meal Programme, saying that it is often the soul motivation for students to attend school every day and that can be seen in the excitement on their faces when the lunch bell rings.
A Class 4 student, Mohammad Abdulla, who aspires to become a doctor, says that his lunch helps him stay healthy and concentrate in class. Abdulla’s favourite meal is vegetable sambar and rice.
Shaping the leaders of tomorrow…
Iqra Afzal Pasha – GKTMPS Cleveland Town
A student of Class 6 at GKTMPS Cleveland Town School, Iqra is the daughter of an auto rickshaw driver and a mother who works in a garment factory. The fourth of seven siblings, she dreams of becoming a Hindi teacher and her inspiration is her teacher Ayesha Ma’am. She says, “I love the Hindi language – I like to read and speak it. Ayesha Ma’am teaches it to us so well and I want to be just like her.” Besides Hindi, she also counts Science and English as her favourite subjects.
Iqra says she enjoys the lunch they receive at school as the meals give her strength and help her study well. “My favourite dishes are sambar and rice and Bisibele Bath.” she says, as she heads off to play with her best friends, Sadiya and Nafisa.
Building a dream, step by step.
Karan Okheda – GKTMPS, Cleveland Town
With a burning desire to be a professional dancer and open a dance school, Class 6 student Karan Okheda spends a lot of time watching dance videos on his sister’s phone and perfecting them in front of a mirror. But that doesn’t mean he lets his academics suffer.
“Education is very important if I am to successfully run my dance school. I need to focus and be particularly good at speaking English to interact well with people,” he states.
“The taste of the dishes served in school is very good! They contain a lot of vegetables, which makes them very nutritious. I like the Puliyogare, Lemon Rice and Bisibele Bath very much,” says the young boy who idolises legends like Prabhudeva and Michael Jackson.
Big heart and bigger plans!
Khadijatul Kubra – GKHPS, Pottery Town, Bengaluru
Khadijatul Kubra, a 12-year-old Class 6 student with a bright smile, two long plaits rolled up on the sides and a pair of curious eyes doesn’t just have a plan for her future, but two backup plans as well! Coming from a humble background greatly shapes her aspiration to be a doctor, and if that doesn’t work out, she wants to help people as a policewoman or a teacher.
“I want to be doctor – a general practitioner – so that I can give free treatments to poor people, including the homeless and daily-wage labourers,” says Khadijatul. When the conversation veers towards Akshaya Patra’s school meals, her face lights up! “The Puliyogare and Bisibele Baath are my favourite. I also enjoy my morning glass of hot milk. We come from very far, so we miss out on breakfast at home. The morning milk and meal helps us focus in class and be energetic throughout the day.” she says, before joining her friends for a game of hopscotch.
Fuelling the drive of a budding entrepreneur.
Mohammad Umar Farukh – GKHPS, Pottery Town, Bengaluru
A student of Class 7 at GKHPS Pottery Town School, Mohammad Umar Farukh not only has a fascination with cars, but plans to start a dealership of his own. Inspired by his 20-year-old brother who repairs automobiles and sells spare parts, since their father tragically passed away 4 years ago, he strongly feels that fluency in English and Kannada is important to effectively run his business.
On the midday meal received at school, he says “I like Anna Sambar (rice and sambar), the hot milk in the morning, Bisibele Baath and the sev mixture that comes along with it.” He says the meals also keep him active and energetic throughout the day, as he is fond of sports, cricket being his favourite. “My favourite player is MS Dhoni. I love how he hits the sixes!” he says, as he saunters off to play with his friends.
You’ve got a friend in me…
Deepak(Right) & Atul(Left), Kalol, Ahmedabad
Coming from a family of five with an absentee father and a mother who runs a tea stall, Atul met Deepak who lives on the streets while begging for alms outside a temple. Since then they’ve become best friends who support each other through thick and thin.
“I come to school regularly because I get to eat. I like studying but I know that I am weak in it so I try hard.” Both of them depend on the midday meal at school for nutrition and it helps them focus on their education instead of trying to earn money for their next meal. Atul enjoys the vegetable khichadi but Deepak prefers the vegetable pulav.
Gearing up to lead the nation!
