After reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many youth-led relief initiatives have taken over the past quarter of this year. However, there have been chronicles of redundancy in these initiatives, in terms of communities and locations. In order to tackle such issues, Shomonnoi Bangladesh was founded in March.
The young founders, Rashedul Islam and Shaumik Sharif, recent graduates from BUET, identified the magnitude of the adverse effects of the pandemic, and the importance of these relief services to the masses. They decided to be an intermediary between the non-profit organisations and the underprivileged inhabitants. Sanjeeb Roy, lecturer at CUET and Shadman Shamsur Rahman, Management Trainee Officer at a bank, are the idea generators and developers of this initiative.
Shomonnoi Bangladesh consists of 12 members from BUET, and 30 volunteers countrywide. Shaikha Shohuda, one of the volunteers, elaborated on their initiatives. "In the span of three months, I have seen far more progress than expected in terms of connecting voluntary teams, collecting funds and helping people," she said. "It has been possible because we prefer active collaboration rather than working alone."
They send proposals for collaboration and collect portfolios of different affiliated non-profit organisations. They communicate with their partners and update their regular activities in the website, Traanchitro, a map-based platform where all relief distribution activities of their partners are recorded. Anyone can see where relief materials are being distributed and which organisations are driving the initiatives.
Their initiatives are not limited to the database management only. They also navigate collaborators, such as distribution and finance partners, raise funds for critical causes, provide volunteer support and welcome more initiatives as such.
Sreedip Dasgupta, the chief designer of the organisation and a volunteer based in Chottogram pointed out that relief initiatives are one-off processes. However, those need permanent impact on people's livelihoods. As a result, Shomonnoi Bangladesh has partnerships with more than 50 organisations.
Bhalo Social Enterprise, one of their partners, has helped more than 800 farmers in areas of Chilmari, Kurigram Sadar, and Ulipur. They offer curated farming services on credit, and facilitate financing, in addition to the sales of their products. "We need more social enterprises, as they create impact, while sustaining on their own revenue. I felt obliged to support Shomonnoi Bangladesh when they reached out to me for guidance," said Subrata Kumar, Co-founder and CEO, Bhalo Social Enterprises.
Shomonnoi Bangladesh facilitated initiatives in 11 districts, such as Bogura, Natore, Khagrachhari, Bandarban, Khulna, and Brahmanbaria among others. They arranged emergency and Eid relief programmes, and participated in a WASH Programme, to provide sanitary napkins to women in Mongla and Bagerhat, two areas that were harshly affected by Cyclone Amphan. Furthermore, they have an agribusiness and small garments model, for underprivileged communities.
Shomonnoi Bangladesh began with a database of non-profit organisations working across the country to exert immediate response and effective collaboration. Today, they are a reliable touch-point for various initiatives battling social calamities, especially the COVID-19 pandemic and Cyclone Amphan. They have received support from individuals such as Md. Al-Amin, BUET alumnus and a graduate research assistant of Missouri University of Science and Technology in the USA, Sebastian Manhart, Chief Operating Officer, Simprints, and Rashadul Hasan, Senior Programme Manager, BRAC.