Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 2, Issue 33, Tuesday February 22, 2005







Social work: A calling?

The Sufis question: 'Is this what I am here for?' 'Is this the best I can do?' Indeed there comes a time in everybody's life when they seek answers to such conundrums. The motivations are aplenty-- they could be disillusioned with the existing materialistic way of life, have more leisure time or grown up children who no longer need full time attention.

Against this backdrop, working for the needy and marginalised fills a lacuna in many people's lives. What's more, even the younger generation has embraced the cause of the underprivileged through school programmes for fund raising and education.

Here's a glimpse of a low profile person and institutions for which social work has become a calling:

Shanta Gunasekara, pianist and music instructor
The Sri Lankan Shanta teaches singing and the history of music to the students of Green Herald school. She is also a piano instructor at Grace school.

Shanta focuses on the health sector in various ways. Along with donations to organisations and individuals, she has sponsored doctors to provide medical aid to the residents --ranging from small babies to old people--of the Mother Theresa home and Shishu Bhavan in Dhaka.

Shanta also extends support to the needy outside Dhaka, such as Kaligonj. There also she works with the missionaries who run a small clinic for pregnant women. Sometimes she helps supply necessary things like clothes, cotton or medicine.

Shanta has also extended her hand to needy individuals. Among their ranks is a former freedom fighter who stands at the road and sells bananas. Eking out a living on the streets, his two daughters were victims of acid attacks. (apparently due to a marital dispute). Disturbed at this gross injustice against the women, last year she referred them to the Acid Survivors Foundation and helped with monetary support.

Music therapy, which she learnt in Russia, is another passion for Shanta. As she says, " I would like to do more music therapy, especially for the disabled, drug addicts or mentally disturbed children-like rape cases and the abused. Through playing the piano, singing, games and activities, the aim is to divert their minds and provide them inspiration."

Explaining the motivation behind her choosing the vocation of social work, she says her mother (a Catholic) used to extend help to poor people, go to orphanages very often and give clothes to the children. She also used to stitch clothes for the children for the New Year.

The other factor, which propelled her to take up the social cause, is wrong medical treatment by an unscrupulous doctor. As she explains, because of erroneous treatment for a gynaecological ailment by this medical practitioner in Dhaka, she could not have any more children after one daughter.

What about the younger generation's involvement with the social sector? "There could be a group of young people who are involved but, on the whole, most of the children don't have the time and are busy going for tuition and other activities. They are not given a chance or motivated towards social work," says Shanta.

Several schools have community service programmes. For instance the American International School, Dhaka (AISD) has Service Learning right from kindergarten to Grade 12. Among the projects are a partnership with the School of Hope, ABC school, Noorolloh and an orphanage (Families for Children). The students of the American School read books, play games and teach English to their less fortunate counterparts. They also work with partners to develop computer skills during their quarterly visits to AISD.

Then there are clubs such as Habitat for Humanity (for the high school), and a club called Roots and Shoots which focuses on environmental issues such as deforestation and habitat loss. Grade 5 students learn about bird life in Bangladesh in order to promote awareness about loss of habitat.

The children also raise funds to help filmmakers Dr Haque and Dr Halder generate awareness about the need to protect wildlife in Bangladesh.

There are other elements as well: in Grade 4, the children from the AISD raise money for children who are physically challenged.

Another school that takes pride in its work for the underprivileged is Scholastica, Uttara branch. The school's Community Service Club (CSC) has a regular literacy programme in which student members of CSC teach underprivileged children. Scholastica also rises to the occasion whenever their help is needed. For instance, CSC members collected toys, children's clothes, saris, dry food and sweets from the students for the "Eid gift box" of Bangladesh Association for Social Advancement (BASA). This was done for the Eid-ul-Fitr of 2004. Likewise, in November 2004, four students organised several magic shows and a concert to raise funds for two cancer patients. These programmes raised Taka 1 lakh.

Clearly the drive of individuals and institutions to make this a better and more equitable world, will leave its imprint for future generations. In the meantime, even a drop in the ocean is cause for celebration.

By Kavita Charanji

Hanging out

Charming Chopati...

They say 'Appearances aren't everything'. Well I disagree. It's common knowledge that people are attracted by beauty. And this explains why 'Chopati' is almost always busy and buzzing.

PROS: Situated just opposite the Prabartak entrance road to Sarson Road, Chittagong, 'Chopati' has been attracting attention from a relatively long time. It is sponsored by Oxford Telecom. Step inside and it seems like you have stepped into a different world. Artistically rustic, the interior is decorated in a 'Native American' theme, somehow transporting you back in time. The lighting is subtle and the tables are arranged to accommodate cosy groups of four. The music in the background is audible but quiet enough to enable people to enjoy conversations without too much effort. Being in a busy area, it guarantees good business.

CONS: The food could definitely do with a major boost, as it leaves much to be desired. Most of the time whatever you order isn't even available. Apart from offering very limited choices of fast food snacks, they also serve Indian chaats, dahi boras and so forth, thereby resembling 'Dhaba' slightly. Dahi Chatpati and fuchka were stopped after several customer complaints, and an insider confided that this was because they were buying the 'fuchkas' from outside, instead of making it themselves. The limited parking space can also be counted as a drawback.

