Posted by: helpachildtostudy | December 16, 2011

Help a Child Student Speaks at Harvard University!

We bring you a very special blog post today by Ms Shweta Bantanal, who had previously written another post for us on her experiences with Help a Child to Study and how she was supported to escape the cycle of poverty. When Help a Child to Study’s founder Mr Samir Somaiya was invited to speak at Harvard University’s Private and Public, Scientific, Academic, And Consumer Food Policy Group Conference on the topic of ‘Education and Its Impact on the Poor’, the conference organisers asked if he could also bring one of Help a Child’s graduates to tell their own story of how the project changed their life.   We would especially like to thank Harvard University for sponsoring Shweta’s trip to the United States and giving her this amazing experience. Shweta has written about her experience below and we hope that you will enjoy reading it!

Shweta speaking at the Conference at Harvard

Shweta Bantanal:

As they say, there are some Experiences cannot be expressed, but only experienced.

Nobody knows when opportunities will knock the doors, but utilizing them to the utmost level is the real task on mankind and I am happy that it has been a great time of utilization for me when an Indian daughter stepped inside Harvard University, USA on behalf of Help A Child for the PAPSAC conference at Harvard University. The long hours spent on our terrace watching planes can become a wonder while traveling across continents.


I received call from our Help a Child Coordinator Dr.Vijayakumar Kanavi asking would you like to go USA on behalf of HAC for PAPSAC conference at Harvard University. Wow, I thought!  Have you ever been in such a lovely situation where, you get a happy news, how do you react to a thing like that? Trip to USA!, that too for conference at Harvard university which is one of the best universities in the world ?!  I agreed to go, as there were more than one positive to the news, I get to go to Boston, in a flight and Harvard Business School will bear the cost of my travel and accommodation… it would be a fantastic experience and I would also grow myself in career by this first step…ideal deal.


Flight Experience:

I was so thrilled when I reached the Bombay airport. The Swiss Airline to USA was at 1.30am. I have gone through all security check and immigration. As I entered the plane, a smile welcomed me in and saw the aircraft doors, the cockpit entrance. I hardly slept in flight fearing my impending first experience with flight. Feeling hungry yet not consuming anything was taking its toll on me. I started remembering all the prayers that I could remember and kept chanting even before the actual flight. I was a nervous wreck and I seem to be the only person who was worried about the flight. My fear became a joke.


My colleague had given some information on how it would feel when we touchdown and there is no need to panic etc… I was thinking does this guy know anything about me, hello, I travel in government buses on rural Karnataka Roads, and nothing can beat that.


Just like any first time flier I too wanted a window seat, I found my seat. I heard all kinds of rattling noise. I could see the right wing. Flimsy metal plates bumped along. Slowly the plane picked up speed and whole of my stomach was at my throat. The tires lifted and rattling sound increased. The land moved and the distance between the plane’s wing and the land grew. For the first time I was surprised into pleasure by the sight of the land below. It became big patches of building and green. I relaxed the takeoff was smooth let us see what happens to the rest of the flight thought my mind.


The rest of the flight was pleasant. I hogged the entire unpalatable airplane food much to the airhostess surprise. I wasn’t feeling sick and actually I was enjoying myself. The flight was pleasant and landing equally smooth.


Conference & Sightseeing:

Prof. Ray Goldberg from the Harvard Business School who had organized the conference welcomed us gladly. The conference was focused and collaborative. The educators and leaders from business and government who attended PAPSAC knew this was a very special gathering. I got the chance to meet industry leaders who are passionately committed to driving innovation and entrepreneurship. And attendees leave with an infectious desire to be change-makers once they return home. Plus, PAPSAC conference provided me solid face-to-face time to network and build relationships with peers.

My talk on ‘education and its impact on poor’ was there on 2nd day of conference. I spoke about how my education improved my family’s situation and resulted in turning a sad story into a successful story. I spoke about how many rural Indian students have to choose only one option between eating and studying, it is unpleasant to hear but when they make the choice it is converted into a motivation factor to achieve their aspirations. Other factors involved in rural education is parents are hesitant to send their daughters to schools having only male teachers, they are more comfortable with lady teachers. Bright students of rural area lag behind in results and achievement due to lack of exposure and quality education. Finally I answered queries about my dream to become a social entrepreneur to help many students like me.   When I finished my talk all great achievers who are CEOs of big industries gathering there rushed towards me to wish me. Another amazing experience is that I met the head of Harvard Business School on the same day. I felt so happy that I can’t express the feeling in words.

This experience provided me broad skills and confidence that complement a technical education, which can empower me to become an innovative professional in larger, established organizations as well. The conference also offered me some unique information regarding food security.

Every university should start such activities to have a deep impact within their local or national entrepreneurial ecosystem. This frontline exposure provides a lifetime of insights for students. Of course there are many conferences but it is important to see how much of the shared knowledge is reaching people like me. I got an opportunity to develop myself further, learnt a new skill, enjoyed a new adventure and embraced another exercise in continual self-improvement. Having seen Harvard University’s operations, I am all the more enthused about the growth in career and personality development that the experience offered.

Apart from the conference we also went to the aquarium, and watched the shark show at IMAX. I was lucky to visit the media lab of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Another exciting experience was the Boston duck tour. I was surprised when bus entered the Charles River then I came to know why it is called Duck Tour. Even roaming on the streets of Boston city in the evening and enjoying an awesome climate on the bank of Charles River was amazing. I loved seeing the huge book collection at the Harvard book stores.

My Gratitude to Help A Child:

I would like to thank Harvard University for their hospitality during my visit and for giving me this wonderful experience. I would also like to thank Help a Child for all their efforts like providing warm clothes, proper assistance to get Visa and arrange my visit. The reason behind my success is the support given by Help a Child to Study and my sponsor for my education without which I would have been left out. I am very thankful to Somaiya Vidyavihar Trust and my sponsor Mr. Mihir Jhaveri for financial support for my education and his beautiful gift.

Thank you so much to the Help A Child project team and Prof. Ray Goldberg for making it possible for me to attend PAPSAC. I wish Help A Child will go a long way to create such a wonderful opportunities for more students.



  1. […] Shweta’s return from the US (See the blog post below), we’ve received a couple of press mentions! Here’s the article, the first from […]

  2. Some really great blog posts on this site, regards for contribution.

  3. Shweta, Congratulations!!!…

    thanks for sharing your great experiences with us…

  4. Really inspirational story.. go ahead.. Gud luck for yo future.. ‘M sure your entrepreneurship dream comes true soon..

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