Recent floods have had catastrophic effects on the lives of many people across the country, causing severe insufficiency of resources, along with the increase of water-borne diseases like dengue at an alarming rate. In order to tackle such problems, Team Bonna, a flood relief campaign initiated by young students from different universities of Bangladesh, in collaboration with Ghashful Shishu Forum, addressed the urgency to respond.
Together, they have helped close to 125 families by providing them with necessary resources like food, medicines and sanitary napkins. The project, which is the brainchild of Shabnam Sharmin Swarnali from the Institute of Business and Administration (IBA), University of Dhaka (DU), received enormous support from various sources as people stepped in to help each other and create a platform for uniform distribution of resources. Shabnam, despite being a business student, has always been more interested in the development sector and is an enthusiastic social worker who also ran projects for street children under her organisation, Jhilimili.
“The agony of people as shown in the news, struck me deeply and I was determined to do something in order to help them. As a result, I formed Team Bonna and gathered members who would help me in the campaign,” said Shabnam. Initially, they collected funds from their friends and batch mates and after gathering a handful amount, they approached Alamgir Kabir, the Founder of Ghashful Shishu Forum, to guide them in the field work. “We knew how to plan the distributions and strategically use our saved funds, but the actual field work is quite a different job and we needed experienced people to carry out the campaign efficiently. That’s when we approached Alamgir for help,” she added.
“We received unexpected help from different sources,” shared Nowsheen Kamal Smita, an active member from the team. “Sokhipad, a local sanitary napkin manufacturing organisation donated 1000 pads for this campaign.” Another woman working at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital helped them gather medicines for distribution. Students and faculty members from North South University, BRAC University, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh University of Professionals and DU, came forward to help as well. With funding from various sources, Team Bonna targeted three villages in Dewanganj, Jamalpur, for the campaign. To ensure productive distribution, they carried out a token system collection method after conducting a brief survey at the region.
“It has definitely made us more empathetic and inspired us to continue such campaigns,” said Arif Rayhan, another member of the group. “My personal takeaway, is an old man coming over to bless me as he kept his hand over my head with tears of happiness.” He expressed that the project helped them gain exposure to the harsh lifestyles of people residing in disaster-struck areas.
The team members were also determined to make menstrual hygiene a prominent part of the relief campaign, as it is generally overlooked as a necessity. They distributed five pads to each family and tried to familiarise them with the use of sanitary napkins. Witnessing the dangers closely while staying with a host family, they were able to comprehend the dire circumstances better. “The people, despite losing everything, were immensely hospitable and left no stone unturned in making arrangements for us,” informed the team.
The team further plans to set up a tube well and arrange rehabilitation for the affected people, with an attempt to generate employment. “This is a long-term project and over time, we shall focus on various other social issues and try to help more people,” shared Team Bonna.