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Community Action: Even a smile is a charity

COMMUNITY Action is an organisation with no political or religious associations. Their members are mostly, though not exclusively, students from private, public, national and international schools and universities. They believe in helping the community from the micro to the macro level - hence their motto "Even a smile is charity".

They have various projects, ranging from arranging quiz programs at village schools to disaster management and rehabilitation.

Short term projects include activities like Project Choppol. On Pahela Baishakh, members celebrated the new year by distributing choppols (sandals) among street kids, thereby sharing their joy with those less lucky. The point of this project though was to collect data on the education level of street kids, since such a survey is difficult to come by at the moment.

They also have projects like City of Blinding Light, where they work with blind students. Blind students, even in DU, hardly have access to any study material suitable for them - braille is a far cry from their reality. Actioneers therefore record the study material for them in tapes; they listen to these tapes and sit their exams.

On a long term basis, Actioneers work in disaster relief and rehabilitation. A lot of money pours into immediate disaster relief after every natural calamity, however these dry up after less than a week or two. For Project Aila, Actioneers collected about 14 lacs with which they are setting up tubewells on high ground. These tubewells do not get submerged and therefore act as a good source of clean water even when there's a crisis - this prevents many deaths caused by waterborne diseases (the main killer of natural disasters).

On the international front, Actioneers do not lag behind. During the War in Gaza, at the beginning of this year, they collected around 12 lacs for the victims of this unjust war where many children were cruelly killed.

On August 21, they conducted a day-long Workshop for Changemakers at Sunnydale School. About 8 schools from Dhaka participated, with the bulk of the participants coming from MA Mohila College and Savar Model College.

75 underprivileged girls did classes on Education & Empowerment, Health & Hygiene, Science & The World and Lifestyle Management.

Starting at 10.30 in the morning with orientation and team building exercises the day ended at 6 in the evening with certificates awarded to every participant by the Vice Chancellor of United International University, Prof Rizwan Khan. The ending ceremony was also graced by the presence of Ms Tania Mansur, trainer, British Council Qatar and Dhaka, and adjunct faculty member of UIU's Dept of English, and Ms Yasmin Habeeb, Teacher-in-Charge of Sunnydale Senior Section. Free blood grouping service was provided by Sandhani Bangladesh Medical College Unit.

Actioneers hoped to inspire the girls into becoming changemakers for our society, with the classes not only focusing on skill development but also on character development. Initial feedback shows the girls returned home with the confidence that change was possible, and will be brought about by someone from amongst themselves.

As was mentioned at the pre-program briefing, "What really inspires the girls is not only the class contents, but also seeing such a group of talented young boys and girla working hard to help the community".

Community Action extends its deepest regards to Sunnydale and all its students for the use of their premises. We sincerely hope the school's wonderful volunteers one day become Actioneers themselves.

The workshop was possible because of Tasmia Rahman of Lawrence University, who applied for a grant from her university to organise just such a project. Actioneers request other students studying abroad to step forward and apply for grants from their universities - summer holidays can be both fun and productive!

And another project light-heartedly dubbed "Operation Piyaju-Beguni" is presently underway, having started from 27th of August to the 19th of September, the end of Ramadan. The aim of the project is to locate some of the poor and needy people- kids in particular who're employed in various odds and ends jobs here and there around the city, barely able to make ends meet. Thusly, a few Actioneers have decided to get down on the streets and have an "Iftaar party" with these people and bring a few smiles on a few faces, thus their motto: Even a smile is charity.

People are of course welcome to join in on this wonderful gesture.

And finally, Community Action heartily invites everyone to join them, as there can't be too many good doers in the community.

Contact through email at community-actionbd@gmail.com, or through phone at 01713-000707, 01552-335618. You can also find more information and activity in their quite active facebook group Community Action.

By Emil and Nabila Idris

Silent revolution with stamps

'STAMP collecting in Bangladesh is considered a children's pursuit. But all collectors with the basic knowledge of stamps would know that it could be a passion for the lifetime.

'I started collecting when I was a child. These colourful tiny, bits of paper fascinated me from the day I set my eyes on them. In those times, every bookshop sold stamps- beautiful emissions from countries like Fujeira, Ajman, Dubai, Magyar Posta (Hungary) and exotic lands like Papua, Tonga and Sierra Leone.

'Now almost three decades later, my collection has taken a different shape. I no longer collect stamps per se, but study the history of the post office and its function- a field we term as 'Postal History'.

That was A Z M Akhlaqur Rahman, a Civil Engineer when asked about his passion for stamps. Most people are unaware that in Bangladesh there is a silent, yet vibrant philatelic movement. In the last few years, collectors have produced some outstanding research and some have won significant accolades at international exhibitions.

