Working for basic education and employment rights | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 24, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:00 AM, July 24, 2020

Working for basic education and employment rights

SONGKOLPO Foundation, a non-profit organisation, supports orphaned and underprivileged children in Dhaka, in different ways. Founded in 2014, the organisation equips underprivileged communities with access to resources, quality education and livelihood skills, among other things. Their SONGKOLPO School, established in 2016, is a self-funded institute for children who have no access to basic education rights. Mehedi Islam Akash, an Economics student from United International University, is the founder and chairman of the organisation.

The foundation has a 'Sponsor a Child' programme, through which individuals can provide a child's educational fees with only BDT 1,500 per month. As of now, the programme has 12 active sponsors. Their school, located in Mirpur 2, currently facilitates classes up to the second grade, with only one certified teacher. Volunteers of the organisation, most of whom are university students, teach different subjects at the school, in teams of five. The foundation launches an internship programme every six months. Currently, they have 10 working interns, some of whom want to teach classes at the school as well. Mehedi hopes to provide technical education to the students. "The underprivileged children of our country need to be self-reliant to enrich their lives," he adds.

The foundation launched several initiatives over the years, with 14 members and 100 active volunteers. They aided affected communities during the floods of 2016 and 2017. During Eid and winter, they distribute clothes to those in need. In monsoon, they provide raincoats to rickshaw pullers across Dhaka, through their 'Project Raincoat'.

'Feeding Bangladesh' and 'Project Survival', their initiatives to combat the coronavirus pandemic, are commendable. Their objective is to raise awareness among school children about proper hygiene and health guidelines. They started off with providing one month's supply of food and other necessary products to the families of their school's students. As hundreds of requests came in, they started distributing food and other items amongst the masses.

Till June, they distributed food packages to 7,800 individuals and 525 families, including people from the transgender community. Working in different areas of Mirpur, they distributed 500 hand sanitisers, 3,500 masks, 300 hand wash packages and other essentials to underprivileged communities. They also disinfected several public areas. In these unprecedented times, their teacher and their volunteers are visiting their students weekly, to ensure that they are studying and following health guidelines at home properly.

During Eid-Ul-Fitr, the foundation arranged food for 600 people on the streets. "Many rickshaw pullers and other daily wage earners are living on the streets, because they are struggling to pay their rents. We provided them with cooked meals," shares Mehedi.

With their 'Project Qurbani', the organisation aims to collect donations to buy cattle, and distribute cooked meat among underprivileged families this year.

Under their initiative, 'ProjectPoriborton', they are collecting Zakat funds to provide unemployed individuals with rickshaws and sewing machines. Till now, they have collected funds for one sewing machine. "We aim to provide families with long term employment plans," shares Asif Khan, an active member of the organisation. 

Moving forward, SONGKOLPO Foundation is determined to keep working to restore the basic rights of the less fortunate communities.

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