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The Silent Evolution

Saving the environment is your responsibility. So what would you do to save the marine ecosystem of Cox's Bazar beach? Nothing! That's the answer most of us come up with after attending so many awareness programs all-aiming to make you more responsible towards the environment. That's where Mr. Jason deCaires Taylor is so different from the rest of us. The British artist's latest project is the development of an underwater museum within the National Marine Park off Cancun and Isla Mujeres. So what's the big deal about underwater museums? Well this one contains 400 statues, each of them depicting a local villager with more than 350 of them already positioned on the sea floor.

And like Madame Tussad's wax museums, the statues are inanimate-no surprises there! But these statues collectively called “The Silent Evolution” are already buzzing with life, courtesy of algae, coral and the many fish and marine creatures that have already made a habitat out of this museum. The video released by the artist last month shows the mass of inanimate humanity beneath the sea already thriving with marine life.

And just like the diversity of marine ecosystem, the 350 statues portray villagers of all age and professions. For some strange reason-most of the statues have their eyes closed while a few sport sunglasses. And if artist for some reason forgot to clothe some of his statues properly, his mistakes - advertent or inadvertent are already being rectified by the use of nature's own garb made of coral, algae, plankton and other minute creatures of the sea. The statues were made of cement, which is ten times stronger than normal cement and is of the right pH to induce growth of coral. And why put 400 statues underwater and waste 120 tons of cement - to relieve some pressure from the area's more fragile natural reefs!

How long we can appreciate deCaires's work depends on nature's mercy. The statues are expected to withstand hurricanes and other natural calamities but the bigger threat comes from the key beneficiary itself - the marine ecosystem. The masterful creations of the artist which depicts with vivid reality the moods and expressions of men, women and children, will be slowly obscured, over time, by the creatures that will make this their new home. What deCaires doesn't realise is that his ability to make super strong structures could have been better used for human survival in countries like Bangladesh where incompetent engineering causes multistoried buildings to tilt without even a mild tremor.

(Sources: prothom-alo.com, grindtv.com)

By Nayeem Islam

Being A Volunteer

Joining Jaago in the streets on 11th November was no sudden decision; but all of a sudden, I did find myself in the middle of the busy Sonargaon intersection amongst around sixty overly enthusiastic volunteers, shying away from staring eyes and trying to get snobby people to open their car windows. Trust me, there can be nothing more humiliating than having a pot bellied businessman looking up at you knocking on his window and then flicking you aside with the "don't disturb me" glance.

So, how was the experience? It was a mild concoction of fun and pleasure, stirred well with body cramps and pain, and served hot with the delight of having helped some children smile.

For the first twenty or so cars, we received mild appreciation, that is, some of them actually opened their windows, stared at us, and gave a smile when we spoke of all the good in the world that they can do by helping a child. After that, you get tired of getting kicked, and start offering flowers for free. And that is when we started having fun; if you thrust a flower at a man, he cannot refuse you; some of them still show you the cheap face and go away with the free flower, but some just cannot make the hard decision; that is when profit strikes. Within an hour, I was a partially rich kid with a pocket full of money; half of my heart wanting to get away with it, the other half of it fighting better against the thought.

Even though the other half won, I must admit; it is a potentially good business. Just get a yellow t-shirt, smile and approach beautiful ladies, they definitely cannot dishearten you. The men, on the other hand, are cheapskates, they listen to you for five minutes, they ask you a thousand questions and then say, "I actually have no time now, I am going to my office". You had the time to listen to me for five whole minutes and you don't have the time to reach for your wallet for some kids? Phuh.

The jaywalkers are another kind of people though; they come to you, highly interested, they listen to you for five minutes, a good crowd gathers around you and you start to feel like a rajnoitik neta giving a speech in the middle of the street. And after you have almost torn off your vocal cord enlightening about Jaago's activities; they ask for the stickers! The sad part is that half a minute after you have told them that it is more of an awareness campaign than fund collection; you just cannot refuse them the stickers. What about helping the child? Oh, the people are just walking away with the beautiful stickers!

