Meera Swaminath

There aren’t many non-profits in the world that focus so uniquely on providing mid-day meals to poor children in order to increase attendance in schools. Akshaya Patra us the foremost of them, as a Youth Ambassador, I have been able to take part in such an incredible effort. The first time, two years ago when I had first learned about Akshaya Patra, I had been reading an India Times magazine at my grandparents’ house. There was a small section highlighting the organization’s fundraisers over the past year and I was immediately intrigued by the program. Upon further research online, I noticed the opportunity to become a Youth Ambassador for the organization. Immediately, I sent in an application about my keen interest in helping those less fortunate than I, and have found it to be one of the best decisions of my life. Over the years, I have been able to meet many incredible sponsors and volunteers, all keenly interested in promoting the cause on a global scale.

Growing up in the US, it is easy to become ignorant of the serious issues plaguing third-world countries. My parents have always done a fantastic job of educating me of difficult lives of others, either through frequent trips to India and by simply becoming more environmentally-conscious at home. As an Ambassador, I have only furthered my understanding of the world, but most of all, my pivotal role as an advocate for the underprivileged. I have immersed myself in the cause by continuous involvement in fundraisers both at school and at local fairs, as well a through writing official press releases for Akshaya Patra, such as one on the new kitchens opened in Kathmandu, after the earthquake wreaked havoc in Nepal.

In October of 2015, I launched my first solo fundraiser at the Gayatri Chetna Center in Anaheim, CA. The fundraiser was a devotional Carnatic bhajan performance by children ages 6 to 17, disciples of Smt. Padma Kutty. After the performances, I was able to speak about the pressing issues regarding poverty and illiteracy in India, as well as throughout most of the third world. At the fundraiser alone, I was able to raise about $3,000, along with the $1800+ donations I had collected that year.

I truly believe Akshaya Patra is a fundamental part of the solution to improving illiteracy and nutrition for rural and urban children in India. My journey with Akshaya Patra has been nothing short of life-changing, and I am truly glad to have been a part of it for the past two years. While I will be graduating from Northwood High School in Irvine, CA, in the coming weeks and joining UC San Diego in the Fall of 2016, I would like to continue to be a part of this organization, and perhaps start a chapter in college.