All in all, the interior ambience makes it a nice place to visit if you want to meet and chat with friends, or just generally kill time. However, the quality of food ensures that this is not a place to visit if you are REALLY hungry!

By Jennifer Ashraf

Dearest DIARY

Dearest diary,
I was just wondering, mind you, I was just wondering, what if I really started to lose weight. I mean, you know diary, we have all heard and read those inspiring and miraculous weight loss stories in the magazines and my favorite Oprah shows, but I never got to know, what happened to their fat clothes? How long did it again take them to re-build their wardrobe? And especially what happened to their shoes? My ever burgeoning, shoe collection, will it go to waste? Do feet also shrink? Will my bangles and rings all be loose? My Victoria's Secret, ahem! Not so little things, my matching blouses, my sunglasses, my loose skin? No need to see an astrologer. I can see a huge expenditure looming up in my hubby's future.

Let me make a list.
No:1 - new saris and blouses from Bombay
No:2 new bangles and rings from Kolkata
No:3 new shoes from BKK
No:4 new shades, okay! From BKK also
No:5 another trip to Victoria's secret for smaller, ahem! Things
No:6 a Harley St. tummy tuck
No:7 and finally a trip to Chicago to attend the Oprah show to show "my" miraculous change. Come to think of it. Is it worth all this? So, as I was discussing my woes with my hubby he also came up with a list.
1) alteration of the blouses he would pay for
2) return my big bangles and rings and get smaller ones and make profit on the balance
3) he would get my sunglasses tightened to fit my new head
4) he will throw in a trip to BKK for my shoes and my sweet nothings.
5) he would still love me with my jelly belly
6) Oprah does not have foreign guests on her shows. So the trip to the US gets scrapped.
Okay, I am kinda stumped, no smart retorts hovering in my mind what so ever.
So I guess I'm back to square one.
The battle begins again diary.

So, disconsolately I give you another recipe today diary with my favorite seafood- prawn.

Garlic prawn in hot sauce
1 kg king prawns
1 mdm onion
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsp shredded ginger
1 fresh red chili, seeded and sliced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp corn flour
Small bunch sweet basil (tulsi leaves)

1) peel the prawn, leaving the tails. Cut deeply down centre back ad remove dark vein. Press prawns out flat.
2) Peel the onions and slice thinly from top to base to give short curved slices.
3) Stir fry the onion, garlic, ginger, and chili in the oil until softened. Add the prawns and stir fry until the change color and begin to curl up.
4) Mix sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, water and corn flour together, pour into the pan and stir until thickened.
5) Lastly stir in the basil leaves into the dish.
Enjoy, have a good day and happy cooking!

Shopping tips that help

Next time you're out doing some serious shopping, keep these few things in mind and you can't possibly go wrong anywhere! Always take a friend with you, someone you trust to be reliable and completely honest, especially someone who will unfalteringly tell you whether your choice is right or wrong. Always do a thorough research on what's available in what price range, and where the best place to shop is. Have an up-to-date idea of upcoming and current trends (it won't help to buy something outdated!). Remember to mentally decide on a fixed budget range, and stay determined to stick to it. Remember to 'look before you leap', or in better words, inspect properly before you buy. There is no sense in spending a fortune on anything that is less than perfect for you. Do your hair and makeup. After all, you will be looking in a lot of mirrors. Often a bad hair day might make you reconsider what would otherwise be classified as a totally 'glamorous' purchase. Wouldn't that turn out to be a total waste? Don't automatically trust a salesperson, no matter how much she flatters you. The salesperson is trying to make a sale, so don't let her talk you into anything. In fact, limit communication to you pointing at purchases you want to try out. Don't be rash, but trust your instincts. It isn't the biggest decision of your life, but it will be reflecting a lot on your personality!

By Jennifer Ashraf

Spring Tips

Spring is indeed the best season of the year. Spring is characterised by soothing weather, light coloured clothes and cool drinks. It's also the time to take care of your skin. As your wardrobe changes with the weather, your skin care habits should also change as you welcome this queen of all seasons.

Use mild soap or face wash to cleanse your face. Use medicated creams to soothe dry skin during this time of the year.

Beauticians suggest a switch to light foundation and moisturizer, preferably one with a sunscreen block.

Your skin might develop acne, as the temperature gets warmer with time. Therefore, cleanse your skin thoroughly when you come home from outside.

Cleansing from within is also important to help purify the sweat glands and blood. Consume vegetables, which are high in water content. Eat lots of sweet juicy fruits. Eat lighter foods and avoid rich sweets and deep-fried foods or heavy cheeses, especially if your skin tends to be naturally oily. Remember that such oily foods will clog your pours and lead to acne breakouts.

Drink plenty of pure water everyday. Warm water is especially good for regulating and cleansing toxins from your body.

It's also the time to opt for light coloured clothes, choose light shades of lipstick and nail polish to complement your attire.

Spring is the perfect season to celebrate in colours. So have a nice spring!

By Penelope





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