Prajesh, Kalol, Ahmedabad
Young Prajesh is a student at CPS Gujarati Medium School in Daman. Having recently moved to Daman from Surat with his family. One of his teachers recalls him asking “How is the education here?” while being enrolled and was taken aback by that question coming from such a young boy. “That’s when I knew he was special.,” she says.
Talking about the Mid-Day Meal Programme he says, “Since I come from Bareilly, I did not like the food here earlier but now I love it because of Akshaya Patra. I feel it is very similar to what I used to have.” On the menu he particularly enjoys the roti and subji served.
Prajesh takes interest in politics and is an avid follower of PM Narendra Modi. He dreams of making India a better place one day.
A hungry heart and a business mind
Sheikh Abdul Khadil – GKHPS Pottery Town
Sheikh Abdul Khadil from GKHPS Pottery Town, Bangalore is an ambitious young man with a sensitive heart. He is quite attached to his mother and dreams of making her proud by launching his own chain of hypermarkets! His father is an auto-rickshaw driver, and mother, a housewife. His brother works at Kempegowda International Airport and sister studies in Class 6.
When asked about his unusual dream, he says, “I have a cousin who works in Big Bazaar here in Bengaluru. I have visited their outlets and they are so grand and impressive! That is why I too would like to start a venture such as this and name it after my mother – Rabia.”
Abdul plans to get closer to his dream by focusing on English and Kannada subjects in school. He says his concentration in class is helped by the morning glass of hot milk and meals served by Akshaya Patra.“I like the meals a lot. My favourite dishes are the puliyogare and anna sambar. I also like the fact that they often give us fruits like banana,” he concludes.
Stepping up to stepping stones.
Shivaprasad Reddy P - BBMP Boys High School in Bengaluru
Fourteen-year-old Shivaprasad, a Class 8 student at BBMP Boys High School in Bengaluru’s Tasker Town, dreams of becoming a civil engineer and loves to shake a leg as well! Hailing from a village called Mantralayam in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh, he migrated to Bengaluru with his family two years ago. His father works in the tile industry, while his mother is a housewife, and his older sister studies in Class 12.
“I have wanted to be a civil engineer since Class 5. I was inspired by the Telugu movie Raghuvaran B. Tech. As a civil engineer, I wish to build buildings, bridges and large structures, just like the renowned Sir Mokshagondam Visweswarayya,” he says. Apart from studies, Shivaprasad likes dancing, which he says is his favourite hobby. “I am a good dancer. My favourite dancers are Michael Jackson and Prabhu Deva.” And he just loves the meals served at school. “Super! Full plate clear!” he exclaims, adding, “My favourite dishes are pulao served on Saturdays, sambar and rice, and bisibele bath.”
Case in point…
Steven H – BBMP Boys High School, Tasker Town
Steven H is a Class 8 boy from BBMP Boys High School in Tasker Town. This young man came to Bengaluru three years ago and wishes to help people and society by becoming a lawyer. “I want to help people as a lawyer – those wrongfully convicted, those that aren’t helped by the police – I wish to fight for them in court,” he says.
Since his parents reside in Whitefield, a district which is far from school, he lives in the Samaja Kalyan Ilake Hostel for its proximity, and goes home for extended holidays. Steven’s seriousness about his aim is evident in the subjects he likes. “I focus on the Social Sciences. I like Civics, Politics and I stay up-to-date on current events by reading newspapers and watching the news on television,” he states.
Speaking about Akshaya Patra’s meals, Steven states he enjoys the meals, and has some very amusing feedback: “I like the rice particularly. Every grain is separate; they don’t stick together!” His favourite dishes are the bisibele bath and puliyogare. “We also get bananas sometimes, which is nice,” he adds.
Empowering budding innovators
Krish Patel is a Class 8 student who’s passionate about science. At a recent science fair, he and his team participated by presenting a natural compost that drew accolades. Having won the competition, he received credit for bringing the team’s idea to fruition.
The son of a daily wage labourer and a domestic worker, Krish knows that following his passion to be a scientist may not be financially feasible. At home, their financial situation is in constant turmoil which is the main reason behind his parents enrolling him in school, so he gets at least one nutritious meal every day. “I get to come to school and have a complete meal while my parents don’t even get to have this.” says a humble Krish. With lunch often being his only fulfilling meal of the day, he enjoys all the dishes served, but loves jeera pulav and dhokali the most.
