While we are overcoming our own hurdles, we should also help others conquer their setbacks if we can
Ekhoni is a youth-led organisation formed amidst the emergence of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. It was initially a platform to raise awareness of relevant crises and connect our audience to various credible charity organisations in Bangladesh. But it soon became a fundraising platform to aid the people that are in desperate and immediate need in our community.
Everyone is battling their own challenges during this pandemic. While students like us were engrossed with the stress of our schoolwork and the uncertainty of our academic future, we had not given much thought to those who would be affected the most during this pandemic. The sudden lockdown brought to light the hidden things in our economy.
As the nation went into shutdown, the wealthy and the privileged could afford to enclose themselves in their own bubble, stocking up on food and supplies, while those who are not as well-off suffered. Without being able to earn a living, if they did not die of the virus, they would certainly die of starvation.
Our first project was centred around the rickshaw pullers in our city. Rickshaws are one of the most important transport modes in Bangladesh. There are more than a million rickshaw pullers here and the coronavirus outbreak has caused them to suffer severely. In collaboration with Protigga foundation, the Ekhoni team, with the help of generous donations, was able to raise funds to provide survival packages to 850 rickshaw pullers in Banani. With the help of the president of Banani Society and Banani Thana, we not only created a distribution process which maintained social distancing but also ensured that the volunteers on the field took proper precautions.
What started as a team of three soon expanded into a team of 21. We had created a social presence, encouraging our audience to donate to Ekhoni's Covid-19 fund. All proceeds went to daily-wage workers and villagers in different districts.
However, we knew that it was not enough. While we helped people financially, we also had to try and help them face challenges that affected their mental health. That brought us to our next project. There is a cloud of social stigma around mental health in our country. We tend to shy away from issues like depression and anxiety.
Due to the sudden lockdown, time seemed to have paused indefinitely as we began to grieve a lost sense of normalcy. During these times, people found themselves asking questions they never had before. To help with this dilemma, we decided to arrange a question/answer session where people could ask questions regarding the pandemic, or about their feelings brought on by the crisis. These questions were then relayed to doctors across the medical field.
Our aim with this project was to give people a chance to share their feelings and find some respite in the advice given by our doctors. We also had the opportunity to collaborate with Save the Children to host a virtual letter writing to show the importance of "The Power of a Letter". The lockdown had disrupted the education of many children, thereby affecting their psychological well-beings. So, it became important now more than ever to take some time to send some words of encouragement to children around the world.
With the help of enthusiastic parents and children and with our school's (Sunbeams School) support, we managed to collect more than 300 letters. This way Ekhoni was able to connect Bangladeshi children to those all around the world as a way to remind people that we are all in this together.
Cyclone Amphan was another catastrophe that occurred amongst all the other chaos. This deadly tropical cyclone was the strongest storm ever recorded in the Bay of Bengal and caused widespread damage in our coastal regions. For "Project Asroy", Ekhoni collaborated with the organisation "Amar Desh Amar Graam" to collect funds for the victims in Satkhira and Chattogram hill tracts region. These funds were used to aid families according to their needs, which included rebuilding homes for those affected.
Ekhoni plans to tackle issues that are highly overlooked in our country. Extending a helping hand to every community is our aim. One community that has been the subject of prejudice for decades is the transgender people. For one of our new projects, we decided to take the initiative to raise awareness for them and we hope to work with other organisations with similar agendas to help provide financial support to them during this crisis as well.
There are more than a million people in this country who are vulnerable during this pandemic. While we are overcoming our own hurdles, we should also help others conquer their setbacks if we can. We encourage everyone and especially the youth to take a stand and do whatever they can to help those who need it the most.
The writers are founders of Ekhoni, currently studying in A-Level at Sunbeams School, Dhaka