How young people are using their creativity to help people during the pandemic
In 1971, Beatles guitarist George Harrison and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar had arranged two benefit concerts titled "The Concert for Bangladesh" to raise international awareness and funds for war refugees of Bangladesh.
These two concerts have gone down in history as benchmarks for using art and innovation to help the underprivileged in war-torn countries. Given that the seminal event was centered around the birth of Bangladesh, for Bangladeshi youth, the onus of replicating such actions in times of crisis, is even higher.
Inspired by these concerts and many more events and initiatives that have been taken over the years, a group of young people in Bangladesh recently decided to raise funds for people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
A circle of friends based out of Chattogram came up with the idea of raising fund through virtual concerts and musical shows in social media to help deprived people of their locality who have been hit hard by the shutdown.
They named their idea "Manush theke manusher kache" and opened a Facebook page where they invited musicians and artists to perform and thus raise fund for the underprivileged.
It is not just this idea; a lot of other young communities are also coming up with similar platforms to help the poor during this crisis. In many ways, these ideas are changing the forms and patterns of charity and relief.
Most of these young volunteers do not have any organisational experience, yet they are driven by the will to do something good for society in this crucial time.
The Business Standard features some of these initiatives.
'Manush theke manusher kache' (From people to people)
"We are not a formal organisation. We are just a group of twelve friends from school who are now studying at different universities. We want to help those who need relief but cannot talk about it or feel embarrassed to stand in queues. We want to provide relief to their homes to save them from all these troubles," said Moriam Jahan Sayma, one of the founders.
She said they opened their Facebook page during the shutdown to collect funds and run their activities in a structured way.
They prefer to call their initiative a project and in the beginning, they were uncomfortable to ask for money from people. This is when they became inspired by "The Concert for Bangladesh" and planned to arrange virtual concerts.
They reached out to musicians and artists, asking them to perform or to take tutorial classes according to their expertise. They expected some negative responses, but instead were floored by enthusiasm.
So far, they have collected Tk85,000 and helped 110 families in their locality.
One of the performers was Riasat Azmi, a young faculty member of American International University of Bangladesh (AIUB), and an icon for young rock music enthusiasts in the country.
Riasat was happy to help them as he saw it as his duty to help people of the country during this crisis. He said that he has been raising funds on behalf of Obhizatrik Foundation as well.
'Khuda nirmule ankchi' (Painting to fight hunger)
Their third year final examination was postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The lockdown had limited the lives of these eight Fine Arts students of the University of Rajshahi to watching movies and television series, and chatting on social media with each other.
During their long conversations, these young students talked about hawkers, makeshift shop owners and small businessmen of their campus whose income was solely dependent on students.
They wanted to help these people but their pocket money was not enough to feed them for even a month and they were too shy to ask for donations. Then the idea of selling their artwork to make money came to them.
At present, they send soft copies of sketches or paintings and collect the money in return, when the shutdown is lifted, they will send the original ones to customers.
Purchasing an artwork is a prerequisite for making a donation, and its base price has been set at Tk350.
They named their initiative "Khuda nirmule ankchi" (Painting to fight hunger).
"Sometimes while donating, people think they are giving away money for free. If they get something in return, they will not feel that way. Also it makes it easier for us to ask for donations from them. It creates a sense of reliability," said Atiq Imran, one of the founders of the initiative.
They have displayed their existing products and explained their plan in their Facebook page "Banglar BOng". They have put up everything from glass painting to sketches to sarees for sale.
To their surprise, they collected Tk1,300 on their first day.
Students from other universities expressed solidarity and joined them. Starting with a group of eight, they now have 45 contributors working together. Their youngest member is a school student.
So far they have collected Tk35,000 and helped those people on their campus. Now they are raising funds again as the shutdown has been further extended.
Atiq said, "We did not realise that our country has so many poor people. When we went to distribute the relief, we discovered that there are more people than the list of receivers we had created. We somehow managed, but promised to go back with more food."
'Bonophuler jonno jhum tarunner bhalobasha' (Love for the ethnic minority) and Olonshal studio
A group of ethnic minority students observed that people from remote areas of Rowangchhari, Puamuhuri and Debachhari in Rangamati Upazila were being deprived of relief and were almost starving during the shutdown.
These students then created an event called "Bonophuler jonno jhum tarunner bhalobasha" to help these people.
One of the students' older brothers Wangja Chakma contributed to the event. Luckily, he owned a YouTube channel called "Olonshal Studio".
He decided to promote the event through his channel and invited artists to perform on this platform to raise funds. Many young artists, mostly from the ethnic minority, responded to their call for help.
One of the founders of the event, Satej Chakma, said, "People are bored during this quarantine and music helps to cheer them up. They also understand the situation better through entertainment. We wanted people to happily help us," he said.
They have collected around Tk100,000 and soon they will be distributing relief.
Shantanu Talukder, a young musician who participated in the event, said, "We are young and we may not always have money to help people. But we do want to help and be useful."