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Linking Young Minds Together
|Volume 5 | Issue 32 | August 14, 2011 ||
Aiming for the Bigger Picture: Students hit the streets!
Saad Adnan Khan
So as our commerce minister asks the citizenry to “eat less” what was he really thinking? Does he mean that the ordinary people who are already budgeting their meals painstakingly due to increase in prices of food should budget more skimpily? Does he expect the hungry mass of the population to practice more abstinence from food, because maybe they are not abstaining enough? His request shows to what extent the government of our country can be indifferent to and disconnected from the everyday plight of the ordinary. Minister Faruk Khan's outrageous solution happens to create a desperate situation for the ordinary people, more so for those who are underprivileged, who can only rely on basic necessities for survival.
Fortunately, the young people in the country think and act differently than the government. The young people, who want to eradicate poverty, enlighten the nation with education and fight for equality and human rights, but do not have the means or environment to do so, are on the forefront, helping and sharing happiness with the underprivileged in their own ways. In this month of Ramadan, a squadron of youth based organisations and student groups are taking small steps to bring smiles among the underprivileged somehow or the other. The youth do not have ambitious plans to feed all the hungry people in the nation in the month of Ramadan, because quite simply they will not be able to do so, but this sad reality does not deter them from giving up hope, providing free iftars and buying Eid gifts for underprivileged kids. Of course a cynic can point out how will that help the nation? How will that remove poverty and alleviate suffering? The answer to that is, it may not, but that should not stop students from loving and showing care altogether. The youth are equally helpless and vulnerable like you and me, but unlike the cynic, the youth do not sit at home and criticise people who are actually compassionate.
'Nal Piran' (Red shirt) is a unified project conducted by the students of batch 2008 of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET). It is a fund raising program initiated to buy Eid presents for one hundred canteen boys who work at the BUET halls. The kids, ranging from ages 7- 16 clean the canteens, cook and also serve food to students at the time of sehri. During Eid, all these kids go to their villages to spend the holiday. The fund raising took place for almost ten days, when coordinators and volunteers set up a booth in front of the main gate of BUET. “A similar initiative was taken long time back, but this time the response was huge,” says Tahmid Sayed Abtahi, a volunteer. Students and teachers of BUET and several outsiders donated money. The goal was to collect around Taka 40,000, but the fact that the programme managed to raise Taka 80,000 shows the enormous success of such an effort by not any established organisation, but a group of friends and peers. With this money, the coordinators plan to buy a shirt for each child and give Taka 200-300 in cash to each of them. “We plan to use the remaining money to set up multipurpose funds in the future to help these underprivileged canteen boys gain education and help other needy students of BUET as well,” says Tanvir Arafat Dhrubo a student of BUET and also a coordinator. 11-year-old Md Naziur Uddin wants to become a car mechanic when he grows up. “Education will enable kids like Naziur achieve realistic goals to help them make a living,” says Dhrubo. The title of the project alludes to the theme of Anisul Hoque's telefilm 'Nal piran', which is a story of a poor child from a village who insistently asks for a red shirt from his father, who works as a rickshaw puller in Dhaka. The son gets trampled by a frenzied crowd at a charity event and dies before the father can get him a shirt. It is a story about
incompleteness that many underprivileged children face every day. The coordinators and volunteers of project 'Nal piran' have taken the courage to complete that story and give it an alternative positive ending. With this compassionate gesture, the BUET students have tried to bring smiles on the faces of the underprivileged children who labour and get very little in return from reality. The gifts will be distributed to the canteen boys from August 16-21.
Youth based organisation Community Action's 'Action: Piyaju-beguni 2011' is another project initiated by the dynamic Actioneers (the student volunteers of the organisation) to feed the underprivileged kids (below the age of 18) all throughout the month of Ramadan. The idea is to go to different areas in Dhaka City every day and feed the slum and street kids. The money raised to buy the iftar comes from the Actioneers themselves and anyone willing to donate. This is the third year that this programme is running actively, and this year the Actioneers will go to Chittagong, Sylhet and Modhupur as well for this project. The programme's objective is to try and feed at least 200 kids per day. The iftar they provide the kids with is a combination of snacks like chola, piyaju, beguni, moori, plain cake and juice. “We Actioneers work together. We get to know each other. Through this kind of cooperation, we hope that we end up doing something big and meaningful for the underprivileged,” says Antara Tasneem, one of the area leaders. “You can look at it as a leadership building project as well. These Actioneers are getting trained by themselves to interact with the underprivileged people. This leadership building can be seen as a long term investment by these young people since they want to do something for the society in future,” says Sumaiya Ifrit Binte, another student leader. Sometimes of course, there is a shortage of food and the Actioneers cannot feed all the kids. Regardless of such a drawback, the Actioneers are more than willing to get down on the streets and look for kids they can feed every day in the month of Ramadan.
Another humane effort that is being carried out to comfort underprivileged kids is '100 smiles' by OneDegree Initiative. This is the second year the volunteers of OneDegree are conducting this project. People are so privileged that they do not stop to think about the underprivileged, and even if they do they quickly disengage themselves from such a thought to avoid guilt since they know that at the end of the day they will not do anything for the underprivileged. The volunteers of OneDegree, however, make the thoughtful effort to mingle and spend the day with slum kids two days before Eid. The volunteers take presents for the kids, put mehendi on their hands and take delicacies to treat the kids. “The fund for the food and gifts comes from the regular fund of OneDegree. Almost two hundred volunteers are involved with the project. We are not concerned about any long term effects. We just want to go out and spread a little happiness. It is about the moment,” says Tausif Farhad, former executive committee member. JAAGO foundation, the organisation that works to provide underprivileged kids with free education, throws a massive iftar party once a year in the month of Ramadan. This year a total of 600 underprivileged kids (taught at schools founded by JAAGO) will be invited to this party. This iftar arrangement is for one day, but Korvi Rakshand, the founder of the organisation makes sure that the kids enjoy this event to the fullest with good food, games and music. Through the action and compassion of these young people, they have shown how privileged people can use their privileges to help the underprivileged in so many different ways. The projects are still on and running. Just look up the event pages on Facebook if you want to join these people.
Here are some passionate young people, selflessly doing what they can to help underprivileged people, and in a batting of eyelid one can also catch a glimpse of ruthless power such as the police force oppressing, exploiting and also ending up murdering young people in present times. The recent stories of the unspeakable violence against young people are unnerving, unjustifiable, violation of human rights and have created a hostile and unsafe environment for the young people to roam around. What's so beautiful is that even amidst such hostility, the youth are doing whatever they can to ease a single person's life, even if it is for a single day. Small steps lead to the bigger picture, which is what the young people are slowly and bravely aiming for-- the bigger picture.
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