Korvi Rakshand, the founder of JAAGO Foundation and Volunteer for Bangladesh (VBD), has been selected as one of the 16 brilliant finalists of the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2013, out of 296 nominations from all over the world, for his achievements. Shout decided to learn more about his experience so far and what else we can look forward to.
How and when did you first get the news? And how did it feel?
Korvi: Well, of course I knew that someone had nominated me. I received a sudden email notifying me that I was shortlisted. They asked me to provide some information, which I did. I looked into what they were looking for and other nominees and I felt really out of place. I mean, I have only a few years of youth left I suppose. But of course, I was excited when I saw myself as a finalist later on the website and am very happy about it. I have no idea what might happen now but I am, of course, hoping and expecting more. And the reason I’m happy is not because it’s me or JAAGO or VBD up there on the list. It’s because Bangladesh is on that list, unlike last year. It’s about how Bangladesh can be bringing this award and that’s more important to me. There are kids out there who still have minimal idea about Bangladesh. I’m just happy that Bangladesh has made it to the list and has another form of exposure now.
What about VBD do you think struck them so much and what makes VBD so important for our country and its present situation?
Korvi: The answers to both the questions are pretty similar really. When I was planning to start JAAGO, I went to a lot of NGOs and people whom I knew could help. I shared my idea with them and let them know that I wanted to help underprivileged children — teach them English. And the first thing that posed as a problem to them was my age. I was 21 and they said that I had no experience.
You see, when we are young, we want to make a difference, do something for the country, eradicate corruption, and what not. But when reality hits us hard, it changes. We have to get out and deal with life, get our hands dirty and it soon becomes a habit. Even after running JAAGO for 4 years, I found that the situation was still the same. There are young people out there who don’t have the experience but have the passion, energy, time and idea. And VBD’s intention was to make use of that energy and passion and continue the legacy that the past generations of this country’s youth had built during ’52 and ’71. We aim to give these young people an identity, empower them, and let them know that their ideas and passion matter. I guess that’s what struck them the most.
How do you think this award is going to affect VBD? You are also receiving an award of 1000 pounds; how do you plan on investing that on VBD?
Korvi: (smiles when asked about the money) Well, I haven’t really decided about what I want to do with the money yet, but I suppose we can distribute it among the different branches of VBD across the country. We are now in 22 districts; might put up a competition or something of sorts to see who performs the best and gets the money (laughs).
The award will have an impact on all the young people who are part of VBD. This is a proof and acknowledgement of what we are doing and how far we’ve come. People, especially our cynical senior citizens, will know that we are doing something substantial and not just wasting time selling roses on the street. They will know that when we offer a rose to someone on the street, we are also working towards making a disadvantaged child’s life better. I know that all the young people will be encouraged further. This might even push some of them to start things of their own to make changes — and I’m all for it. We need more JAAGOs and more VBDs. And this award will confirm that.
There are 15 other well deserved fellow finalists who are each trying to change the world in their own ways. What would you like to say to them?
Korvi: Oh, there are some much younger finalists and I feel proud about it because they started so early! I wish I was doing things at their age. They still have such a long way to go and they are going to do so much more. To them, I would just like to say, do not look at this as a competition and measure who is doing better. These young people hail from and represent different countries and each country has its own issues. They should be focusing on their own issues and finding the best possible solutions, and keep reminding themselves that the fact they’ve made it on this list means they’ve done and achieved things.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the VBD family and everyone involved with it on this occasion?
Korvi: (eyes widen at the magnitude of the question and breaks into laughter) Wow, well, we have a family of about 10-12 thousand volunteers. I just want them to know that VBD belongs to them all. This is a big encouragement and we should work well enough to win more awards, more recognition. This should push us to do better things for the people. VBD is made of all of your sweat, passion, energy. It’s yours as much as it is mine. What else can I say?
The Commonwealth Youth award has selected 16 finalists from across the Commonwealth countries — 4 from each of the regions of Pacific, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Caribbean including Canada. All the finalists will each receive 1000 pounds and assistance with further development of their projects. From here, one finalist from each region will be selected to be a regional finalist and receive an additional 2000 pounds. And of the four finalists, one will take the overall prize of Pan-Commonwealth winner and receive an additional 2000 pounds.