<%-- Page Title--%> Endeavour <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 107 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

May 30, 2003

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Stretch Your Arms

Shamim Ahsan

The forcibly--installed and outsiders--propelled liberation(!) in Iraq, has seen more tears than smiles. There isn't any celebration, except among the looters taking advantage of the post-war lawlessness. Otherwise Iraq is now a picture of death and destruction, cities like Baghdad, Bosra and Najaf that were so much full of life until 2 months back, are now filled with twisted clumps of concrete and mass graveyard. Parents are wailing over their sons' dead bodies, people wandering in search of their missing loved ones with hope diminishing very quickly and fear getting deeper and deeper.
But the hundreds that got killed in the war seem to have been lucky. At least, in comparison with the thousands, bruised by bombs all over the body, who are now languishing on deathbeds. Hospitals are over-flown with wounded women and children, innocent children are lying like lumps of flesh with legs blown off or hands burnt out or eyes blinded by splinters or all together. The stock of life saving drugs is either exhausted or was looted. There is no food and drinking water. Diarrhoea, which is claiming two children per day, is threatening to take a serious an epidemic turn. The small number of doctors and nurses (many have fled away) are finding it impossible to providing proper and timely treatment. A serious humanitarian crisis seems imminent.
Unless, of course, they are immediately provided with the bare essentials like food, water, medicine etc. Fortunately efforts are on in different countries including ours. Thanks to the wide media-coverage, the entire world has been watching the insufferable miseries the innocent Iraqis are going through. Eight years old Nafisa Nubaiyyat Haq, a student of class two in Mary Curie School, says, “ I feel very bad watching the sufferings of the Iraqi children. I want to stand by them.” Other children too share Nafisa's feelings.
Particularly, the gory pictures of bomb-bruised children crying in pain or those lying unconscious, huddled with many others on the floor, have distressed every human heart. Like adults, children of the rest of the world have also been moved by the suffering of the Iraqi children. And like adults they also want to stand by them. Four adolescents, Fahmida Wadud Chaitee, Sharful Alam, Umama Naoroz Ittela and Siaful Islam, all of whom worked in the popular children's news programme 'Mukta Khober' on the now-defunct Ekushey Television, have initiated a campaign called 'Hath bariyee dao' (stretch Your Arms) along with some other children. Theatre Centre for Social Development or TCSD, an organisation directed by renowned actor Shahidul Alam Shachchu, has associated itself with this unique endeavour to guide this young group of children and provide technical support.
Ittela, a student of class X of Viquarunnesa School and college and a member of the forum says that their campaign is being conducted on two fronts social and cultural. The social campaign involves collecting donations from the school children's tiffin money. The process is already underway in 37 schools where teachers are volunteering in collecting the fund. Gradually more than 100 Bangla and English medium schools will be brought under this donation scheme. There are plans to arrange exhibitions where stamps and coins from the collection of the children and paintings, handicrafts, toys, showpieces will be up for sale. Exhibition of ornaments collected from the small and silver screen stars will be on display and fund will be raised from the ticket money as well as sale of the exhibits.
Besides, a three-day programme is scheduled to begin on May 28. A children trade fair will be organised where handicrafts and paintings done by the children will be on display and up for sale. There will also be painting exhibitions of celebrated artists, band music, magic show and other exciting programmes.
Though the present initiative has been taken up to help the Iraqi children, this campaign of 'Hath bariyee dao' will not cease. “We want to continue with our activities and stand beside the afflicted children all over the world, including Bangladesh,” 12 year-old Saif reveals their future plan. The collected donation will be handed over to Prime Minister Khaleda Zia for sending it to the Iraq. This unique initiative of the children has already inspired some of the noted names of the country like filmmaker Chashi Nazrul Islam, Amzad Hossain, Shahidul Islam Khokon, renowned fashion designer Bibi Rasel, writer Imdadul Haq Milon, Child Rights Forum's Chairperson Dr. Hamidul Huq to get associated with this noble venture. Every bit of help of ours can save a child's life and bring back the smile it has forgotten amidst the bloodshed and chaos of war in Iraq.


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