Dance of destiny
Kajal is a Class 7 student at Santer Prathamika Shala, Ahmedabad who is passionate about dancing, and believes that with talent and practice she can make a career of it. Aware of the financial constraints at home, she does not want to put pressure on her parents to send her to classes to train. Instead, she learns what she can from videos on YouTube and is determined to get a scholarship in Mumbai, which will allow her to take up dancing professionally. Kajal adds that she is grateful for the energy she gets from the lunch served at school. The nutrition, she says, helps her keep physically fit to practice regularly. Her favourites on the menu are jeera pulav and subji.
An artist with a unique vision
Studying in Class 8 at CPS Gujarati Medium School, Divyanjali is a talented artist. Her father is a daily wage labourer who works at construction sites painting houses, and Divyanjali, inspired by his work, decided she wanted to be a painter and told her father so. “I always used to accompany my father whenever he used to go for work and just watch him work hard all day. One day I said that I want to be a painter like you and he took me to a museum and showed me drawings and paintings and asked me to study this.” she says.
Adding, “Since then, I have been taking classes. He somehow manages to pay the fees.” Divyanjali adds that one rule she lives by is never waste food, and to eat enough when possible. She says, “My father is at ease because he knows I get to eat here. I can never complain about the food.” She enjoys most of the food served at lunch, but her favourite is thepla.
Swaying into a bright future
Preethi is a student at Jupiter School in Nagpur who just loves to dance. At school, she has a reputation as a talented dancer who is also good with academics. The Headmaster of the school, says, “She is a brilliant student. Good in class and even better at dancing. She couldn’t learn dancing in an academy because of the family conditions but we knew how much potential she had and so enrolled her in one of the dance classes.”
Preethi initially enrolled at Jupiter School because of its accessibility to her home, but now she loves going there every day. She says she didn’t like the food that was previously delivered by a local organization. After Akshaya Patra began to deliver the midday meal, she says, “The good food started coming, making me and my friends happy.” Her favourites on the menu are barbati aloo and masala bhat.
COVID-19 has dealt a huge blow to millions of families. Our mission is to support vulnerable families through the pandemic, protecting them from malnutrition and hunger.
A ray of hope in uncertain times.
Kokilaben Chhaganbhai Valmiki – Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Thirty-year-old Kokilaben Chhaganbhai Valmiki is a civil labourer from Naranpur, one of the oldest areas of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. She earns her livelihood as a daily wager earning Rs. 250 a day, and is the breadwinner of a family of 5.
With the advent of the nationwide lockdown in India and the non-availability of work, her family could not afford even one meal a day. She says, “I heard about this Coronavirus, but I was more worried that we didn’t have food.”
In Naranpur, Akshaya Patra serves hot and nutritious meals. “This food helps us fill our stomachs, and if we eat well we will have a better chance of fighting the coronavirus.” she continues. She hopes that life can get back to normal soon, where she can get back to work and her children start going to school again.
Invisible Suffering of the Middle-Class
Meeshayyavar Family from Hubli, Karnataka
Meeshayyavar is a 50-year-old practising advocate who lives with his wife Shobha and two teenage boys Srujan and Nitish, who study at a private school in Dharvad, Hubli in Karnataka.
One would assume that a family such as theirs would not have been drastically affected by the lockdown, but reality is much harsher. Shoba says, “The stringent lockdown measures due to the pandemic resulted in the loss of work for over four months, for my husband, who is an independent advocate.” Meeshayyavar adds, “I never imagined such a calamity would strike where I would lose all income for so long.”
Meeshayyavar and his peers approached the Hubli Bar Association for support. The Association asked Akshaya Patra to extend their COVID-19 Relief Feeding in the community, where the Foundation then began distributing essential grocery kits.
Selfless warriors need care
Ramesh R, a healthcare worker from Chennai
Though doctors primarily get an appreciation for being on the frontline, support staff who do the leg work risk their lives just as much. Ramesh R is one such frontline warrior who serves at the Government Children’s Hospital in Egmore, Chennai, working double or triple shifts to keep things running. And because of strict hospital protocols to socially distance from their families, he had not met his two children for three months during the lockdown.
Akshaya Patra’s feeding programme ensures that Ramesh and other hospital staff received hot, nourishing meals every day. He says, “Because of the nature of work, there is no fixed time for meals, which often results in us skipping meals. Over a prolonged period, this affects our health and immunity and puts us at risk of contracting the virus. Thanks to The Akshaya Patra Foundation, we get food which is tasty, healthy, hot, and most importantly on time.”
