The brave woman wants to continue raising money to help the poor and ensure that they have stable resources so they can earn their livelihood without becoming dependent on others
You may have heard the story of the famous Pied Piper of Hamelin, but many of you may not know about the real story of the fierce "Pied Piper of Longsight."
Saki Chowdhury, better known as the "Pied Piper of Longsight", realised her calling as a social worker when she became a volunteer. Her colleague took her to visit a depressed postnatal woman in Manchester who did not speak or eat anything for more than four days.
As soon as she saw Saki, she burst into tears of joy, hugged her and started to interact with her.
Her white colleague was dumbfounded by the sudden change in the woman. Saki explained that was the power of Bengali culture: When we see people from our country we can easily open up but with strangers we become more guarded.
Saki was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) on Her Majesty the Queen's Honours List 2012 for supporting underprivileged mothers and children in Longsight for more than 30 years.
The brave woman wants to continue raising money to help the poor and ensure that they have stable resources so they can earn their livelihood without becoming dependent on others.
Saki realised that just like that woman, there are innumerable more women who cannot speak or write in English and are stranded in a place that is polar opposite from their culture. And so she began her 40 years of glorious work to help make Asian women more stable and confident in the UK.
She became officially involved with a British organisation called "Sure Start" in 2013. The organisation provides financial, mental, emotional and educational support to families who have children under five-years-old.
At first she started to work as an outreach worker but was soon promoted as a Family support worker. Even after retiring from Sure Start, the organisation insisted her to run a group called "Shapla".
Saki chose the name "Shapla" as it is the name of a flower that floats on water. Through the "Shapla" project, she helps Bangladeshi women learn English and get a job so they can look after their families.
During the Covid-19 shutdown, Saki moved in with her daughter Shermina Kamal. The feisty woman felt depressed and frustrated as she thought about the poor people of her country.
Although she has been away from her home for 41 years, she has a deep sense of connection with her motherland.
As she was strolling around the garden one day, she came in contact with beautiful flowers and was inspired to start a fundraiser for the Covid-19 victims in Bangladesh titled "Saki's Flowers" - a venture of handicraft flowers made by Saki herself.
Her daughter Shermina Kamal insisted on starting an Instagram account and a Facebook page to start the fundraiser, from which Saki would sell the handcrafted flowers. All the profits earned from the sales would be donated to the beneficiaries. The project is funded by "Shapla", which covers all material costs.
Saki's handmade flowers start at a price of £7 pound (Tk745) but as the profits are for donation, the customer can pay as much as they want.
The endearing lady has already sent Tk90,000 to Bangladesh which has been used to manufacture rickshaws and sewing machines for people who lost their livelihoods due to coronavirus.
Saki's handmade flower venture titled "Saki's Flowers" has a dedicated team of volunteers in Bangladesh who work endlessly to make sure every single penny donated is being used to help the needy.
Farhana Faruk Alo, who works as the vice president of a reputed bank in Dhaka, is one of those volunteers who is helping Saki with her project.
Alo said, "We started our first project during Ramadan, around the last week of April. Through sources we got to know that in Bashkhali of Cox's Bazar, many people are starving due to the pandemic. As they cannot go outside for work, they did not have the money to buy essentials.
"No government relief went to the village either. When I informed Saki about it, she sent me the money immediately and we were able to provide 21 families with basic essentials with the amount.
"Through root level research, we tried to find people who would easily be able to earn through our resources. We would send our volunteers to the village to carry out in-depth analysis regarding their economic status and how they lost their jobs due to the pandemic."
She added, "Through careful observation, we would obtain information about them within a month and finalise our target audience."
Saki's Flowers has already bought two sewing machines, and one of the machines has been delivered while the other one awaits delivery.
Fatema, who used to work as an assistant for a clothing store, lost her job to the pandemic. Her husband passed away and she has two children to feed. Saki's Flowers gave her a sewing machine and now she is able to produce facemasks and use the earnings to manage her family expenses.
Saki's flower also bought two rickshaws and gave it to the needy - Shaha, 48, is a rickshaw puller and Shohel, 21, is a tempo driver who lost his job to the pandemic.
Shaha has a family to take care of - his wife, four children and an elderly mother. As he had to take the rickshaw for rent from the owner, he had to pay him Tk150 every day.
With the new rickshaw, he will not have to pay the monthly rent of Tk4,500 to the owner anymore, which would save him a lot of money and help him lower his expenses.
Shohel lost his job as a tempo rider due to the pandemic and has been unemployed for four months. The young man is married and the couple is expecting their first child. With the new rickshaw, Shohel will be able to earn for his family again without depending on others.
Saki's Flowers has also donated TK10,000 to female madrasas and orphanages.
The fundraising event is still going on and their next project is to build a vegetable cart for pandemic affected people to sell vegetables and have a stable source of income.