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Fighting Financial Instability, Hemalatha Dreams of Empowering Others Like Her

Hemalatha and her friends

Hemalatha watches her mother toil seven days a week to meet ends and that’s what inspires her to uplift vulnerable children on streets. She tells us that children do not need our sympathy, but empathy, which would transform their lives. She says, “I would like to tutor children living on the streets. To uplift them, education is an important factor.” The aspiring social worker makes us feel proud, as we learn more about her ambition. We met Hemalatha at Government Lower Primary School, Hosur Meenakunte. She is a 10-year-old girl studying in Std V. She hails from Andhra Pradesh; her parents moved to Karnataka in search of better job opportunities.

As she grows up, she aspires to educate children on the street. She knows that her situation is not much different from theirs but feels glad to be exposed to education. “Some of these children do not have the privileged of attending school. I want to empower them so that they are not left vulnerable.” At a young age, she understands how education has been benefitting her and the need for it to lead a respectable life.

The Lingering Pain

Hemalatha in pain

While talking to her, we noticed the girl to be a little hesitant to talk about her family. But later she told us that her family, which once consisted of four members, is now has only three. Her father – Mr Muniraj – succumbed to an accident when she was six years old and studying in Std I. Tears welled up in her eyes when she remembered her father; she was inconsolable then. The little girl hasn’t recovered from the trauma. She now lives with her mother and brother.

As her father was the only earning member of the family, her mother Savita had to take up all the responsibilities after his death. She works as a full-time house help. The meagre income she earns is not sufficient to support a family of three and she works on Sunday too, with a hope to earn some extra money. Her brother is also a student of Std VII in a Government school and benefits from the school lunch served by Akshaya Patra.

But all this doesn’t deter this ambitious child from having big aspirations for the betterment of society. There is yet another hurdle she has to overcome before she reaches her goal – the hurdle of being married once she turns 14. “My mother is planning to make me discontinue my studies after I turn 14 and get me married. She is concerned about my safety. If my father was alive, I would not have faced such a situation,” she tells us, as tears roll down her eyes.

Our heart melted and all we could see in her eyes was the hunger to achieve her ambition. She dreams of a bright future, but is worried that marriage would not allow her to achieve it.

A hard-working student

Hemalatha makes it a point to revise the lessons taught in school every evening. Though she doesn’t have anyone to guide her, she ensures that she approaches her teachers and clarifies doubts the next day. Apart from helping society, she also wants to help her mother, who works hard all day long. “My favourite subject is Science. I like to study all subjects, but I have a keen interest in learning Science. I ensure that I have understood the lessons well,” she says. Her favourite teacher is Regina Miss as she teaches Maths and English in a unique way, to ensure her students understand the concepts.

The nutritious morsel

As Hemalatha’s mother goes to work early in the morning, the siblings rely on a school lunch served by Akshaya Patra. “My mother is happy that we get a glass of milk in the morning and nutritious mid-day meals in the afternoon.”

For children like them, mid-day meals are the only wholesome meals they get to eat in the day. In fact, the meals also encourage them to attend school regularly and continue their studies. The nutritious meals give them the power to learn and dream high.

This makes it necessary for NGOs like Akshaya Patra to serve food regularly to these children to ensure that they take the country towards positive development.

Help the children like Hemalatha to achieve their dreams by supporting Akshaya Patra to feed the children.

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Food and Education

Hunger stops a child from being well-educated-and-informed

Healthy-Citizens

As we celebrate World Population Day on July 11, a fear that lingers in the mind of every individual is a recent report by the United Nations, which states that the population in India will cross the 1.44 billion mark by 2024. It is estimated to be more than that of China, which is the most populated country today.

The Global Hunger Index released in 2016 by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) rates India as a country with ‘serious’ hunger levels. It further states that about 15 per cent of the population of the nation is undernourished. Adequate food intake, both in quantity and quality, is missing. It is a well-known fact that a hungry child cannot absorb lessons easily. And with the growing population, eliminating hunger should start from the basic.

There are various ways hunger affects education:

It affects their cognitive development: A child’s faculties develop during early childhood. Its brain develops quickly. Without the right proportion of protein, nutrients and energy in its meal, the child’s cognitive development would be greatly hindered. Therefore, a nutritious meal plays an importance role in the child’s development.

Increases behavioral problems: A hungry child can easily get irritated. They often face the feeling of being unattended to, may face several health conditions, would lead a stressful life, could face psychiatric distress and other conditions like depression, anxiety, withdrawal, and poor self-esteem. To raise a healthy citizen who would contribute to the positive development of the country, feeding them a wholesome nutritious meal is important.

Harms body structure and confidence levels: It is common to find that an undernourished child weighs less than his or her ideal body weight when compared to the height. Hunger can even cause weight gain, as unhealthy fare seems more appealing when hungry — especially the foods that are high in sugar and sodium. Both these conditions, caused due to hunger, can hamper their confidence levels. They could feel the need to be confined to their comfort zones, which would affect their learning.

Causes long-term health issues: Hunger leads to undernourishment, which impacts their immunity. Children who experience hunger are more likely to contract short-term and long-term diseases. This would force them to drop out of school or they might be absent for a longer duration.

Increases school dropout rate: Due to unavailability of food, children are forced to go out and take up work to sustain themselves and their families. As they grow up, the job becomes the priority and they prefer to drop out of school.

Increased efforts to reach out to all children, even in remote locations, can help us eliminate illiteracy due to hunger. Join us in our efforts to provide nutritious meals to children every day. Sponsor a child!

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