When divine grace and human effort join hands, even the sky isn’t the limit. The story of how the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust started and has since touched many lives is a powerful testimony to what the partnership between Man and God can achieve.
The Trust, which started its formal operations a year ago on Bhagawan’s 90th Birthday celebrated its first anniversary in Muddenahalli in the Sri Sathya Sai Hridaya Mandiram. The programme was attended by over 160 school staff from 90 schools along with 150 Annapoorna volunteers, who are the backbone of this successful service initiative.
After a few soulful bhajans, the programme commenced with Veda chanting by children from Sangameshwara High School, Byrasandra, Jayanagar in Bangalore, one of the Breakfast Seva centers. This was followed by a brief introduction of the Trust and its journey by the programme comperes.
The audience were then taken on a visual journey, which chronicled the story of how the Trust began, its growth and the lasting impact of the breakfast programme on the school children, their parents, teachers as well as the volunteers through a video documentary, titled ‘Nourishing the Nation through Nutrition’.
You can watch the video, here.
How it all started – God proposed, and man followed
In July 2012, following Bhagawan’s command, a small group of volunteers from various professional backgrounds in Bangalore started providing healthy and balanced breakfast, free of cost, to all the school-going children in Doddabelle, a small village in the outskirts of the city. The children began benefitting by this single act in more ways than the group could have imagined! Not only did their health improve, the children showed up in school regularly, paid better attention in their classes and learned better. Soon, more volunteers joined in and more centres were added. And what started as a service initiative benefitting about 50 children has now grown to embrace more than 8000 children across 120 centres, covering six Indian states. It has now also been undertaken in countries such as Sri Lanka, Dubai, Nigeria, the United States and Hong Kong, China.
Last year, the entire breakfast programme was formally launched under the Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust by Bhagawan on the eve of His 90th Birthday.
Bhagawan arrives at the venue
Just as the video documentary was ending, Bhagawan arrived at the venue to everyone’s excitement. After a short walk, meeting the teachers and children, Bhagawan ascended the dais. Soon after, the students from the Byrasandra Government School chanted Durga Suktam. This was followed by a brief speech by Sri Jayaprakash Tallam, Trustee, Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust. Speaking on the sequence of events that led to the birth of the breakfast programme, he confessed that the most notable outcome of the service was the transformation it brought about in the children. Better attendance, enhanced attention span and improved health quotient were some of the positive outcomes, he said. He concluded his talk, thanking all the cooks, Headmasters and volunteers for their contribution to the successful running of the seva initiative and offered his gratitude to Bhagawan for bestowing such an unmatched opportunity for service.
The next speaker was Dr Raghupathi, who offers his medical services for the Vaidya wing of the Annapoorna Trust. After briefly touching upon the magnificence of the Sai Healthcare Mission, he shared the details of the health and dental camps conducted in the Annapoorna schools by his team. Under the School Health Programme, he shared, over 6,000 children have been screen so far with a focus on the 4Ds – Defects, Deficiencies, Diseases and Development Delays. Health kits have been given to all school-children to help them better manage common ailments without missing school, he added. Soon, the team would conduct bimonthly school visits, wherein even the teachers would be covered, he announced. He also spoke briefly about the SAIWHEELS project, which through a special bus that has been developed to provide free healthcare, education, energy and clean drinking water, caters to around 8 villages near Muddenahalli. He ended his talk, praying to Bhagawan for the strength and devotion to be a part of His grand mission.
This was followed by a heartfelt speech, capturing the transformation stories of the breakfast initiative by Sri Satyanarayana Kola, a senior executive at an IT MNC and an Annapoorna volunteer. He spoke about how the breakfast Seva programme took at a Government School in Banaswadi, serving more than 300 children and how, purely by Bhagawan’s grace, the initiative was ably supported by his neighbours as well as the school teachers and Headmaster. He also shared a couple of personal experiences with Bhagawan.
