The Akshaya Patra Foundation held its Boston Virtual Gala on May 3, 2020, to raise funds for feeding migrant families in India.
The organization has served 40 million meals to migrant workers since India’s lockdown began and feeds 1.8 million Indian children every day during the school year. Over 1,000 businesses, non-profits, government officials, and philanthropic leaders from around the world attended and supported the organization’s dual mission of addressing childhood hunger and promoting education for underserved children in India, according to a press release.
The gala keynote speaker Prof. Ashish Jha from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, a much sought-after global expert on COVID-19, spoke about the short- and long-term implications of COVID-19 and how the world can mitigate some of those devastating effects.
A total of $1 million was raised at the gala, according to a press release.
Prof. Jha pointed to the underestimation of people infected and deaths globally, noting that the pandemic will continue until the world has a vaccine, estimated to be in about 12-18 months, or develops herd immunity.
Prof. Jha spoke eloquently about the power everyone has in creating a future that will help children and families in India and urged attendees to support Akshaya Patra as it continues to meet two essential needs for children: food and education.
Prof. Kash Rangan, who teaches social enterprise and business at Harvard Business School and is a long-time supporter of Akshaya Patra, shared his views on the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as the invisible pandemics that afflict humans globally. These pandemics have a ripple effect and cause devastation to basic needs. Organizations like Akshaya Patra are working hard to meet those basic needs, particularly food needs.
Prof. Rangan stressed the necessity for humanity to collaborate in uncertain times and empower Akshaya Patra to scale up to serving five million meals every day. The gala also showcased Paresh Rawal, a celebrated Indian actor who is a proud supporter of Akshaya Patra, with a surprise visit from his wife Swaroop Sampat.
Rawal presented a beautiful poem by prominent Indian Hindi and Urdu poet Nida Fazli that portrayed the simple joys of a child going to school each morning. The Bollywood-themed evening celebrated the beneficiaries, chapter teams, and volunteers who continue to work to alleviate classroom hunger.
The evening was made possible by sponsors and supporters who donated their time and funds to help the cause and can be found online. Additionally, donors are graciously matching donations up to $150,000 for COVID-19 relief and alleviating classroom hunger.
Established in 2000, Akshaya Patra is the largest NGO-run school meal program in the world, according to Time Magazine, and serves 1.8 million children daily in over 19,257 schools through 55 kitchens in 12 states and two Union Territories in India. It costs only $20 to feed a child for an entire school year, the release said.