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1° of change

Three years ago, seven teenagers sat in an empty classroom and built castles in the air. They were young and full of youthful fantasies and lofty ambitions.

Yet, should they not be lauded for making the initiative, however small, to make a difference? There was always a chance that what they had started may dissolve away one day; in fact their parents expected it to. Youthful dreams, after all, usually come in sporadic bursts, cause excitement for a while, and then die away with time.

However, yours truly supposes because these particular youngsters were extremely sincere in what they did, that their effort survived the years. What began as a group of friends conducting small-scale community service is now a full-fledged organization and a youth brand.
This is the story of 1° Initiative.

1° of Beginnings
1° Initiative (One Degree Initiative, or1dI for short) started out small, conducting projects like volunteering at the Autism Welfare Foundation, and selling cards on behalf of CRP. The eight members of 1dI went through all kinds of trouble scepticism from parents, mockery from peers, lack of funds and credibility; but they kept going and eventually grew in numbers and in capacity. From eight, they were thirty and currently, they house nearly sixty bright youngsters who've all been inspired to be part of the initiative.

During the past year, the team had set up libraries in three schools in Dhaka, as well as one in Jessore, in addition to re-cataloguing an abandoned library in an Old Dhaka school. In tandem, 1° Initiative has conducted a Leadership Training Workshop for nearly 300 students at a school in rural Jessore. Most recently, they have conducted a series of intra and inter school quiz competitions for underprivileged children branded '1° of Learning.' The projects are now slightly bigger, responding the needs of a larger group while however, maintaining the 1° spirit of making a difference.

The 1° Spirit
Quoting from an anonymous source, “When I was young, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my country, failed and focused on my town. I couldn't change the town. As an older man, I now realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family and eventually, my town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

With this belief instilled in their spirits, 1° Initiative has always believed in the small steps that each of us can easily take in order to snowball into a revolution. The 1° spirit is about inspiring individual changes, such a making a small child smile or even a smaller deed like quitting haywire littering.

Introducing 1° of Celebrations
Through its different initiatives, 1° Initiative has come to be about more than its members or its projects; it has come to be about the kids they have worked with. Kids from the streets and slums, kids who are Bangladesh's tomorrow, kids who have an enormous amount of untapped potential. 1° members have played with them, taught them a thing or two and learnt much more, and have held them special.

Therefore, on 1° Initiative's third birthday, the team has decided to launch an evening dedicated to these children. Aptly titled 1° of Celebrations, it is a fulfilment of the children's dream of being able to showcase their creativity, and perform a series of dance numbers, drama and songs in front of a large audience who will each some to appreciate their efforts. Over the past years, the group has come to understand how young children born to the streets are more motivated to go to school when it offers the aforementioned ECAs. Therefore, at this event, children from Aalok Shishu Shikkhaloy (a concern of Afzalunnessa Foundation), Ekmattra and JAAGO Foundation are provided with a platform that celebrates their spirit and cherishes the fact that the smallest change contributes to a greater whole, and the humblest of beginnings goes a long way.

1° of Humanity
1° of Celebrations also responds to the needs of the greater population. After visiting the most affected areas left by Hurricane Aila and Sidr, it has occurred to the organization that a long-term disaster management plan has rarely ever been implemented in the coastal areas where natural calamities are frequent.

Earlier, 1° Initiative had begun implementing a project where flood-affected regions were donated a completely set-up community tube well on high raised ground. Being in desperate need of clean drinking water as an aftermath of most natural calamities, this implementation was proven successful amongst the locals. From witnessing the results, 1° Initiative now plans to provide awareness campaigns on how disasters can be dealt with by changing the way we lead our lives and how to recover from them. The funds raised at the end of this event will be put to use in informing the larger population about disaster management, as well as work as a bank in providing long-term solutions to post-disaster situations.

1° of YOU
Therefore, 1° Initiative cordially invites you to 1° of Celebrations to be held on 18th July from 5 8 pm (gates open from 4pm) at Shahid Zia Auditorium in National Museum in Shahbagh. The event celebrates the spirit of the incredible children discovered in Bangladesh's streets and slums who will show the world exactly how much zest and creativity they are equipped with, as well as provides an opportunity to initiate a pilot project on a long-term disaster management plan.

To book a seat (it's open to all!), please send 1° Initiative an email at 1d.initiative@gmail. com, or visit their website at www.1di.org. They're also available on Facebook, so don't miss out on RSVPing to their event.

This is your chance to show your 1° of support, and make a 1° change!

By Tushmit M. Hasan and Sabhanaz Rashid Diya

Equal and special

Colourful hangings, countless balloons and encouraging posters- the program hall of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) resembled a child's dream world on the sunny morning of July 10, 2009. The room full of children also reflected the festive mood who, in fact, were the main attraction of the program, each of them wearing identical white T-shirts and their eyes shining with excitement underneath the head-caps. It was their time to shine, and they knew it. The word 'disadvantaged' would not bind them behind others anymore.

These children all belonged to the Ghashful Shishu Forum under Mohammadpur thana, one of the six-compartment projects of Dhaka Shishu ADP, World Vision, Bangladesh. This organization, promoting humanitarian works since 1972, began a special project for disadvantaged children two years ago. Since then, nearly 4000 children have received its patronage in education, health care and cultural activities under the title of CIP (Children In Program). “Our objective is to promote child rights awareness and child-leadership skills among these special children so that they can grow as distinguished individuals and become capable of communicating with the government about their problems themselves,” said Theotonius Parimal Rozario, manager of DS-ADP. He also added, “We, being a poor nation, often fail to provide our children with their basic rights. But I believe there would certainly be hope if all government and non-government organizations come forward and work together to support this cause. Sincere efforts never entirely end in smoke, we found out three months ago for example when three government MP's participated in direct dialogue with the children gathered for our “Natto Utshob” in Rabindra Shorobor, arranged in collaboration with Save the Children, Sweden-Denmark.”

“Not only the disadvantaged, every child in the family should be treated with equal importance. We grown-ups never listen to them properly, but they too can come up with resourceful ideas when the situation demands them. A little guidance and assistance can do wonders in bringing out latent talents, we here in this organization know it for a fact.” Mr. Parimal concluded.

And as if to echo his words, the hall room full of children bubbled and chattered away in unperturbed confidence, presenting the perfect picture of the universal liveliness of children. Be it little Israt who recited Kazi Nazrul Islam's 'Bidrohi' in a blazing voice or Raju (a representative of these children in Bangladesh Shishu Congress) who spoke of Abraham Lincoln in high spirits, these children have proved that being disadvantaged is not a handicap in the path to a brighter future. In fact, their exuberance even touched the invited Chairman of drawing and painting department, Charukala, Dhaka University, Professor Dr. Farida Zaman, who began reminiscing about her own childhood seeing the children before her. Mr. Shamsul Alam (Deputy Country representative, Save the Children, Sweden-Denmark), on the other hand, gave up his speech on child rights and child leadership and engaged the children in playful educational activities as they clapped and cheered in joy.

With its centrally organized annual gathering as a stepping-stone, DS-ADP plans to aim for the biggest children's gathering ever in future, bringing together all of its own zones as well as other similar organizations. Together, they believe in honing today's children into tomorrow's worthy leaders.

By Raisa Rafique



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