But then again, it is not that nobody pays for the children; we did receive a generous response from Bashundhara City plaza; the trick is that you target a couple, walk up to them and offer the lady a bunch of flowers. In no time, you have a guy opening up a wallet and calling you a git under his breath. Fun! Throughout the day, we honed our skills at blackmailing; if they offer you five taka, tell them, "a pen for a child", if they offer a hundred, tell them, "you just bought a smile for a child". One man riding a Pajero offered me 500 takas for nothing, but just a moment before I gave him the trademark smile, he asked for 490 change. Damn.

The job is as tiring as it is fun; before midday, we found ourselves dehydrated and hungry. A surprise awaited us with the food though; by noon, a pickup came up with the food; and that is when you discover that you have to sit in a bus-stand and eat your food. Trust me; it was a new experience, a cool one.

The afternoon went slowly; not much "business" even though we now were getting more responses and appreciation. We talked our vocal cords away, I almost got myself under a bus; but "business" looked like it was hibernating. Slowly though, our supplies ran out and we called it a day; pictures were taken, the money was counted, and poof, we discovered that we just had spent our whole day amidst busy Dhaka traffic, volunteering.

Now that I think back, it was not that bad an experience at all; in fact, it enlightened us and actually made us more aware of how it feels to sell pop-corn and flowers on the streets. I am quite sure that the next time we see a kid selling something on the streets, none of the volunteers would refuse them. Try volunteering, only then would you understand.

By Eshpelin Mishtak

How to save children's lives

In the 20 seconds it took you to open the paper, read the title and finish this sentence, one child in the world has died from pneumonia. Killing nearly 1.5 million children every year, 50000 of them in Bangladesh, pneumonia is more deadly to kids under the age of 5 than AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria combined. In order to combat this threat, WHO and UNICEF declared 12th of November as World Pneumonia Day. Bangladesh is also in the field trying to raise awareness about pneumonia and how it is easily treatable.

This past Thursday a press conference was held at the National Press Club organised by Save the Children, who are conducting the EVERY ONE program to fight pneumonia. It was chaired by the president of Bangladesh Paediatric Association, with MP Dr M.S. Akbar as chief guest and several respected Paediatric experts as speakers. According to the speakers, there are three basic methods to win against pneumonia: breastfeeding, vaccination and treatment.

Speaking on preventions, the doctors stated that it was newborn and very young children who were mostly in danger. In case of newborns, the doctors strongly suggested getting them wrapped in dry clothes immediately and not to bathe the child within three days of birth. They also asked to provide the child with colostrums after 30 minutes. As those of you who had biology know, milk from the mother contains necessary nutrients and immunities for the baby. Malnutrition is a major factor in causing pneumonia.

As for the vaccine, Haemophilus Influenzae Vaccine, which fights pneumonia among other invasive diseases, is already in circulation. The more expensive Pneumococcal Vaccine is in the process of being introduced.

Pneumonia is easily treatable and the doctors present stressed that there are enough medicines at the Upazila Health Complexes. But people need to be more aware of the disease to utilise this service. The detection of pneumonia is also quite simple. In children from 2-12 months age a breathing rate of 50+/min, in children of 1-5 years of age, breathing rate of 40+/min, indicates they may have pneumonia, since pneumonia cause breathing problems. In case of children below two months age, there are several symptoms including vomiting, lack of appetite and energy and the sinking of the chest while breathing.

The honourable MP urged the people to get involved, to donate, and to create awareness. He also suggested reducing the use of unnecessary antibiotics for treatment. As a symbol of pneumonia infected lungs, blue balloons were released, the same action taking place across the country.

So next time a nephew or niece is born, and that old, annoying aunt wants to give him a bath ASAP, please put your foot down. And when you go to your village for the vacation, let people in on the deal.

By Kazim Ibn Sadique



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