Hundreds of youths extending their arms of compassion and empathy to the country's corona-hit people have eventually emerged as a magnificent spectacle. The message is unambiguous. These otherwise engaged youths couldn't sit idle seeing the plight of people in need of food and medication. Some of them came forward to help the Covid-19 patients get emergency treatment at large hospitals. Some remain busy arranging costly medicines, oxygen and attendants for people who cannot manage a space at hospitals. These youths filled with rare human qualities live among us. We can distinguish them only during the times of ordeal. It is this period these young adults make themselves stand out. No matter under whatdefinition a section of detractors may brand them, they remain undaunted in their task.
Back in the old days, natural disasters were integral to the national life. Those calamities dominantly included cyclones, protracted floods and 'mongas' (acute food scarcity) in some northern regions of the country. In those ordeals, youths would be seen coming from almost nowhere. For weeks after the disasters struck certain swathes, socio-cultural organisations dominated by youths, and isolated young volunteers, would be seen putting in their best to stand by the disaster-struck masses. Many would raise money by moving door to door, approaching the big businesses, bringing out processions seeking monetary and material help and engage in lots of philanthropic activities. In the 1960s and the independent Bangladesh in the 1970s, charity shows centring round popular events after a great calamity were common spectacles. Over time, with life turning complicated for many youths, the number of them previously eager to join charity activities began declining. However, by that time the successive governments' capability to cope with deadly disasters increased considerably. Notwithstanding these facts, sections of youths remained prepared like before to stand by the people in distress. Perhaps this youth force never becomes inactive. If one generation takes exit due to old age, others take the baton to keep the journey continuing. The urge to keep aloft the human virtue of helping the battered has, for ages, been a synonym for youth.
This land has been declared free of major killer epidemics long ago. In the days of those pandemics' all-pronged, fierce attack on the mostly poverty-stricken unlettered people, the sitting governments were the ones people would take recourse to. The extent of help they would be provided with during the British and Pakistani rules is understood. In year after year, the epidemics of cholera and small pox would take countless lives until the UN intervened with their global programmes of eradication of infectious diseases. Thanks to the voluntary youth programmes, these eradication campaigns continued to gain strength. At one stage they kept being replicated throughout the land. Some of them joined hands with the time's NGOs.
These days, lots of people confuse the young good Samaritans with some kind of voluntary organisations. In fact, their pure selflessness during human ordeals keeps them apart from all charity activities. During the outbreak of epidemics, a number of humanitarian organisations are found to be manipulating people's helplessness caused by financial and other constraints. But large segments of youths dedicate themselves to the alleviation of human miseries. In the early stage of the corona pandemic in the country, embarrassing situations would arise when it came to the last rites and burial or cremation of the people dying from Covid-19. Many hospitals were seen disposing of the bodies without a ritualistic bath. Without the cover of special white shrouds, they would be given an unceremonious farewell. With only a couple of close relatives present, many such people dying at hospitals had to leave the world in their casual wear. All this happened in the name of maintaining social distance.
Batches of youths came up to change the trend. Braving corona virus, then believed to be also transmitted by lifeless bodies, these courageous youths took the charge of burying and cremating bodies. Their bold role in defying and breaking through the prevailing medical practices earned them lots of kudos. It was possible only because of the fact that those behind the whole endeavour were the youths --- with no personal interest or chances of material gain.
With pandemic-prompted poverty now afflicting the ultra-poor in the urban and semi-urban areas, the activities of the volunteering youths are turning multi-faceted. These activities include 'group feeding' of different sizes, collecting money from various sources to buy food-making ingredients and conducting campaigns to make people aware of the basic health guidelines. In the recent times, field workers of these charity groups are seen roaming the lanes of the Dhaka neighbourhoods asking for monetary contributions to be spent on arranging food for the poor.
In the beginning, many people expressed doubt about the youths' ability to go ahead with their noble mission. In fact, a strong resolve and the commitment to stay beside the people beset by the ferocity of the pandemic have become the sources of youth strength. As the pandemic situation deteriorates, these youths are coming forward in greater numbers. What began in Dhaka and Chittagong as humble initiatives to convey the message that the treatment-seekers are not left in the lurch has now spread to all corners of the country. These groups comprise youths of different social strata, including the affluent ones. Perhaps due to this, the members of a platform, called Oxygen Bank, has been seen distributing for free refilled oxygen cylinders among relatives of Covid-19 patients. The venue is located in front of the Khulna Medical College Hospital. Apart from oxygen, the youths are giving away essential medication, food etc among those who cannot afford them. These spectacles are not extraordinary in Bangladesh. It's because youth in the country carries the legacy of standing by the people who badly need support in times of their woes.