Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust
Fifth Anniversary Celebrations
December 27, 2020, marked the Fifth Anniversary of the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust and the Eighth Anniversary of the Annapoorna Breakfast Programme. Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai was received at the Premamrutham Hall in grandeur with Poornakumbam and a procession of students chanting the Sri Rudram. He was accompanied by Sri Suresh Kumar, Minister of Education for the Government of Karnataka. Amidst soulful Bhajans rendered by the staff and students, Sadguru along with Sri Suresh Kumar, Sri N Sampath, Chairman of the Annapoorna Trust and Sri B N Narasimha Murthy took their seats on the beautifully decorated stage.
The auspicious morning commenced with the lamp-lighting ceremony. Swami Japananda Maharaj-ji, Founder and Chairman of Sri Ramakrishna Sevashrama, Pavagada, arrived at the auspicious moment, and joined Sadguru and others on the dais.
Sister Bhuvana Santhanam gave an introductory talk welcoming everyone. She highlighted that in the Global Hunger Index Report, India has the highest percentage of children who suffer from acute malnutrition. She spoke about how a multi-pronged effort is required to combat this serious hunger issue and how the Annapoorna Breakfast Programme with the 3S Model of Samaja (Society), Sarkara (Government) and Sanstha (Institution) has collaborated with various Governments and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) teams, to unite and expand its service of offering morning nutrition completely free of any cost to needy beneficiaries across 6,000+ centres in 17 States, three Union Territories of India and in many other countries too.
Very soon, Annapoorna plans to serve one million children every morning.
Since the schools were shut down during the COVID pandemic, the Annapoorna volunteers, lovingly addressed as the Covid Annapoorna Warriors, visited the families of the neediest children and distributed over 100,000 relief kits which contained monthly rations.
Vedic invocation of Briguvalli (the third valli in the Taittiriya Upanishad) by little girl-children of the Ashram followed next. Thereafter, a short video of the Annapoorna Breakfast Seva Programme with glimpses of happy children, numerous centres, volunteer activities and more were showcased.
Sri Anand Kadali, Trustee and Secretary of the Annapoorna Trust, spoke about the beautiful journey of Annapoorna. He highlighted that Sri Sathya Sai Baba had once encouraged him to serve breakfast to one needy child every day. He had asserted that this approach of feeding one child every day must be shared with other people to inspire them too. Once the health and nutrition quotient is taken care of, one can erase all fears of health risks in growing children and can look forward to healthy and happy children!
Soon after this, a short video showing the COVID relief effort which was undertaken by the Annapoorna volunteers was presented. The volunteering teams of Kolkata and Jamshedpur from Sri Sathya Sai Aarogya Vahini Trust provided nutrition as well as healthcare to the affected regions during the devastating cyclone, Amphan.
Thereafter, the revamped website of the Annapoorna Trust was launched. Sister Vibhavari and Sister Nayana explained the new look of the website to Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai and Sri Suresh Kumar. This was followed by a video presentation of SaiSure, a Multi-Nutrient Supplement Programme which was launched in February 2019. The objective of this programme is to provide high quality nutritional supplements to bridge the nutritional gaps of expectant women, toddlers and children from rural India. Variants of SaiSure have been designed to benefit expecting mothers, toddlers (aged three months to three years), pre-schoolers (aged three to six years) and school children (aged six years +).
Sri Bharani Prasad, one of the Directors of SaiSure and Dr Narayana Murthy, Trustee, Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust, presented variants of SaiSure to the dignitaries.
A new website was also launched for SaiSure. Sri Bharani Prasad and Santosh Allath, National Manager of the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust, presented the website to Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai.
The Annapoorna team had assisted the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Gurukulam team to launch the website for online classes during the pandemic. A revamped website was launched with interesting features that enable easy access to the online classes for not just the thousands of students of the Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Gurukulam, but is freely available to eager and enthusiastic children all over the world. The young and dynamic duo of Sri Prashant R. who has recently joined Morgan Stanley, and Sri Mahidhar Reddy who is part of the Gurukulam online team, presented the website to Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai.
Next on the agenda was the launch of yet another new website - Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). 70% of India lives in its villages and the future of the country is dependent on the future of its villages. So an explicit focus on rural development is required for the progress of the country. College students have the energy, skills and the capacity to make an impact and address the challenges rampant in the villages. When the Annapoorna Trust explained to the Principal of Nagarjuna College of Engineering and Technology (NCET), the various rural-centric programmes it was engaged in, he immediately expressed an interest to involve the engineering students of NCET and to acquaint them with problems faced in rural India, with an aim to inculcate and sow the seed of desire to understand, analyse and address those problems by leveraging their education and skills. The idea of designing an Integrated Rural Development Program (IRDP) curriculum emerged from this discussion between Nagarjuna College of Engineering and Technology and the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust in 2017.
The Annapoorna Trust surveyed a number of existing rural development curricula and degree courses being offered the world over. Finally, after an intensive study, the Annapoorna Trust engaged with renowned professors in rural development across several universities and institutions to formulate a curriculum for this programme. Since the goal of this course is to give a practical exposure to university and college students, the lecture sessions in the course are supplemented with practical in-field studies and activities. Students of Higher Education Institutions can enrol in community service and positively impact all sections of the society. Sister Vibhavari and Sister Nayana presented the new website to the dignitaries on the dais.
