At a time when crimes like murder, abduction, rape, drug addiction etcetera are rocking the very foundation of society everywhere, some youths are silently dedicating themselves to the service of the wretched humanity. Their noble ventures at times surpass the so called formal corporate social responsibility (CSR) as rendered by the financial institutes or business houses. One such initiative organised by some students of a private university is called Prochesta (endeavour). The youths have undertaken the task of teaching children in their spare time. In Alkatrar slum sprawling along the rail tracks at Tejgaon near Kawran Bazar, a good number of rootless, neglected and hapless people live a subhuman life.
Unsurprisingly, these people have a large family each. Birth control is not a forte of theirs. Also polygamy is rampant among them. When most passers-by are unlikely to spare any attention except a casual look at the slum-dwellers and their children, a group of university students have taken upon themselves the task of teaching the young ones there. The story carried in a Bangla contemporary on Monday last is a clear indication that the flame of youth spirit still shines and the country will be in safe hands in the future if at least some of today's young people grow as caring as they are.
The idea of this venture struck a student when he had to visit the slum for population census. He was deeply shocked and pained to see the stark poverty and child proliferation. He reckoned that unlettered and untended, these children will fall into the vicious cycle of poverty and anti-social activities such as mugging, drug peddling and addiction. Education and education alone could be a recipe for their salvation.
Thus he talked to his university friends who all agreed that they would teach slum children there. Three shanties there are used as a school where students can study up to class IV. Those who can continue after this are helped by the organisation. They are admitted to a nearby primary school and all the expenditures of their study including transport cost are borne by Prochesta. A few students are now studying at secondary and higher secondary levels. Without the university group's initiatives, studying in school and college for slum children was unimaginable.
One of the founding members has confirmed that they are now running two such schools and in total 220 students are studying there. As many as 190 donors donate Tk 800 each every month. This donation helps run the organisation. If the group of youths are responsible for the slum children's educational cost, another group of 123 - 28 of which are artists - is involved with the feeding programme of the students there. The group calls this programme, 'Food for Taka One'. They sell their paintings and earn about Tk 400,000-500,000 each month. With this money they not only manage the midday meal for students of the slum schools but also for similar underprivileged learners and people elsewhere. Some of this group do extra work or overtime in order to donate the entire additional income.
Feeding the students of slum schools and the vulnerable is a daily programme. Every day they feed 400-500 people and on some special day the number of such people rises to 1000. Fish and rice or egg and rice are the usual menu but if someone donates money on a special day, the improved foods are served and the person doing the charity work attends the feeding session. After all, some people derive heavenly pleasure from feeding the hungry.
Feeding such a large number of people requires money. The group has worked out the mechanism quite efficiently. A major share of the fund comes from sale of paintings. A painting is sold at Tk 50,000 at the highest but they would not reveal that the sale proceeds go to such a noble cause. The reason why they keep it a secret is that if they disclosed the matter, art collectors would have offered even higher prices out of sympathy. But in the process the artistic quality of their paintings would have been compromised. They cannot allow this to happen. After all, every creative person is and should be sensitive about the intrinsic value of creation.
Those who complain that a process of degeneration has set in the social body may indeed take heart from the youths whose souls truly bleed for the miserable people and animals. They do not end their responsibility only by expressing their sympathy but also undertake the daunting task of lessening the suffering of the needy and down-trodden. Here is a lesson for all in society.