LEEDO: Voice for the vulnerable street children
Local Education and Economic Development Organisation (LEEDO) carries the mission of rescuing children from the streets and placing them in their shelter called Peace Home, or reuniting them with their families. "In the last four years, we have rescued more than 2000 children and settled them both in our shelter and with their parents," says Forhad Hossain, the founder and executive director of LEEDO. The co-founders of the organisation are Murshida Akter Kanta, Helal Uddin Liton and Mujibur Rahman Masood. LEEDO began their operations in 2000. The Carl and Liz family financed the land where LEEDO's Peace Home was built in May 2015.
Eight children from LEEDO's Peace Home recently went to England to participate in the first ever Street Children Cricket World Cup, organised by the Charity Street Child United. 10 teams took part in the World Cup and the LEEDO kids made it to the semi-finals. Forhad applied to the court for the legal guardianship for these children and arranged their passports.
LEEDO's Peace Home is built with numerous facilities including a playground, a garden and caregivers for the kids. LEEDO has also enrolled the kids into different schools.
Many of the children at LEEDO's Peace Home have been exposed to abuse, trafficking and labour. Some of them also managed to escape child marriages. LEEDO supports them in coping with the horrors of their pasts and fulfilling their ambitions. The Peace Home also has physically and mentally challenged children, for whom LEEDO ensures complete and proper medical care at all times. "We rescued street children who had little to no chances of survival if we did not take them in," says Kanta, the co-founder and treasurer of LEEDO. She also adds that the children are really talented and capable. Both Forhad and Kanta feel a sense of responsibility to provide these children with secure homes and better lives.
LEEDO also operates a transitional shelter called, SETU Bandhan, at Babu Bazar where children, who are in need of support, are invited to stay. Their volunteers rescue children from vulnerable situations on the streets through a trust-building method. It is a short-term shelter programme for six weeks to bridge the children from the streets to a home or a long-term rehabilitation centre after completing legal proceedings. When the children arrive at the shelter, the LEEDO team addresses their basic needs including nutritious food, clothing, beds, medical treatments, entertainment and essential facilities. They also counsel such children, listening to and acting according to their preferences.
Under their street education projects, LEEDO has Schools Under the Sky and Mobile School. Their mobile school is an innovative project designed to educate street kids and make them aware of how to keep safe and develop goals in life. The education system for the mobile school is based on games and entertainment. The schools are developed and donated for by a not-for-profit organisation from Belgium named StreetWize. So far, they have donated 50 mobile schools to organisations worldwide and LEEDO is proud to be the first one in Bangladesh. LEEDO also runs informal platforms called Schools Under the Sky in areas where street children are concentrated, such as train and bus stations, market areas and launch terminals. Their approach to schooling is designed to educate street children, enabling them to read and write as well as providing training for essential life-skills. These schools offer a safe place, where children can socialise, network with each other and learn from each other's experiences.
LEEDO's project, Primary and Mass Education, will start in Habiganj and Sylhet soon. This initiative will be run jointly with the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education. The project will include children, women and others.