'Thrill' is the word that Sabuz Shahriar Khan uses when describing journalism. This crime journalism enthusiast had a penchant for the field since his younger days and still views it as a platform to ask questions as well as a means of impacting the society. However, what started as a mere childhood aspiration soon turned into a mission to prevent Bangladesh's youth from going astray. At 14-years of age, Sabuz read the news of a grade 9 student's murder. It prompted him to think deeply about Bangladesh's youth, which set in motion the clockwork that led to the formation of his venture- Bangla Initiator.
Bangla Initiator is an online news portal which is completely run by young journalists. Sabuz, now 20-years old, is the Chief Editor. The enterprise uses journalism as a medium to allow children to become aware of the society they live in and understand their own rights. These children expand their knowledge by staying updated about the world, thinking critically and asking relevant questions all the while sparking curiosity within them. Additionally, through journalism, the children get exposed to social injustices that occur around them, which in turn enables them to grow up into responsible adults and conscious citizens.
Besides journalism, Bangla Initiator uses other creative sectors in the form of clubs to grow different skills among the children and youth. One such club is the 'Book Club', which allows members to exchange books amongst themselves, thus, enabling children to develop reading habits and prompting them to become better citizens by practicing deep thinking. Another is the 'Photography Club' that nurtures and encourages children's photography skills by hosting festivals, such as the "National Teen Art and Photography Festival" where youth from all over the country submit their photos and artworks from which selected ones get displayed. There is also the 'Child-Welfare Club' which is completely directed by the child journalists. Every month, they raise a particular sum of money which is used to help the underprivileged children.
Bangla Initiator also works to provide an authentic view of the country’s Liberation War to the youth by inviting freedom fighters to speak in ‘Jalsha’ events which are hosted at significant historic sites. In these Jalsha’s, children and youth hear the guest speakers reiterating their personal experiences, providing them with first-hand recounts of people who shaped the country’s history.
The simplistic nature of Bangla Initiator tends to mask the complex ideas and incidents that contributed to its formation, in reality the story behind the origin of this unique venture is a powerful one. Even though Bangla Initiator officially started in 2015 when Sabuz was only 17, he laid its foundation even earlier at the age of 14. This is because Sabuz being a very observant child, noticed early on how his peers at school were becoming more involved with all sorts of wrongdoings.
Sabuz found that many of his peers showed traits of moral degradation. Even though they volunteered in the morning, by nightfall they were engrossed in unethical behaviours. In place of harbouring innate desires to help others, his peers were volunteering just to show-off on social media. Sabuz saw this as a waste of time and lost opportunity. He came to the conclusion that he could not sit idle while his peers succumbed to paths that eventually led to their despair. Therefore, Sabuz decided to take an initiative.
In order to address the issue, Sabuz first identified the core problem by understanding that all these children had something in common- they lacked proper ideologies for which they could not channel their energies in a positive direction. He understood that they needed guidelines and believed that the youth needed to stay busy. “I thought that they needed to be corrected. All existing organisations had similar approaches to this problem and I knew that it was not working. Attractive alternatives were needed to persuade the children to change. From a personal experience, I knew that journalism is one such thing that interests me. So, I thought that for the other kids it may seem attractive too,” Sabuz shares.
Thus his brain-child, Bangla Initiator, came into being in 2015.
As Sabuz started the enterprise at a very young age, his venture had to overcome numerous barriers. The first barrier that he faced was convincing his family. They doubted and discouraged his work repeatedly. However, being the forever optimist, Sabuz tried to convince them to see the good in his initiative. Even within the organisation, parents were reluctant to send their children into the world of journalism as they viewed it as a challenging profession.
Eventually, Sabuz soldiered through all such obstacles with the relentless support from his mother. He managed to build the venture from scratch.
His work has seen its fair share of accomplishments as well. Not only has Bangla Initiator been given recognition awards from affiliated schools, but it has also transformed many young lives. So far, Bangla Initiator has been able to bring 50 young lives back on the right track from involvements with student gangs and has rehabilitated 20 to 30 drug addicts.
Three years down the line, Bangla Initiator has built networks across Bangladesh in districts like Dhaka, Chattogram, Mymensingh, Bogura and Shivganj. There are around 300 young journalists spread across the country, who mostly are school students. This ever expanding organisation comprises of a core team that trains other children.
In the future, Sabuz hopes to see Bangla Initiator as one of the leading organisation of the country. He also envisions that Bangla Initiator will one day hold a position that will allow them to reach every child in any corner of Bangladesh. The venture aims to assist in building a future generation that will identify social injustice and work to solve them- a generation where everyone is a leader.
To gain a first hand experience about Bangla Initiator, visit their website: www.banglainitiator.com