While walking on the streets of Dhaka we come across many poor children selling flowers, rubbing off dust from the cars for a little money and often begging for food. Do we ever take a break in our busy life to ponder on what we are doing for these children who belong to a nation which once fought against exploitation and discrimination? Do these children know what happened during the fiery March of 1971 that ignited the spark of liberation? March or December-- no month would carry any significance to them as they have to struggle each and every day for a square meal.
Mahtab Ahmed Zihan a student of Dhaka University who also works for UNYSAB (United Nations Youth and Students of Bangladesh) came up with the plan to celebrate the Independence Day with the street children. The idea name a as Shadhinotar Ananda Utbhob was to spend a joyful day full of fun, food and celebration with the children who never got the taste of freedom.
On the morning of March 26, when thousands of people rushed to pocket another Guinness record, a rally of children was heading towards Ramna Park. Some volunteers of UNYSAB were leading these excited kids just like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. When they reached the Astachol gate of the Ramna park there was something even more charming awaiting them. The volunteers of UNYSAB received them with a flurry warm greetings and hugs.
After having breakfast together, the children were served with paper, pencil and colours. In the greeneries of Ramna Park, the children freely painted their ideas. Nazia, one of the girls who used to sell flowers at Shahbag intersection painted a flag and the national memorial. When asked about her artwork, Nazia says, “I know about the national memorial as I have studied to class 3. Still I often go to a night school run by some bhaias (brothers) of DU. I have never seen the national memorial, I wish I could see it with my eyes.” Shumi another girl was painting a village. She says, “My mum used to tell me stories of our village which is far away from Dhaka. I have never been to the village, but now I am drawing what I have heard from Mum.”
After painting their dreams, the children played with their friends. The walkways of Ramna Park soon turned into running tracks. Some of them participated in a chocolate race. Some got themselves busy with the merry go round and swings installed in the park. And with the help of the bhaias, some boys arranged a cricket match.
Lunch was served after the afternoon prayers. All the volunteers of UNYSAB including its President Md Mamun Mia served the kids and later joined them. While having lunch, the youngsters got the chance to open their heart with the bhayas and apus, who told them some stories of the war that our ancestors had fought against discrimination.
Special awards were delivered to the winners. But of course each and every child was given some gifts for their participation. One of the Key organisers Mahtab Ahmed Zihan says, “Organising this event for the children is my life's pleasure. We had to work hard to organise this but their smiles have always encouraged me to work for them. We actually gathered these children from the surrounding areas of Dhaka University. Most of these kids sell flowers and other stuffs in the street, some of them just scavenge. We also run a school called Prothom Shurjo for these underprivileged children.
Md Mamun Mia says that through this event UNSAYB has launched a programme called Ashar Alo (Light of Hope) which is dedicated only for the underprivileged children.