Imagine growing up on the streets of Dhaka as an underprivileged child, without a roof above your head or a bed to sleep on. As soon as you learn to articulate your feelings, the first thing you would understand is that you will have to contribute to the family by either working or begging, neither of which a child should ever be doing. Unfortunately, this is the harsh reality for many street children in Bangladesh. Garbo Bangladesh Foundation hopes to change the fate of these children through 'Project Alokito Shishu'.
“However insignificant I may be and however little a difference I may make, but, to be able to make a positive impact in one person's life makes me feel more human,” says Mithun Das Kabbo, the founder and president of Project Alokito Shishu. "One day, I had the chance of feeding an orphan street child. The experience left me emotionally moved," expresses Kabbo. Right then, he knew that he had to do something for the underprivileged and thus approached Nuheen Khan, the founder of Garbo Bangladesh Foundation. Project Alokito Shishu was initiated in August 2015, and it started with 30 children in Rabindra Shohorobor, Dhaka.
The project teaches the children how to read and write in Bangla and English languages, basic mathematics and multiplications. Besides formal education, the children are taught important aspects of life that include ethics and morality. In addition, the children are also taught artistic disciplines such as recitation, dance and music in order to help them develop extracurricular skills as well. Today, Project Alokito Shishu has over 600 volunteers from all over the country, each contributing 200 takas every month for the betterment of the children they look after.
The children of Project Alokito Shishu are also given the opportunity to explore their surroundings and celebrate festivals with the help of the organisers and volunteers. The children were gifted with new clothes in the last two Eids, and also took part in a Christmas celebration last year where they were taken to a fancy restaurant for a hearty treat. On 21st February, 2017, the project organised 'Alokito Bornomala Prodorshoni', an exhibition dedicated to the martyrs of the language movement. Here, the children painted alphabets that they learned in school. Also, Campus Ambassadors for Project Alokito Shishu have been assigned in most of the major universities, who work relentlessly to spread awareness about the discrepancies between the lifestyles of street children and the better off. “I am proud to be a part of a project so selfless and noble,” expresses MD Tanzirul Amin, the North South University's Campus Ambassador for the project. “Garbo Bangladesh stood out with this particular initiative amidst many other successful projects because of the sheer response it has received,” he says. Tanha Tanjin, Communications Officer of the project, adds, “We call ourselves the 'Bangladeshi Changemakers', and we truly believe we are doing something very important and substantial for our society.”
“The school also functions as a child care home because most of the children's parents are day labours,” explains Kabbo. "We provide the children with two meals a day. We want the parents to stay assured that their children will be taken care of." The initiative conducts regular workshops known as 'Inspire Bangladesh', which primarily attempts to motivate and inspire the Bangladeshi youth by introducing them to some game-changers who changed the society for the better. This, coupled with 'Alokito Shishu School', attempts to morph Bangladesh into a better direction, and while these are merely baby steps, the initiative certainly has a bright future. Project Alokito Shishu promises to give underprivileged children a second chance in life.