A happy family and a happy colony
Sujatha - Homemaker from Kandi, Telangana
Forty-year-old Sujatha lives in the Laxmi Nagar colony in Kandi, Telangana with her family. With prices going up, and grains often unavailable, her family and neighbours struggled for food during the lockdown. She says, “My husband is a carpenter. He has been out of work during the lockdown. I was afraid that we would run out of our stock of rice and other food grains at home and would be unable to get more due to the lack of a regular income.” The cooked meals served in their area helped them survive as she could have enough rice and sambhar for her family every day.
She is extremely relieved that her children didn’t have to go hungry during the lockdown and says her neighbours feel the same.
A ray of sunshine in the days of darkness
Bhawani Shankar- Lucknow
Bhawani Shankar is a 57-year-old daily wage earner working at a steel factory in Lucknow. He is the only breadwinner from a family of six. With the advent of the pandemic, and subsequent nationwide lockdown, his daily source of income ceased to exist. This put his family on the brink of starvation as they couldn’t afford enough food. He says, “The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have enough money to get more. The children were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”
He is one of many who benefitted from grocery kits distributed by Akshaya Patra during the lockdown, allowing him to take food home for his family. He is immensely grateful to Akshaya Patra for extending support to needy families through such difficult times. “These dry grocery boxes will surely comfort us in our daily struggles for food,” he says thankfully.
Praying for better days
Anandi from Mumbai
Since she got married 25 years ago, Anandi Patil has been a resident of the Lokmanya Nagar Pada No. 4 in Mumbai, Maharashtra. Now a widow, she works as a domestic helper at a nearby house. Unfortunately, with the lockdown she lost her job. For more than three months she was without work, and on the brink of exhausting her savings while trying to make ends meet. Moreover, she lived in one of the containment zones, which restricted her movement, making it difficult to procure food to survive.
She says, “I was grateful to receive a box of dry rations from Akshaya Patra. Now I at least have food to eat again.” Anandi hopes that the worst is over and things will only improve with each passing day. She wishes to go back to work as soon as possible and resume her daily activities.
Bringing back hope with a helping hand
Over the past 10 years, Bhuriben has worked as domestic help for many families – cooking food and cleaning houses. Bhuriben never worried about being out of work, and in fact, worked seven days a week. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown measures turned her world upside down in ways she could not imagine – the loss of all her jobs and consequently her source of income.
Bhuriben is extremely concerned about the new set of challenges brought on by this pandemic. There is an impression in well-to-do families that people like her from a poor background, who live in large clusters, do not follow proper hygiene. This has been worrisome for her and she has not heard for months from the families she had previously served.
Thankfully for Bhuriben and many other domestic help workers like her, they do not have to worry about putting food on their plate at home. She says, “I am grateful to Akshaya Patra for providing cooked food for me and other poor families for whom survival is difficult. With no job and no income, at least we still get food to eat.”
A firm support in times of scarcity
A resident of Lanka Gadda Basthi in Hyderabad, Narsamma benefits from the cooked meals served out of Akshaya Patra’s kitchen in Kandi. Cooked meals are distributed to local communities by volunteers and local civic bodies.
Forty-one-year old Narsamma lives with her children and husband. When her husband lost his job during the lockdown, the family was in dire straits. With the surge in the price of food, they were quickly running out of money. She says that the cooked meals distributed in her area is what saved them.
Moreover, these meals have helped them to save little money for an uncertain future. She is also glad that the food served is not portioned out, and that she can take some home for her whole family.
Restoring faith in human kindness
Forty-year-old Sudha K is an Akshaya Patra beneficiary from Chennai, Tamil Nadu. From the Valmikinagar community in Tiruvanmiyur, she works for the Chennai Corporation as a sanitary worker and sweeper.
Sudha continued to work even during the lockdown because the roads still needed to be cleaned and garbage had to be collected. With no shops open, and their corporation office canteen being three kilometres from where they worked, she and her team often did not have access to food during the day.
She says that when Akshaya Patra began serving meals in Valmikinagar she was very happy, especially because the food was free. These meals saved her and her co-workers the time and expense of travelling to their office canteen, where the food would run out if they were late. She hopes that food continues to be served in her area until the pandemic is over and life goes back to normal.
