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What our ignorance does

Today as I sat watching our built-in television on our high-tech surround sound system in my father's air-conditioned Merc with large, cumbersome shopping bags in the middle of the commercial shopping district in Gulshan, I felt nothing but pure repugnance.

What I was actually watching was not the television, but a poor, tattered man with three missing fingers on his right hand holding a young girl who was obviously blind and suffered from Down Syndrome at the same time. We were in the middle of the usual traffic jam, and since our car wasn't running, this almost-disabled man and his almost-unconscious daughter were pleading our uncle for 5 takas, which is only worth about 13 cents in America. This beggar had clearly asked several other people in 'luxurious" looking cars for the money, but looking at his empty palm, I realized he had been turned down. And now, asking my uncle, he was turned down again as my uncle said, "Shoren bhai! Amar shomai nai!" (Move, man! I don't have time) and asked the driver to roll the car forward. As the traffic started to move again, the man reached his hand out inside the car, but our car quickly moved on, leaving the poor man behind. But as we left, the man's gaunt and hopeless face stared at mine, filling me with solid disgust about our world.

To a foreigner, this incidence is something that only happens in movies, but in Third World countries, we all know it happens all the time. A poor man asks a rich man for money, but the rich man with pockets full of cash keeps going. As our car kept going, we picked up my cousins at Dhanmondi. I told them about the sad incident, but their only response was, "Oh, Samira, you know it happens all the time," and went back to their conversation about the Mission Impossible III and how cool Tom Cruise looked. I don't know if my cousins knew, but almost 30-40% of the people in our country are in poverty, homeless, or in danger of dying from starvation.

This also means that there are almost three million other people just like that beggar man. We all know that some people in our country earn only about three hundred takas a month, while some of us spend 30,000 takas (about $500) for saris.

I tried to shrug off the incident, considering it was such an ordinary event, but somehow, the face of the poor man kept floating in my head. That night, as I turned on the TV, there happened to be a news article on another poor street man, a fakir, who was run over that same day by a man driving a Toyota RAV-4, very much near where we were. As I changed the channel, I came across a segment on the National Geographic detailing the forced marriages of Sudanese girls as young as eight years old. I hoped it would be a distraction for my mind, but what I saw in the program made me hate myself even more. These unfortunate girls usually suffer days of childbearing labor, often resulting in stillborn babies. What's worse is that in many cases the labor wreaks havoc with the girl's body and all-too-often results in the condition called fistula. Avoided by many through Caesarian sections, fistulas are holes that develop in birth canal and bladder that occurs because the mother's body is too small or the baby is poorly positioned. Without surgery, fistulas constantly exude body waste, leaving a smell. Hundreds of thousands of girls in Africa are plagued with this terrible stigma, and unable to stand the disability, husbands and parents lock up these women in huts or turn them in the streets, only to die.

Also detailed in the program were the levels of poverty and horrendous living conditions in third-world countries. Villages in Thailand are made of shacks lining muddy roads; schools almost non-existent; AIDS takes millions of lives due to the lack of education and knowledge. We say the average income of a man has been going up each year since 21st century. But what about the poor? Are they any better off? The number of people in poverty in the world still remains at a record high, growing each year. Children lose parents due to disease and malnutrition, and in many cases, are forced to be parents themselves. Little girls in Indonesia are sold for their bodies and used for profit, some as slaves, while others are trying to put food on their families' plates. But you don't have to travel thousands of miles to actually see poverty. It's right beneath your luxurious flat, sitting on the street, counting down to death.

So why is the world this way? Clearly, we have all overlooked something. Surely fine, proud countries like United States, Britain, Japan, and Saudi Arabia (who, by the way, boasts of its principal of zakat) with GDPs hundreds of times larger than Sudan could help.

