Volunteering in times of a pandemic | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 31, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 31, 2020

Volunteering in times of a pandemic

During these trying times of COVID-19, there are millions losing hope on a daily basis. We are getting into complete chaos, giving rise to severe anxiety, panic, and self-centeredness. When most of us are about to fall apart, there are a few who rise up to the occasion, like archangels, guarding the rest of us through distress.  They are the ones who hold our hands tightly and fight till the last breath risking their lives on the clock — so that we are able to set aside our tensions and live at ease.

This is the story of one such organisation, with countless lionhearted volunteers, who have fought and are still fighting to save lives, amid the breakdown of life as we have known it.

They may consider their efforts small, but to those who they have helped, these very efforts are on many occasions, lifesaving. We speak of none other than Bidyanondo Foundation, a voluntary organisation, whose main task is to bring light to the needy.

On this occasion we decided to speak to one of their team members, Salman Khan Yasin, Branch Manager, Dhaka Division, to find out more about their unique and innovative programmes.

Scrolling through social media one gets to see multitudes of work by this benevolent organisation. The snapshots are clear and encouraging, plainly depicting how the recipients in each photograph are truly moved by the experience. 

"…And that is our motto; to bring back smiles to troubled faces. Our operations began with 22 impoverished street children in Narayanganj. We provided them with education, healthcare, nutrition, and a happy childhood. Our lead advisor and also the initiator of the organisation, Kishor Kumar Das, a former Peru-based corporate professional and social activist, began operations back in 2013. Today, we have many people working as partners alongside Das, helping him take forward his idea," Yasin revealed.

But it was just the beginning, and there was so much more to learn about Bidyanondo.  There's simply no end to humanitarian work, at least not with this honourable organisation.

"Of the many activities we do, most of which are with underprivileged children, we also try making a wider contribution to society. On March, this very year, on International Women's Day, we celebrated women's rights by acknowledging their essential requirements and established a capsule hotel in the city. Jobseekers and examinees from outside of the capital can use the capsule hotel as emergency lodging at only Tk 71 (minimum rate) per day. The reason behind the establishment is to provide ladies with a safe and secure place to stay during essential times," Yasin said.

Upon further inspection of Bidyanondo's initiatives, we realised there was one programme that perhaps gained more traction than all others— "Ek Takar Ahar."

"Ek Takar Ahar is one of our most effective projects where we distribute food amongst the poor in return of only Tk 1. We did not need to take the money at all as all our initiatives are free of charge. However, in this project, we made an exception because this very transaction reminds us that the recipients actually paid for their food. Yes, the majority of the burden might have been shared, but the end results were earned, and not gifted or given as alms. This, I personally believe, is an initiative that helps keep us grounded."

With so much humanity and kindness being spread about, we just had to learn about Bidyanondo's initiatives during these trying times. Having said that, you might have already wondered:  if these people worked so hard during regular days, they must be moving mountains during a pandemic!

And they are.

They have researched, developed and distributed one hundred thousand sanitisers among the general public. "We even closed our school —Bidyanondo— much earlier than other regular schools of the country. Our organisation always believes in taking timely pre-emptive measures," said Yasin.

Bidyanondo's volunteers have been spraying sanitisers at crucial, jam-packed points of the city like bus stands, mosques, rail stations. They have also installed washbasins with hand-washes at several places around the city. Their recent venture is to manufacture PPE for doctors, nurses and key frontline warriors.

"At first we thought of buying it or importing it. When few other institutions and garment factories came forward in helping us with our initiative, we decided to manufacture PPEs within our country and distribute it with the help of our logistics" he said.

In times like now, when even choosing who to provide the PPEs to becomes a harrowing task, Bidyanondo has a ready solution.

"The doctors and nurses have to register first. Then we verify their information. Once confirmed, we plan on sending the PPEs," said Yasin.

All this sounds like a lot, and it is, and even enough for a single organisation to do during COVID-19 pandemic, but it is not the end of their list of initiatives. 

Salman just smiled, and clarified further.

"There's no end to our operations. We'd try to help the needy as much as possible, in any way possible. Our latest project is to provide free food in lockdown areas, to families that need continuous food supply but are unable to get it due to the lockdown. We provide them with food as long as necessary; the Bangladesh army is helping us with this initiative. Bidyanondo didn't forget about the day labourers either, those who are unable to earn during the lockdown — to support and feed themselves. We promise to bring them food, with our current volunteer network."

Bidyanondo is not all alone in their struggle to help humanity; many organisations such as Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, CUET, several garments manufacturers, local business organisations and MNC's of the country have joined hands to help Bidyanondo on their noble initiatives.

At the end, all we can say is that during such trying times as now, when a pandemic ravages the world regardless of any divisions, we all must remember it to be the crisis that it is, and unite to combat it. People must set aside their personal agendas and come together to fight this 'viral' war. Bidyanondo has begun its battle along with many others — to rise above everything else and save humanity.

It is time the rest of us join in.


Photo: Bidyanondo Foundation

Contribution info:

Account Name: Bidyanondo Foundation, No: 0221330016199 (Current account). Social Islamic Bank Ltd, Nawabpur Branch, Dhaka. Swift code: SOIVBDDH

Account Name: Bidyanondo Foundation. No: 10612012479 (Current account). Dutch-Bangla Bank Ltd. Narayangonj Branch, Narayangonj.

For more information, please visit www.facebook.com/Bidyanondo/

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