Short speeches in Kannada by the Headmasters of the beneficiary schools followed next. Sri K Gopal Krishna, Headmaster, Government Lower Primary School, Bachahalli, CKB Taluk, spoke next. This was followed by a short speech by Sri K N Channabasavaiah, Headmaster, Government Lower Primary School, Gowchenahalli. Both of them spoke about the transformation that the children have undergone since the breakfast programme began. Feeding children who otherwise would have missed breakfast has made a remarkable difference in their overall health quotient, they unanimously agreed. Through this programme, even the teachers have a unique opportunity for their spiritual uplift, they confessed.
Smt. Venkata Lakshmamma, Head Cook, Government Lower Primary School, Kanijenahalli and President of Chikkaballapur Taluk for Karnataka Rajya Akshara Dasoha (Bisi Oota), an association of cooks for government schools was the next speaker of the day. She touched everyone’s hearts with her simplicity as she described how she enjoyed cooking breakfast for all the school children by feeling that she was verily cooking for her own children. She ended her talk by thanking Bhagawan for providing nourishment to the school children via the breakfast seva, and prayed to Him to cover all the schools in Chikkaballapur (currently 90 schools are served by the Annapoorna Programme). Touched by her selfless desire, Bhagawan immediately commanded the volunteers to work on expansion plans.
Two students spoke next, Kumari Nisarga from Vinayak Nagar and Kumari Chaitra from BGS School Chikkaballapur who was previously a student at Kandavaara School, spoke next. They explained how the breakfast programme had changed their outlook to academics, human values and God to a thunderous applause by the audience. The children specifically thanked Bhagawan and all the Gurus, who were instrumental in their transformation.
Sri B N Narasimha Murthy, Chief Mentor, Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Institutions, and Advisor, Sri Sathya Sai Annapoorna Trust spoke next. Congratulating all the teachers, support staff, Annapoorna volunteers and the children who have benefitted from this programme, he highlighted how Bhagawan always strives to uplift humanity. He urged the audience to participate in selfless service and adopt equanimity in lives. He concluded his talk reminding everyone that to attain the fruit of life the path of Seva was quintessential and by serving all we would ideally only be serving ourselves and moving closer to God.
Divine Discourse sets the way forward for the Annapoorna Team
Bhagawan then delivered His divine discourse. He began by talking about the six essential qualities of true education. Citing the example of Ravana, Hiranyakasipu and Duryodhana, Bhagawan said that these three luminaries were great people and had various abilities such as 64 forms of knowledge, ability to instantly travel from one place to another, and immense physical strength. Yet, they were not truly educated because they lacked the six essential qualities of education, and this led to their destruction, eventually. On the contrary, small children such as Prahlad, Dhruva, and Nachiketa had these qualities. The main defining characteristic of education is Daiva Bhakti (devotion to God). Bhagawan explained that love and devotion for God translates into faith that God exists, God is looking after us, and God loves us.
Revealing that the basic purpose behind activities such as providing breakfast and conducting medical checkups is to cultivate devotion and love for God in the school children. This is sorely missing today, He said. Cultivating love for God will inspire the school children to serve the God in others, which is real worship, He explained.
Swami exhorted all the teachers and volunteers to serve the children as they own, since whole world is one’s family. By nourishing the children with love, one would essentially be nourishing the future of humanity, He added.
Finally, Bhagawan outlined His vision for the future of the Annapoorna Breakfast Seva programme. He said with continued efforts, the programme will expand to include 5,000 schools very soon, and in the next 5 years, it will spread to encompass all the Government schools in Karnataka and from there to entire India and finally the entire world. The end goal is that no child should go to school on an empty stomach. To realize this vision, it is essential that all people should join forces, He explained.
Bhagawan concluded His discourse by blessing everyone and sharing His happiness. Upon Bhagawan’s command, the students sang a Sarvadharma bhajan.
The programme ended with the offering of the Aarthi.
Post lunch, a medical camp was conducted by the assembled medical staff for all the teachers and the kitchen staff. Health cards were filled up and collected. Booklets on the Annapoorna programme were then distributed to all the attendees.
To read the evening discourse, click here