But the big question is still why are we in the 21st century with i-pods, PDAs, and mini laptops while the world around us is in such a bad shape? Why, in our own country, people have multiple cars and flats, which makes me wonder what is wrong with us when we only think of how we look or what our class rank is. And of course, in America, it is common to see advertisemnts for lottery jackpots over $100 million. In some countries, $100 is the average salary per year. So why does only a single person who obviously doesn't have mutilated body parts or live on the streets get all this money from the jackpot? And the answer: because most of us are selfish and ignorant. If enough people buy enough lottery tickets so that the jackpot is over $100 million, couldn't this money be put to better use than have our jackpot winner use the money to buy a chateau in a private island? It is calculated that more than 60% of the world's population has enough money to give a dollar. If everyone donated this small amount of money to helping Third World countries, a huge amount of money could be raised. Instead of one person being the winner, a third-world country could receive the winnings. The ticket buyers would also surely win-by saving human beings.

I know it may sound sort of hypocritical when I ask questions like why are wealthy countries giving more to the third-world, considering I'm the one whose parents drive a Mercedes-Benz and watch Mission Impossible 3, living in heaven compared to those people. However, I am determined to use what I have to help, because it really doesn't take that much. I am not recommending that everyone goes to rural Thailand or Africa to stop child trafficking, but maybe that we could all make some changes. Maybe we could donate instead of buying that new DVD that we could easily watch on TV. It is really important that we do not forget what's happening, because one of the biggest problems is lack of awareness, or ignorance. Yes, I know all of us see a desperately poor child on the television, but as you change the channel and go on with your life, you forget. Even I admit, once on Cartoon Network, I saw an ad with a child saying "Ami boro hole doctor hote chai" ( I want to be a doctor when I grow up) and was completely touched because I knew that at this rate the child would never have her dream come true. But a few days later, I was completely preoccupied with other things.

I know it makes us uncomfortable when we talk about girls getting pregnant at the age of nine, but are those little girls ever comfortable? What if a mere 10 minutes a day were devoted to reading stories about suffering and poverty?

Then would we be able to forget these people? What if instead of celebrity magazines taking up shelf space, there were magazines filled with pictures of emaciated people and orphaned children with no hope? After all, a person who does not know what's really going on cannot be held truly accountable for not trying to make it right, but a person who knows and does nothing holds just as much blame.

I mean, some people do not even know what child trafficking is. So the next time you feast on polao and biryani at a grand party, the least you can do is to take a moment to think about those children in Sudan who die for a drop of water. After all, awareness is the first step to solving any problem.

By Saraf Nawar

Organize an on campus event
Put glitters on your ECA list

Your ECA lists are overflowing with sports, debates and what-nots, but the key to get recognized is to organize! At least that is what I believe. Organizing various activities on your school-campus can make you the teacher's new favorite and may also earn you a good recommendation letter at the end of your school year. But, before you start, the set of guideline is quite the same for almost any kind of event:

1. This should sound obvious; first of all decide WHAT you want to do. DO you want to raise an awareness campaign, put up a charity concert, organize a winter festival, or simply celebrate the anniversary of your school year?

2. No matter how much you want to be the sole star of the event, you have to take help from your friends. Create a group of like-minded students and ask them if they are willing to organize the event. An interested person gives better input than a not-so-interested one!

3. Figure out which group of people you want to include (ie. NGOs, campus clubs, bands etc) and figure out what resources you might require (funding, refreshments, logistic supports).

4. Set a place and a time. Be realistic and try to avoid exam days and public holidays. Also with the country's political situation, talk to Hasina or Khaleda Begum asking them when they would be calling for a hartal/blockade (okay kidding!)

5. Do you want a grand event, or a simple intra-campus promotion? A grand event may require further planning and logistic support(speakers, projectors, presentation slides etc) while a simple event may at most require posters and banners.

6. Check your location of the event and make sure it is accessible to target audience.

7. Advertising can be tricky; you need to really think about who the target audience is. Do you want this open to only a certain major, the general public, college students only, or a specific audience?

8. Design flyers/brochures and Leaflets. If you are organizing a major event, make sure your design reaches the press at least two days before the event.

9. Make sure your paperwork is ready. It may be that you are required to pay your performer and make sure you get the agreements signed properly. Better not get into juvenile jail!

