The Akshaya Patra Foundation is an NGO in India that feeds Government school children as a part of its Mid Day Meal Programme. It runs this programme under the guidance and support of the Government of India and the State Governments of various states. Currently, it operates in 19 locations covering 9 states. This initiative of the Foundation is able to feed 1.3 million children in more than 9000 Government schools every day. It aims to feed 5 million children by 2020 with the steering belief that “No child in shall be deprived of education because of hunger”.
The children Akshaya Patra feeds come from humble background and each child has a life story to share. Here is Sheetal Chawla, a student from Vadodara, Gujarat whose story defines her mental strength at a tender age. A student of Pragati Vidyalaya, Bhayli Sheetal’s creative bent of mind can be seen in her love to draw Mehendi and her love for dance. She is good in her academics too. A unique quality of Sheetal is that apart from these talents she also has the capability to hide her grief of an unforeseen incidence of which affected her academics too.
March 2011 was a life changing moment for Sheetal. At a young age she lost her father who was suffering from high BP and a mild heart attack and who struggled for two months before breathing his last. Even before she could come to terms with this irrecoverable loss, she realized that she has lost a whole academic year. This is so because her father passed away on the same day that she had to appear for her annual examination of Standard VII. For a child as young as 12 years of age, to handle such life changing moments appears to be difficult but Sheetal skillfully manages it to hide her grief behind her ever smiling face.
This led Sheetal’s mother- Bharati Behn to begin working to support the family of two children. She started working as a domestic help in a few houses. However difficult times have been for Sheetal and her family, it did not stop her and her brother from continuing their education. Though Bharati Behn is the only earning member she is managing to educate both her children. As Bharati Behn needs to set out for her work as early as 6 a.m., a glass of milk becomes the only breakfast option for Sheetal and her brother. Thus, Sheetal looks forward for the meal provided in school. She awaits for the freshly cooked meal provided by Akshaya Patra during 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sheetal is a student of one of Akshaya Patra beneficiary schools. Sheetal says, “Akshaya Patra Mid Day Meals are a boon to families like ours, where it is difficult to have such a nutritious hot meal every day”. She duly extends a special thanks to all the Behns (sisters) and ‘Bhais’ (brothers) of Akshaya Patra for their vital support every day.
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