‘Do good without expectations’

Bidyanondo founder Kishore Kumar Das talks with Star about his journey

Those who applaud me, I will ask them to tell their child to do something for the people. This value must be incorporated in all matters, from schooling and family relations to education policy-making.

Bidyanondo Foundation has so far served millions of people, and in the process, touched their hearts with its activities. To honour its contributions, Queen Elizabeth II of the UK has recognised its founder Kishore Kumar Das with the Commonwealth Points of Light award.

However, Kishore doesn't think the award should change anything; the organisation wants to continue its work as usual.

Kishore, aged 40, set up Bidyanondo in 2013 and has improved access to education for over 1,200 children from marginalised backgrounds, said UK High Commission in Bangladesh in a statement on Friday.

The founder, who is currently living in Peru, was contacted over the internet for an interview with The Daily Star about the award. He talked about his thoughts, values and volunteer work among other subjects.

Asked about his reaction after getting the award, Kishore said while the award is nice, the work should speak for itself. "We always see that those who do charity or similar work, regardless of whether it benefits the people, the organisers become rich and famous. Many apply for recognition or rewards... We have never applied for these; we did not go anywhere for any prize. We just did our work," he explained.

Then what is it that really matters? He said each of their volunteers works for their own unique reasons. "My feeling is that I don't think we have done much for people. We have to do more. So, let's do it for the people."

Kishore, a computer-science graduate from Cuet, established the organisation with the slogan "Read, Play, Learn" to provide opportunities for disadvantaged children to study. They are  known for giving out many of its services for a token price of Tk 1, a practice intended to avoid the stigma of accepting charity.

But what was the spark that started it all? Kishore said one day, he talked to his sister, Sripa Das, about doing something for others. "Encouraged by my sister, we started teaching five children in Narayanganj. Then, I saw new problems emerging. We started working on solving those. And this led to many new initiatives."

Many people from different countries are now involved with Bidyanondo. Kishore always says volunteers are the organisation's strength, but where do volunteers get the strength from?

Kishore replied, "I think education and values ​​are vital. We, all the volunteers, discuss values. There is no fear of losing out if you do something without any expectation."

Regarding future plans for the organisation, he said they don't think much about the future, because thinking about these means saving money for a distant time. "We don't want to do that. From the beginning, we wanted to spend money immediately; donors like that. But in the future, I want everyone to live in peace together. Charities don't solve the main problems. We want to show that we all have to live in harmony."

Talking about crises plaguing the society, Kishore said, "I will not blame or say anything to the young generation, I will blame policymakers. I studied engineering. How much were we taught about ethical values? Did our education system address this?"

"Those who applaud me, I will ask them to tell their child to do something for the people. This value must be incorporated in all matters, from schooling and family relations to education policy-making," he added.

"None of us should think we are superior... You see, there is enough food and resources in the world," he said. All people need is taking care of others and living with the right values, he added.

Shariful Hasan is a freelance journalist writing for The Daily Star


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