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POST TIME: 6 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Helping Others
Sheikh Iraj

Helping Others

There are many youth organisations throughout the world that are working for the betterment of society. Our country is not that far behind in that context as there are numerous youth organisations that are striving to alleviate poverty, provide healthcare and education, ensure human rights and gender equality, protect the environment and promote green living, as well as other social activities, like distributing clothes and relief goods in times of natural disasters. Many youth organisations are based in the cities and towns, but there are many others that are working for social welfare in rural areas.

To mark the International Day of Charity that was observed on September 5, Y&I recently talked to leaders and volunteers of some local youth organisations about what motivates them to do social work, their present activities and future plans.

In October 2015, a conference of youth leaders from across the country was held at Bishwo Shahitto Kendro in the capital. At the daylong meeting, a platform was created for youth organisations to interact and work together for the betterment of society. SHADOW (Society for Humanity And Development Over the World), a Dhaka-based non-profit, took the initiative to arrange the programme that brought together about two dozen youth organisations.

Saddam Hossain, 25, founder of SHADOW, told Y&I: "Our organisation started out small, but at the moment, we have more than 1,200 members across the country. When we held the first youth leaders’ conference, only 24 youth organisations took part. Over the years, the number of organisations joining our programmes has grown. At the last conference, held in December 2017, more than 40 youth organisations took part. We have a Facebook page called ‘SHADOW’ (nonprofit), it can be considered as our online platform. All the other youth organisations can communicate through this page. Although over 40 organisations attended our last conference, only 9 to 10 organisations like us are working together at the moment.”

“There are about a thousand active organisations in our country. Not all of them get, or want, media coverage. That is why many consider us as small organisations and have the notion that we are not doing much work, which is incorrect. However, I do not consider that as a failure, as we have many success stories. This platform keeps us connected and we are able to work more effectively. For example, in collaboration with Sokal Foundation, we have set up two free schools for underprivileged children. There are 70 students in those schools now. Students can attend up to class 5, and we provide them with free meals, books, and clothes.  We are also organising seminars where students get to know about our famous historical personalities. In September, we have plans to continue this educational tour in districts like Khulna, Jessore, Narail and Sylhet," Hossain added.

Sokal Foundation started its journey in 2014. Nowadays, they are working together with SHADOW.  Kurban Ali Khan, 24, a student of Daffodil University, is secretary of the nonprofit organisation. "There are 300 volunteers in our organisation. I joined this organisation because I wanted to do something good for the children of Bogra (Bogura). With SHADOW, we are running two schools in Bogra. We also distribute relief among flood-affected people in some parts of the country,” Khan said over the phone.

“We recently conducted a field research on how much our school students know about our historical figures. Our research showed that nearly 80 percent of students did not have any clear idea. They learn very little about these personalities from their textbooks; we feel they need to know more about the historical figures. For example, we are soon going to organise some tribute projects on our seven Bir Sreshtho (most valiant heroes), who sacrificed their lives for the nation during our Liberation War,” he continued.  

“When we initiated the youth leaders’ conference, many organisations joined us. But today not all of them are with us. That does not dishearten us, as there about 10 organisations that are now working with us. Some others have shown interest in joining us since we started the tribute project. But we are not involving any other organisation that will not work with us in the long run,” Khan added.

Didarul Alam, 22, a student of University of Asia Pacific, is an international coordinator of World Human Rights Forum. "At the moment, we have 237 active volunteers. We mainly work with human rights. We also conduct awareness programmes on law. Some people in our country feel afraid to seek help from the police. Some even do not want to report a crime or file complaints as they believe the police will not help them. Through our law seminars, we inform the people about their rights and how the law-enforcers are there to help the citizens. We invite police officers who have a good reputation to talk about these issues. The officers themselves assure the people about their job, which is to protect and help our citizens. We also invite lawyers who explain that the law is equal for all, and no one should be afraid to go to court or seek a lawyer’s help. A few days ago, our organisation, along with several other youth organisations, gave relief to Rohingya refugees,” Alam said.  

Rahat Khan, a student of United International University, added: "I was present at one of the law seminars organised by the World Human Rights Forum. I learned about some laws that I was not aware of before. I think such seminars should be held on a regular basis."

M Rokon Uddin, 22, is the president of The Unity of Comilla (Cumilla), which was founded in 2014. He told this reporter over the phone: "Our youth organisation is in Cumilla, but I study at American International University Bangladesh in Dhaka. Every week, I travel to Cumilla and we have 20 members who are always working. We work on promoting personal hygiene and the environment. Our main activity is tree plantation. Besides our members, students of different schools join us. Many young people learn a lot from our activities, and they get interested to work for the society. For example, we work every week in front of different schools and in parks, too. We collect litter from those areas and put in dustbins. We also distribute free clothes to street children. We receive donations for our charity work from local residents who want to do something for their society. The interesting thing is by looking at our work, many other youths want to volunteer with us. That motivates us even more to continue with our work."

Rajib Das is the chartered president of Rotary Club of Sylhet Premier."There are 22 members in our organisation. We work with adult literacy for women,” he said. “In our school, 33 women are now studying. We provide them with free books. In the beginning, only a few women came to learn, but then we started motivating others. Slowly, more and more women came to join our school. We conduct the classes in the afternoon. We also help underprivileged people and students financially. We organise blood donation programmes. Surprisingly, many young people join us. We collect funds from the local people and they help us as much as they can."

Rayan Hossain, 18, added: “My father is a government employee and at the moment, we live in Sylhet. I have heard about this youth organisation, I would love to join them."

Noem M Mohiuddin, 27, recently completed his BA from Comilla Victoria College. He is also the president of Rotaract Club of Comilla. "We mainly work with students. We organise seminars, tree plantation programmes, distribution of winter clothes and more. By taking part in these activities, the students learn a lot. Students of various schools, colleges, and universities get a chance to meet each other and exchange their ideas. We also provide financial help to patients who are suffering from kidney disease and provide tuition fees for underprivileged students."

Photos: Courtesy.