Standing united against hunger during the pandemic
The 'Youth for COVID Response Barishal' initiative is a collaborative effort by Lal Sabuj Society, Barishal Blood Donors Club, SNDC Bangladesh, Hasimukh Poribar, Youth Plan for Society, Sohochori, Manobi, Ucchash, and Oshohay Manusher Pashe, alongside unaffiliated young volunteers. On this International Youth Day, we spoke to the gallant members of the organisations.
Situated on the bank of the Kirtankhola River, Barishal's Bangabandhu colony is inhabited by thousands of hardworking people who are reliant on physical labour to earn their bread. Due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic and frequent lockdowns, these labourers have become the victim of joblessness, and are facing difficulties to feed their families.
On the other hand, the naval terminals are closed indefinitely due to the pandemic, with the sailors and staff now left unemployed. As such, many day labourers who are reliant on the terminal have no way of earning. Some labourers even remain at the terminal as they have no homes to return to.
Lal Sabuj Society's founder and president Tahsin Uddin set out to collaborate with other organisations to help those in need. "It breaks my heart to see people starve during lockdowns. Though many social organisations have cooked and distributed food to them before last Eid," he shares.
The other organisations responded positively to Tahsin's idea. "If like-minded social organisations work together, then we could reach more people and cultivate a sense of brotherhood amongst ourselves," he adds.
Many have made the asphalt floors of the terminal their homes and beds. Men, women, children stand in line, while the volunteers hand out food packets to them in the afternoon.
Mithu Islam, a twelve-year-old orphan living at the terminal is unemployed, and spends most of his time in hunger these days. "I used to sell water bottles on ships. However, the terminal is closed due to the pandemic and I am left penniless," said Mithu. "Now, we only get to eat because the volunteers bring us food every noon."
"We try to provide healthy and nutritious food every day which mainly includes rice, eggs, fish, vegetables, meat, and sometimes porridge," says Afsana Mim, a volunteer from Manobi Foundation. "Many well-wishers have donated meat from their Eid-Ul- Azha feasts."
Their food distribution drives were active during Eid-Ul-Azha. Polao meat curry were distributed among 600 people from 200 families. Each organisation was responsible for distributing food to their local areas. "We gave food to some families who would never ask for help despite their conditions. Some even cried after receiving the food," adds Antar Roy, a member of Hasimukh Poribar.
'Youth for COVID Response Barishal' was initially supposed to end in nine days as the team has no support, and the project was fully self-funded. "We tried to reach out to the general public through social media platforms encouraging them to come forward," said Aulad Hossain from Barishal Blood Donors Club.
With help from the locals, the district administrator, and the mayor,'Youth for COVID Response Barishal' wishes to be operational even after the pandemic subsides. "We welcome everyone to help fund the food expenses for those in need," concludes Tahsin.