Spreading joy amongst street children | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 12, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 12, 2020

Spreading joy amongst street children

Jhilimili is a social welfare organisation, formed by some students from Institute of Business Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka (DU), that aims to support street children in different ways. Founded in 2015, the organisation initially intended to help two children, who dropped out of school and roamed around DU. The founders, who were final-year students from IBA at the time, soon realised that many other children who roamed around the campus had no access to formal education. Subsequently, they started conducting classes for these children regularly.

Over the years, the legacy of the original founders was continued by other students from IBA. However, since the children all had different levels of knowledge and schedules, it soon became challenging for the team to conduct the classes in a structured way. Subsequently, they changed their mission to spreading joy amongst the children. "Through Jhilimili, we hope to ease the daily struggles of these kids and make their childhoods a little happier. We bake cakes for them, apply henna on their hands and give them Eid gifts every year," said Shabnam Sharmin Swarnali, the president of the organisation.

The organisation also works to highlight the life stories of these children through their activism. In 2018, the team arranged an art exhibition at EMK Centre, where drawings by the children were sold to raise funds. The drawings showcased the children's dreams, as portrayed by them. The money collected from the exhibition was provided to the families of the children, with a request to spend it behind their education. Last year, the organisation hosted the programme, 'Jhilimili Eid Happiness' to provide new clothes, food and stationeries to over hundred children. 

Most children that Jhilimili is connected with have faced abuse. Bearing that in mind, the team intends to conduct partnered sessions to teach the kids about various forms of abuse and violence. They also plan to publish a magazine, featuring rhymes, artworks and stories written by these children and the team members. "If the magazine manages to generate positive feedback, good publicity and greater funds, we will make it an annual publication," said Asif Mahmud, Publication Secretary, Jhilimili.

"We always try to communicate with the kids. We often play badminton with them, tell them short stories and draw pictures with them," explained Shejuti Sharmin, Treasurer, Jhilimili. Families of these kids reach out to the team whenever they need any sort of help. "Once, we came across two sisters who were searching for extra sources of income, as their educational fees had increased substantially. We provided them with a sewing machine," added Shejuti. The organisation also tries to help the children's families with medical support, when necessary.

This year, they invited the children to accompany them to the Central Shaheed Minar on International Mother Language Day. This was done to instill a sense of patriotism amongst the children, while educating them about the struggles that led to Bangladesh's independence. The team arranged an art competition to celebrate the day and had lunch with the kids.

Currently, Jhilimili is conducting a campaign to help marginalised communities that have been harshly affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Through 'Ashun, Ebar Ghure Darai Ekshathe: Make the Comeback Easier', they are collecting funds to provide groceries to families in need and help them bear school expenses, once things around us get better. Their distribution project focuses on Kamrangir Char, as a large part of the destitute children around DU live in that region. They aim to collect BDT 60,000 for 40 families by this month. 

For the campaign, the organisation asked people to make short videos, answering the question, 'What influenced you the most as a child?' and post it on social media, following their guidelines. Individuals from different backgrounds are participating in the campaign, by discussing recent events, and how the pandemic is affecting the education sector. The participants recited poems, sang songs, painted pictures and shared their childhood stories and work experiences in the videos. Jhilimili has also started an auction, featuring paintings by the kids.

With the aim of helping children with disadvantaged backgrounds prosper, the organisation marches on with their selfless members and volunteers.

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