|Home | Issues | The Daily Star Home | Volume 4, Issue 8, Tuesday February 27, 2007|
Voluntary organisations: Fellowship with service
In this day of illiteracy, population explosion, acute poverty, malnutrition, child mortality, drug abuse, environmental pollution, violence and extremely low status of women, it is good to know that someone cares. If that somebody is one of the top voluntary organisations of Bangladesh, it is one more drop in the ocean.
Today, frontrunner voluntary organisations are Zonta, Rotary, Inner Wheel, Lion, Leo, Soroptimist, Alo, Nari, SAARC Women's Association, Women Entrepreneurs Association, Women Entrepreneurs Association Bangladesh, Project Five-O, JCI Bangladesh and Apex Bangladesh. Membership is picking up, report members, as a more sensitised community takes up cudgels for the deprived.
The Daily Star caught up with representatives from four such organisations. Here is what they had to say:
PP Mosud Mannan, ndc. MPHF B. deputy governor of Rotary International District (2005-2006), member of Rotary Club of Baridhara and incoming president of Rotary Club Baridhara.
Mannan points out that the Rotary Club of Baridhara has 29 members and was formally recognised by Rotary International in February 2006. A major project of Rotary in Bangladesh is that of polio immunisation in tandem with WHO, UNICEF and the government of Bangladesh. Future projects of Baridhara Rotary Club include eye camps, one around Dhaka and two in distant corners of Bangladesh. Another scheme is to conduct a de-worming project for children within six months in the Dhaka slum area in coordination with the Rotary International district 3280 Bangladesh.
Then there is also the target of having a Gift of Life project in the latter half of 2007. The agenda is to establish contact with the Gift of Life International (a body which conducts surgery on young children between four and fourteen years who have congenital heart disease).
At a concrete level, the Baridhara Club has sent warm clothes (valued at Taka 25,000) through the local rotary club to the cold-affected northern part of Gaibandha. In addition, club members are in the practice of raising funds individually and collectively for various community services. For instance, one member Jennifer Collier Wilson and her husband on behalf of Rotary Club of Baridhara have recently donated Taka 70, 000 to the Rosey Foundation that is dedicated to thousands of poor teenage girls and helps train them in making handicrafts and greeting cards.
Ferdausi Rahman, district chairman (2000-2001), national representative (2003-2004), member of Inner Wheel Club of Dhaka North (which belongs to Inner Wheel District 328).
Inner Wheel Club is comprised of the wives and relatives of Rotarians. In Inner Wheel District 328 are over 500 members of around 29 clubs throughout Bangladesh. Many projects of Inner Wheel and Rotary Clubs overlap. As Ferdausi points out, the former has lent its hand to Rotary's endeavour to extend help to the needy. "At one point in 1974 we were having famine and all the Rotarians' wives made bread and distributed it." Likewise, Inner Wheel members work shoulder to shoulder in other projects such as eye camps, dental camps, scholarships to the deprived, polio vaccination," asserts Ferdausi.
Among Inner Wheel Club North's specific projects is a school near Savar. The members of the club provide books, pay the tuition fees and other expenses for necessities. The club also supplies life saving drugs to the needy people of Shishu Hospital in Agargaon, Dhaka. In addition, members raise funds to help acid burn victims.
Nehreen Rahman (Tootli), president of Zonta Club 1 of Dhaka and Alo.
The first Zonta Club of East Pakistan (of what is now Bangladesh) was founded in 1966. Today Zonta has 300 to 500 members all over Bangladesh while Zonta Club 1 of Dhaka comprises of 38 members. There are five Zonta Clubs in Bangladesh four in Dhaka and one in Chittagong. In furtherance of Zonta International's objective to improve the legal, political, economic, education, health and professional status of women and build fellowships between professional women, Zonta Club 1 of Dhaka has a number of projects on hand.
One of the new projects is to proffer free medical advice and medicines to women and children in the Bashundhara slum area. The inputs could range from advice on general health, hygiene and response to queries. The club's doctor visits the area twice a month. Now the aim is to enlist the services of another doctor and increase the visits to weekly ones.
The club also extends help to Alo, a drug awareness organisation. The aim is to treat and rehabilitate women and children affected by drugs. In addition, Zonta Club 1 of Dhaka provides monetary help to student nurses so that they can complete their education. The club has extended help to orphanages in the form of books, stationery and other inputs.
In addition, Zonta Club 1 of Dhaka gave advice to garment workers on their rightful status. “Yes we do have informal social meetings but if each of us can help the needy it goes a long way. We are doing our best to enhance and promote the status of women singularly and jointly,” says Tootli.
Dora Tasneem, ex-president of Lion's Club Dhaka Rajdhani, now regional chairperson.
There are over 5,000 Lion's Clubs globally with operations in 200 countries, says Dora, pointing out that Lion's is the biggest social organisation in the world. The membership in Bangladesh is 4,000. Lion's Club Dhaka Rajdhani has 26 members.
In keeping with the Lion's motto to serve, members have sought to build bridges with each other and promote their social causes. One of the main projects are eye hospitals in Dhaka (Agargaon), Jessore and other places.
“One of our major success stories is the eye hospital in Agargaon which offers free treatment to the needy. Every year the Lion's Clubs have two or three eye camps and decide who needs surgery. Lion's Club of Dhaka Rajdhani has organised cataract surgery for 1,000 people,” says Dora.
Lion's Club of Dhaka Rajdhani has also set up four ideal villages in Bangladesh, one each in Sonargaon and Chittagong and two in Munshiganj. Around 2,000 people have benefited through the club that provides small houses and income generating activities such as pisiculture and poultry farming. The other achievement is the provision of arsenic-free tube wells. The objective is to promote self-sufficiency among the rural denizens.
Apart from this, the club runs a primary school in Chittagong. It also offers the needy a free Friday dental clinic in Mirpur, Dhaka.
By Kavita Charanji
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