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     Volume 4 Issue 52 | June 24, 2005 |

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The World in Green and Red


The term "strength in unity" was volumised to almost deafening heights when the Bangladesh cricket team beat Australia in the ODI cricket match on June 18th, 2005. On each of their hands as they ran through the fields of Sophia Gardens stadium in Cardiff were identical green and red bands, on which the words "Amra Bangladesh" were printed in bold letters.

Coloured bands are now the latest craze throughout the world. The fad started as a publicity gimmick for the Lance Armstrong Foundation during their "Livestrong" campaign for cancer survivors in 2003. Yellow wristbands with Livestrong printed on them were sold with the idea that the proceeds would go towards supporting cancer funds. The owners of the bands were proud bearers of a seal -- that they supported the fight to end cancer. Since then there have been bands manufactured in every colour, each signifying a different cause, to live up to the trend. From tsunami aid relief (blue and white) to ending racism (double black and white) to anti bullying (blue), the wristband idea sold like hotcakes around the world. Superstars and athletes such as Bono from U2 and David Beckham all sport different bands to show their support for different causes.

It was this new trend that inspired five young Bangladeshis -- Raffan Seraj, Shayaan Seraj, Nicole Mendes, Navine Mendes and Salman Khan -- to take a step to better their own country in whichever small way they could by founding the charity organisation Project Bangladesh. The organisation's first goal was to manufacture red and green bands, symbolising the colours of the Bangladeshi flag with the words Amra Bangladesh printed on them, and donate the proceeds to various charities including the Acid Survivors Foundation, Flood Relief as well as orphanages.

"We first got the idea when we saw a Nigerian girl wearing a band with the Nigerian national colours with the words, 'making progress' written on it," says Raffan, who studies in London. "A Indian friend of mine from University, Amit Bhojwani, and I both decided that we would make bands for each of our respective countries. He looked into the prospects for manufacturing and found a supplier in China -- a factory involved with specialising in plastics."

The issue of manufacturing, however, brings up a controversial question. The production of the white band, symbolising the fight to "Make Poverty History" might be illegal as they are produced in sweatshops and manufacturers may be guilty of using exploitative labour practices. The campaign is in the process of investigating this allegation. The problem, however, is that instead of really doing any good, are these bands just another trend using the name of charity, exploiting the poor in the process? And if proceeds are going towards charity, how much of the money made is actually going?

"We are trying to avoid that issue as much as we can," says Raffan. "This is an issue with most manufacture related products, such as toys and clothes. In a lot of cases donations are made in money form and the end result is the donator does not really know how much of his or her money is actually going for the cause and how much is going to the administration of the organisation in question. We, however, are trying to make sure that the money is used based on the needs of these organisations. We want each penny to be accounted for so in addition to giving cash donations we are also planning on giving money and donations according to what they need. As for the illegal manufacturing of the bands, I have spoken to my supplier about my concerns and he has assured me that nothing of this nature is going on with the bands we are making."

So far Project Bangladesh has ordered 5,000 bands and in the span of a week, over 1,500 bands have been sold. Supporters of this campaign include famous musician Ayub Bachu and the Bangladesh cricket team.

"I get the feeling that patriotism is not something that we can, as a nation, claim to feel very strongly," says Raffan. "We want to increase patriotism as much as we can and instill a sense of unity. Also we feel that through this campaign, maybe we will be able to make people more aware about the problems our country faces and the various organisations and charities that are geared towards bettering the situation."

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