Determination in the face of distress
Mohan Jadhav, Bhopal
Forty-two-year-old Mohan Jadhav hails from Bhopal and works at a thread manufacturing factory. Before the lockdown, the factory owner had given him two months’ salary to help him pay for necessities, but with the surge in food prices during the lockdown, Mohan’s family ran out of money. He wishes to go back to his hometown, but says, “Three hundred kilometres is a long stretch for my children to cover on empty stomachs. Nonetheless, Akshaya Patra came forward in this difficult time and saved my family from starvation.” He hopes to get back to work as soon as possible and thanks Akshaya Patra for its services.
Light at the end of the tunnel
Shrimati Gaumati Devi, Bhopal
A 62-year-old beneficiary from Bhopal, Shrimati Gaumati Devi lives with her 65-year-old husband. She used to sell vegetables from a cart outside a temple before the lockdown. Gaumati Devi says, “I am not able to arrange vegetables from the mandi and there is no ration at home. I never thought in my harshest dreams that we would get stuck in such a situation where we would be dying to have even a single meal per day.”
Gaumati and her husband found nourishment in the Essential Grocery Box they received last month. She says, “We rationed dry grocery for quite a long while which kept us satisfied. Through Akshaya Patra’s work, our self-respect has been unharmed in these extremely challenging times.”
When prayers are answered
Chandan Bahera, Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Chandan Bahera originally from Odisha, worked in Dadra and Nagar Haveli as a labourer. Twenty kilometres from Silvassa, 22-year-old Chandan lives in Amboli with his wife and children. With his parents in Odisha, he worries whether he’ll see them again, especially after he lost his job during the lockdown.
Chandan says, “When the blue van came bringing food, my children recognized it as the same van that delivers lunch to their school – Government Primary School, Amboli.” Adding, “They were happy and excited to learn that the meals were coming from the same blue van. They are never bored of the food and it keeps them healthy.” Chandan adds that with regular meals being served to his family, he can focus on finding another job without worrying about his family starving.
Pulling through tough times as a family
Ritika Bhoya, Silvassa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli
This is nine-year-old Ritika Bhoya from Dadra and Nagar Haveli district of the union territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu. Living with her parents and two siblings, Ritika explains that her family was worried when her father lost his job, as that was their only income. In the days of unemployment that followed, they ran out of food to cook, and didn’t have money to buy more.
As the Bhoya family waits for things to go back to normal and earn an income, they are grateful to receive hot, cooked meals from Akshaya Patra which is helping them survive.
Every bit of help counts, every donation matters
Bhagaban Pradhan, Odisha
Forty-eight-year old Bhagaban Pradhan from Puri, Odisha lost his job during the lockdown and was unable to support his family of six. With no income and no savings, he did not know how he was going to feed his family. He says when Akshaya Patra started delivering Essential Grocery Kits in his area it was like a miracle. Adding, “The ration kit helped in fulfilling the requirement of my family. Additionally, since we don’t have to go out looking for food, there are fewer chances of getting infected in this critical time. My family is safe.”
A mother’s plight in uncertain times
Forty-six-year-old Mala from Sarojini Nagar, Lucknow is a single mother of three children – a toddler, and two pre-adolescents. Her husband was a truck driver who unfortunately died in a road accident. Mala is a part of the housekeeping staff at a shopping mall. Due to the nationwide lockdown she lost her source of income and was unable to support her children. Amidst her struggles for survival, Mala says that receiving a box of groceries was a miracle that helped her children go to bed on a full stomach.
She says, “I want a lifelong association with Akshaya Patra due to their noble efforts and support during this pandemic.”
A beacon of hope in difficult times
From Lucknow, Ramvati is a 30-year-old widow and mother of five, who lives with her in-laws. Trapped into child marriage at the age of 12, Ramvati says that having faced so many hurdles as a young woman she has become strong.
Ramvati works as a cleaner at a private hospital, risking her life every day and working amidst COVID-19 patients. But her salary wasn’t enough to provide for eight people when food prices spiked during the lockdown. With the support of the grocery boxes delivered to her home, she is finally able to manage her family’s needs. She says, “This organization has been a backbone for us during these difficult times, and I can’t thank Akshaya Patra enough times to show my appreciation for their work.”