Dev Thimmisetty
Mercury Staff
POSTED
6 months ago

Akshaya Patra members have raised money for over 270 children since last semester

Two sophomores founded the first chapter at a Texas university of an international organization.

Akshaya Patra is an organization that started in India in 2000 to provide school children lunches. UTD AP partners with other UTD Indian cultural groups at events and competitions to fundraise money for the cause. The students have raised enough money to feed over 270 children since September.

President Subhash Ammisetti, a computer science sophomore, said his interest in AP began in high school, but he wasn’t able to start a chapter there. He decided to start one at UTD toward the end of his freshman year with vice president and biology sophomore, Abhinav Thummala. After filing the paperwork last spring, the club’s first meeting took place on Sept. 12.

“I thought that a college campus would be a good place to take this initiative for a good cause, so we created this club to help children in India,” Ammisetti said. “It only takes $15 to feed a kid for a whole semester, so we really can help improve a lot of lives.”

Thummala said AP’s model of building large kitchens to feed children is efficient in ensuring that children stay in school and get educated.

“For me, (donating) is one of the easiest ways to give back to communities,” he said. “Another thing is that many of our families are Indian, and we are first-generation Americans, so we want to help out in our place of origin.”

A capella and dance clubs at UTD, such as Dhunki and Sharara, perform at competitions with AP as their partner so the audience can donate to the organization. UTD AP also hosts their own events, such as the 5K Nerd Run or a bake week, to raise additional money. This is sent to the national AP organization, which sends the funds over to India to be used to feed the children.

“The UTD Indian community seems really big, but it’s really not that big,” he said. “We mostly just networked through friends … and people were eager to join because the cause really resounds with people.”

At a dance competition called Hansini in February, groups that donated more to UTD AP via a GoFundMe were given more rehearsal time.

This new initiative, along with the other events throughout the year, helped the club raise enough money to feed 300 students for a full semester, about $4,500. Thummala said chapters generally send 90 percent of their proceeds to AP USA, leaving 10 percent to keep the chapter running for the next year.

The first major event for AP was a concert partnered with the nationally prominent a cappella group, Penn Masala, in October of last year. Ammisetti said Penn Masala promoting AP was a significant factor in spreading the news about the new chapter at UTD.

“Since it was our first year, the hardest thing was to get the message out there, building a brand,” he said. “Penn Masala was a big success because it helped us do exactly that.”

Ammisetti said the goal is to create annual traditions so students can plan to participate in AP at specific times during the year. This includes a large concert incorporating UTD groups in the fall and the 5K Nerd Run in the spring.

“So U of H is actually starting their own AP chapter after seeing how well we did this year, and if we have events at set times during the year, then it can help other universities start new chapters and know what to expect in terms of structure,” he said.

Thummala said the goal for next year is to be more professional and instill a sense of giving to all the students.

“We want our members to keep supporting AP throughout their lives,” Thummala said. “If they see AP or some charity organization in their neighborhood, they will go help out because that’s what they did during their college days.”