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The Financial Express

Spreading happiness among children amidst pandemic

| Updated: August 05, 2020 18:44:53


Volunteers carrying Jhilimili rations to children Volunteers carrying Jhilimili rations to children

Jhilimili, a social welfare organisation, is currently conducting its latest campaign to raise funds for street children seen around the campus of the University of Dhaka. They started this campaign in June 2020 to help the marginalised and low-income people who are struggling due to the lack of work caused by the shutdown. They have named the campaign "Asun, ebar ghurey darai eksathey" (Let us make the comeback easier).

The main goals of this campaign are two-fold-- first, to cover the food requirements of the jobless people and their families, and second, to cover the school expenses for their children. According to the South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM), about one-third of the children may never return to school.

They have selected Kamrangir Char to distribute the ration because a large part of the deprived children around the University of Dhaka, with whom Jhilimili has worked before, live in Kamrangir Char. These children and their families are severely affected. Therefore, these children might have to drop out of school to support their families. This will not only deprive them of education, but also encourage the harmful practice of child labour. Hence, Jhilimili has embarked upon this mission to make sure that the miserable lives of these children do not turn any more difficult.

Their initial target was to collect a minimum of Tk 60,000 for 40 families by June. They planned to buy rations and distribute them among these families while maintaining physical distancing and other guidelines. They hope to continue this initiative for as long as this dire situation continues.

For the campaign they have reached out to people asking them to make a short video answering the question "What influenced you most as a child?" and post it with the hashtag #make_the_comeback_easier. Individuals from multivariate crowds are taking part in this campaign by discussing the recent issue and how it is impacting children and their education. Some are reciting their favourite poems, some are singing lines from their favourite songs. Others are painting,  sharing a childhood story or discussing their work experiences with children.

Along with these, they are also arranging an auction with paintings drawn by these very children. The amount collected will be directly added to the campaign fund. The Publication Secretary Asif Mahmud Sohan talked about his delightful experience about the children, "On February 21, 2020 when we were all walking towards the Shaheed Minar, three little children tagged along with me, holding my arms. That was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. In these difficult times, the responsibility is ours to make sure the smiling little ones we all know can live a healthy life by getting regular food with their families."

General Secretary Arif Rayhan humbly exclaims regarding their future plan, "After this campaign, our first move will be to launch our first magazine. A big step will be to start a database of these underprivileged street children and monitor them actively for a long term impact. In the long run, we plan to become an official NGO where undergraduate students will research and take initiative to overcome the present inequality toward a child born underprivileged."

They had the second distribution of 'Make the comeback easier' on July 25.

With this ration, Jhilimili has reached around 87 families covering 450 people. They are willing to ensure happiness of the children of those families. Many of these families did not have job the previous month, but got to find jobs later. At the same time, new jobless families got into the list. Teach for Bangladesh is helping them for surveying and keeping track, while Give Bangladesh is handling the packing and distribution process.

Shejuti Sharmin, treasurer of Jhilimili exclaimed, "I think our organisation unfolds certain humanitarian sides of people we come in contact with. In a previous year, we went to buy Eid gifts for the kids. We almost always have to buy more than our target as these more kids come to enjoy the gifts once they hear about it from their friends. So we were buying and somehow we had to buy some more because there were more kids than our target. So the shopkeeper gave away the clothes for free that we had already bought along with the additional ones."

Jhilimili was formed in 2015 by some students from IBA, University of Dhaka. They wanted to help two children, Amanullah and Saddam, who dropped out of school. In doing so, they realised a potential to help a huge number of deprived kids around campus who have no access to formal education. As a result, they started teaching the underprivileged children around TSC every day. Initially, the goal was "to give non-formal education to these underprivileged children." However, as time passed by, they identified that there was a more important ingredient that was missing in the lives of these children -- their childhood. So instead, they changed their focus to "Spreading happiness among children".

The writer is a third year student of BBA programme at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka. He can be reached at rashikriasat404@gmail.com. The article is prepared with the help of the members of Jhilimili

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