“One should belong to a stamp club if s/he wants to be a good collector” said Syed Ahsan Habib, Vice President of a leading philatelic society of the country. “The association one may enjoy by joining a Stamp Club will not only help the collector enrich his collection but also provide much knowledge. And most primarily, show that stamp collecting is FUN!” he further added.

The two leading clubs of the country, Philatelists' Association of Bangladesh (PAB) and Bangladesh National Philatelic Association (BNPA) have worked in the past with different organisations to promote stamps. An outstanding exhibition was jointly organised by PAB and Prokirti at Liberation War Museum on stamps and related materials exclusively on the Liberation War of Bangladesh. The event was so successful that the Museum authorities gladly extended the three-day program into a weeklong event.

“Stamps collecting has many facets and each collector explores stamps the way he or she desires. Every outlook it unique as the same stamp can narrate different tales to different collectors. Than is actually the foundation of research on stamps” said A T M Anowarul Quadir, General Secretary, PAB.

He went further- although we have taken significant strides in other aspects of the hobby; we have been lagging behind in philatelic publications. To bridge this gap, PAB has recently revamped their newsletter into a quarterly journal, Bengal Post. We are honoured to say that the very first issue featured articles from not only local collectors but also stalwarts of international fame.

“Bengal Post is essentially a magazine for the advanced collector. We are trying to gather information whether a separate magazine for the beginners is a viable option. We would be happy to bring forth a magazine for youngsters provided we get adequate response from collectors. But until that is happening we are trying to strike a balance through our Journal” said Mannan Mashhur Zarif, Executive Editor, Bengal Post.

Interested collectors can collect copies of Bengal Post by contacting Mannan Mashhur Zarif at shubhrosaurus@yahoo.com or 01819251085. Collectors interested to be part of the organised philately in Bangladesh can contact A T M Anowarul Quadir at anoqarul.quadir@yahoo.com

If any of you have any of you have an old album tucked away somewhere in the house, look for it. Browse through the memories of your childhood fascination and if it rekindles the passion, just know that the fascinating world of stamp collecting awaits you!

By the lizard king

Roja: the kid version

IMAGINE the five-year-old you getting up on a regular sunny morning, going about your usual daily routine, preparing for another normal day- when something strikes you as really odd. “What's amiss, what's amiss- ah hey, how come nobody's eating anything?!” And all of a sudden your baby brain experiences renewed waves of astonishment as you are introduced to another one of those wonders of the grown-up world- Roja.

The idea of roja, to kids, is somewhat interesting. It is a life and death matter of sheer prestige! Children have a habit of mimicking the grown-ups. And we all know how irritating it is to be treated like kids.

So when Ramadan comes, more than often the members of the family are surprised to see the youngest of them joining in for Sehri (all thanks to the Mickey alarm clock) with a dead serious face and refusing to eat anything throughout the day saying, “Ami roja”. Religious feelings aside, of course, children find it necessary to participate in the ritual as they don't want to be left out of something everyone's doing just because they say they're kids. Fair enough (and cute too!).

But what ingenious plans grown-ups apply to throw them off their noble goal is simply too cunning to be true. Remember the old pranks mom used to play on you saying if you eat at noon on a Ramadan day you get to have a half-roja? Laugh all you want now but that WAS what you fervently believed back then!

Even now that you think it was for your well-being that mom told you something like that, the feeling of being deceived is somewhat saddening. How innocent we were back then, readily believing something so stupid without doubting a bit! Innocent indeed.

Four year old Rumaysa, when asked how many roja's she's done, announces with a sombre expression, “300.” When asked how, she answers, “You get a roja each for all the food you eat before Iftaar, don't you know? That's why I always try to eat as much as I can.”

Following the same method, six year old Maosuf is now a proud holder of 21 rojas while seven year old Palace of 30. Nine year old Jannat, on the other hand, chirps, “Yay, I love roja! Not eating is so much fun…especially when I feel like playing and mom keeps pestering me with food.” But not all m,others are like that these days. Brishti (18) says, “Our mom is rather strict with observing religious events and all that even with the young ones. So during Ramadan it's a normal scene at our home where my youngest sister Borsha screams around 'I'm hungry, I'm hungry' and mom keeps telling her 'Wait a little more, don't you wanna be a grown-up?'”

Huh, at least some people are sensible enough to treat children with the importance they deserve!

Let's end here with a little joke, though the punch-line is only effective in Bangla-

Grown-ups: Amra shobai roja rekhechhi. (We're all fasting)

Kid: Amarta koi rekhechho?? Uwaaa I want mine, I want mine!!”

Happy Roja everyone.

By Raisa Rafique



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