10. See if you want to do any last minute adjustments. Some ideas include collecting money for a related charity, having educational PowerPoint slides prior to the event, having a sign-up sheet for interested people, etc. Sometimes the event motivates people to take action and you will want to be ready to let the audience participate to help your issue or goal of the event. This is also a good time to talk with your group to determine what else is on your agenda for the coming weeks/months.

11. If you're going to be having another big event some time soon, the event you're planning now would probably be a good place to advertise that; so make sure to have the date and location figured out in advance so that you can make up a flier or give an announcement at the upcoming event.

12. Have back-up plans. No matter how good you may be at planning an event, be prepared for the worst. If you expect and prepare for the worst you will be ready for anything. Ideas include having extra volunteers on hand, having a rain site available if your event is supposed to take place outdoors, and having tape, scissors and everything you might possibly need ready just in case. You may not need these things but it's easier to carry some extra supplies than have your event flop for a preventable reason.

13. Make sure your volunteers and group members are present ahead of time. Welcoming guests warmly is another key to success. Also making sure refreshments are delicious is a great way to turn a flop event successful. As I would say, the way to get to an audience's heart is through yummy food!

After your event is done, use the success of the project/event to hold other endeavors. Follow-up with NGOs, key people and ask what they thought about the event. Make a lasting inkling on the people related to the event and you may earn a name for yourself without even bargaining for it. And at the end of your high-school year, be sure to bag a golden commendation letter from your beloved teacher/principal! Happy journey to college!

By Shamma M. Raghib

An ode to winter

Every month, the seasons change along with the weather. There are four prime seasons winter, summer, autumn and spring which I always enjoy. The beauty, uniqueness and charisma of a particular season are beyond human language and comprehension. Therefore, I do not know how to describe them or talk about them. Whatever the season will be I will always enjoy it. But if I was asked to pick my favorite season, it would be winter.

November brings along with it cold winds from the north. Sometimes perhaps snow. These are the signs of winter coming and signal for Christmas and Eid-ul-Fitr. Winter also means the approaching of the half-yearly exams and students at school are forced to revise all that had been taught in class. Therefore the essence and spirit of winter cannot be fully enjoyed. I myself as a student, try to enjoy it as much as I can.

Perhaps the chilly winter mornings are the freshest ones available all year. I find it very soothing and refreshing when the morning air whips on my face while traveling to school in a motorcycle or a car with my side of the window open. It is also high time when one may enjoy a walk through the city, since there is very less perspiration. The winter morning atmosphere is always foggy and misty and in these conditions it is advisable to wear warm and wooly clothes. Females mostly wear jackets, cardigans, sweaters, etc. Suits, coats, blazers, ties, trousers, sweaters, full-sleeve shirts are fashion for men in winter. People may also wear balaclavas, scarves, gloves, hats, caps, monkey caps and shawls. Clothes and attires of dark colors are mostly worn. Hot baths on cold mornings are also very relaxing.

Winter nights. That's another line of business. Winter nights are chilly down right from the evenings. Here's some advice: Take a hot bath just before you go to bed. When you get out of the bath you it feels icy. Then get under your blankets. A comforter would be best. After a while the iciness will be gone only to be replaced by great soothing, comforting, relaxing and warm sensation. When you yourself in your comforter you know the cold outside cannot penetrate you. You feel just so warm, so comfortable and your body feels so light you just feel like floating away………and before you know it you will sleep as snug as a bug in a nest.

Winter may be a great season to be enjoyed, but too much exposure to cold may cause illnesses such as flu, colds, influenza, coughs, fevers, etc. Winter may be my favorite season but I like all the other seasons just as well. Summer heralded by its fruits, autumn filled with flamboyant and golden leaves, spring bringing new life to the world and winter full of cool air and sometimes snow. All the seasons, with their unique characteristics are very special to me. Nature continues to fantasize and mesmerize us at every turn. When was the last time you saw Mother Nature failing to amaze people and make them gape at its beauty in awe and amazement?

By Sakif Hossain Khan


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