Akshaya Patra Foundation in Bangalore, India—Mid-Point Reflection

My first month in Bangalore has brought a host of opportunities for personal and professional growth. As I mentioned in my first blog post, my primary responsibility is to visit government schools that receive the Akshaya Patra mid-day meal in order to collect testimony about the impact that the mid-day meal has on students, teachers, and school administrators.

I collect this information via one-to-one interviews, often translated from English to Kannada, and then Kannada back to English. With support from the Foundation, I have been able to collect a reasonably representative sample of testimony of school children from several communities in Bangalore.

Collecting testimony has been a practical application of the fieldwork necessary for much of the work produced in social science research. I’m lucky to be able to practice a modified version of fieldwork, with a lot of support from the people around me. After finishing my time at Brandeis, I would like to pursue graduate study in anthropology. I have India in mind as a place I would like to explore further, so the exposure I’m getting this summer will be helpful to me during future trips.

Being an intern at such a large transnational NGO, like the Akshaya Patra Foundation, has helped me understand some of the challenges of operating an NGO in conjunction with a government mandated program. I am also learning about the opportunities, and difficulties, that fundraising across continents may pose.

During my time at Brandeis, I have been introduced to the ethics of international (and domestic) development. I have been fortunate to receive a strong academic background in some of the ethical considerations that circulate in academic circles. My internship is supplementing theoretical arguments that I have been exposed to—most of which are very critical of the development industry—with exposure to the challenges of running a social welfare program, initiated by the government, on a scale necessary to accommodate India’s large population.

In the last month, I have been reading Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?written by Martin Luther King, Jr. I’m finding that much of Dr. King’s commentary is directly relevant to my time as an intern at Akshaya Patra. Dr. King rhetorically asks, “How responsible am I for the well-being of my fellows?” (1968:86). He then responds, “To ignore evil is to become an accomplice in it” (1968:86).

The effect, however small, that the actions in my adult life will have in swaying our collective consciousness towards justice—or towards further harm—remains to be seen. For now, I have been very lucky to sit with, and bear witness to, the stories of people in India who we do not regularly hear from. I hope that, in my working life, I’ll be able to remember and honor the stories I have been exposed to this summer. My internship is renewing my commitment to following Dr. King’s leadership, and his assertion that it is in our best interest to actively engage in creating humane, fair, and just living conditions for all members of our societies.

-Shane Weitzman ’16

 

Government Urdu High School, DJ Halli

Government Urdu High School, DJ Halli

(A school I visited to collect testimony.)

 

school 1

Government Lower Primary School, Kattugollahalli

(A school I visited to collect testimony.)

 

To learn more about the mid-day meal scheme in India, please see:

  1. http://mdm.nic.in/

(Government of India website for mid-day meal scheme)

  1. http://www.archive.india.gov.in/sectors/education/index.php?id=7

(Explanation of mid-day meal scheme by Government of India)

 

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