This was followed by the launch of the book “The Divine Guidance - Part Two”, which contains all the guidance received from Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba through Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai, which had led to the origin and the success of the Annapoorna Breakfast Seva Programme, and the establishment of the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust. The breakfast programme has certainly influenced the lives of many families positively and has now emerged as one of the largest breakfast-serving NGOs in India, in terms of the number of children who benefit from it.
On this significant day, Annapoorna Trust dedicated 50,000 books to the Education Department, Government of Karnataka. These will be distributed to needy school children. This was made possible by Micro Focus, one of the world’s largest enterprise software providers, and Sai Siva Notebooks Industries, known for their unrelenting quality, prompt supply and sincere service. Sri Manoj EG, Global Human Resources Business Partner and Country HR Leader at Micro Focus India, and Sri Siva, Chairman of Sai Siva Notebooks Industries handed over the books to Sri Suresh Kumar.
Much gratitude was expressed to the corporates who have been associated with Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust. It is because of their undeterred support, selfless service and commitment that 500,000 school-going children get to eat a wholesome breakfast every single morning! The Corporations felicitated were Micro Focus, First American India, Bangalore International Airport, Fanuc India Private Limited, McAfee, Samsung, Oracle, Aditya Birla, Zoho, Evexia Nutrition Pvt Ltd, Pristine, Griffith, D A Pandu Memorial RV Dental College, Sai Deep Exports and Dani Rasa Foundation.
Following this, Sri Suresh Kumar delivered a talk. Full of admiration for the activities that Annapoorna is involved in, he assured that the Sarkar would always support Samaja and the Sanstha. He also said that the Government would be very happy to work with Annapoorna to ensure that every child is well fed.
The next speaker was Swami Japanandaji Maharaj-ji who was highly impressed with the love and efforts of the Annapoorna team and the effectiveness of SaiSure. He emphasised the fact that it was due to the grace and blessings of Baba that more and more people are associating with Annapoorna and getting transformed. He praised the holy land, serene atmosphere and pure intent as well, for being additional factors contributing to the success of the Annapoorna Breakfast Seva Programme. Swami Japanandaji graciously blessed the Annapoorna programme.
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy, in his talk stressed on the importance of feeding the needy by narrating an incident in the life of a gentleman from California who was inspired by the life and teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This man used to cook food for 25 to 30 homeless people and distribute food packets personally by walking two kilometres every day. One morning, the food packets got exhausted earlier than usual and some regulars could not be given food that morning. He was saddened and tried to go away without them realising it. But one of them reached out to him and enquired why he had not met them that day. He apologised profusely saying that the food packets had been exhausted earlier that day. The homeless man responded quickly that he waited for this gentleman as he was the only one who ever spoke to him with love and compassion in his whole life. “What you give is not important, how you give is important”, said Sri Narasimha Murthy.
Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai addressed the gathering next. He narrated the story of a great ruler who reigned during the Mahabharata times and was loved by all his subjects, as he did everything possible to keep them happy. The Lord was immensely pleased with him and wanted to bestow boons upon him but none of this fascinated the selfless King. He did not desire for heavens, kingdoms to rule and not even liberation. His only prayer to the Lord was to be able to wipe away the sorrows of those who suffer. Swami emphasised that this ought to be the ideal prayer for every Bharatiya. “Similarly, the Annapoorna Trust can proudly say that every single volunteer, every Trustee and all other support staff live by the prayer that they are able to feed all the hungry children of this land. They have no desire for awards, rewards, recognition or certificates. They only wish that every child enjoys a sumptuous breakfast daily.” Sadguru applauded Sri Suresh Kumar for being a pillar of support to the educational institution, as well as to the Annapoorna Breakfast Programme. “Sri Suresh’s heart beats for the children of the State as well as of the country.” Swami requested him to remain a lifelong volunteer of Annapoorna.
Sadguru asserted that serving the children is not an expense in His institutions as these children are the central point of focus. “Any money spent as an expenditure is considered as an investment in the future of the child, society, future of the country and the world. When the child is fed a scoop of upma, it is not just their belly that is filled. In fact, on seeing the outpour of love from fellow beings, their hearts are filled with hope, faith, confidence and love for the country and its countrymen. They develop a trust and a bond with the country who looks after their needs. The Annapoorna team toils day and night. Every single moment, their only thought is on how to reach out to more children. During the COVID times, the schools were shut and the children were not getting even one meal a day and had to survive on water. The Trustees took the effort to visit the village teachers and find out the poorest families who could not afford even two square meals a day, and distributed 2-3 months’ ration kits to those families, till more support was received from the Government. While the world looked at this pandemic as an adversity, Annapoorna looked at it as an opportunity to reach out to more, to fill their hearts with love and to instil faith in humanity by their acts of service. Through their acts of service, they made everyone very proud.” The memorable morning concluded with Mangala Arati offered to Sadguru Sri Madhusudan Sai.