Pashe Achi Initiative is a youth-based non-profit organisation working for the economically marginalised people since March 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic period. Talking with the members of the organisation, Afnan Rahman writes about the initiatives
LIFE is beautiful yet unpredictable. Often it takes jarring turns that put us in a predicament. Nonetheless, when humans become the strength and support one another, no difficulty is impossible to overcome. Holding on to such empathy, Pashe Achi Initiative becomes the strength of the general mass in this time of affliction of the COVID-19 pandemic. This youth-based non-profit organisation has been relentlessly extending its helping hands to people in dire need since March 22, 2020.
Pashe Achi Initiative is the brainchild of Tahmid Hasan and Rafiul M Chowdhury. This highly appreciated initiative started with an individualistic approach. Elaborating on the inception of this organisation Tahmid Hasan said, ‘By the end of March in 2020, a strict country-wide lockdown was implemented. This caused a halt in the income generation of people. Consequently, the working class fell into great despair and suffering. So, I and some of my friends took a personal and unofficial approach of distributing food relief among 40-60 rickshaw-pullers. As we shared our endeavour and thought of helping people in distress, it was well-received by everyone. We started getting an ample amount of donations from people. Since an adequate amount of funds was accumulated, we thought of taking it into a broader scale by forming an official platform called Pashe Achi Initiative. Thus, our journey of being for people began.’
Pashe Achi Initiative’s aim primarily encircles around extending necessities to helpless people and afterwards providing them sustainable solutions so that they can support themselves. ‘It goes without saying that, we are always there to support people of marginalised income groups. We are not limited to only relief distribution but also believe in supporting people to be independent by providing them with a sustainable and long-term solution. Such as managing books for them to sell, rendering training and embroidery, connecting local art products to customers et cetera.
With a team of 20 members, Pashe Achi Initiative expands its operational activity throughout the country. The operational activities of the organisation mainly work in two teams — the social media team and the fieldwork team. Each team designated with specific responsibilities, the organisation harmoniously carried out its activities. Tahmid Hasan shared more on the operational activities of the organisation, ‘Our social media team is responsible for representing the individual stories of struggle of people in anguish and trouble. Apart from that, it also informs necessary information related to product sales, as we often work as a channel for various small business holders who struggles with their trade. On the other hand, the fieldwork team is concerned with physically visiting sites for distribution activities, distributing food relief, arranging training, and awareness programmes.’
Through crowdfunding, this youth-based organisation is distributing daily necessities and relief goods to people who survive on daily income. Starting from the first phase of lockdown from the last year to this year’s second phase, they have been tirelessly sending relief to people in great anguish. More on this Tahmid said, ‘In this second phase of lockdown we are providing food essentials to people involved with ride-sharing services.’ Likewise, they also reach out to communities that are considered taboo in our society; notably, the sex worker and transgender community. Regarding this significant aspect, Tahmid said, ‘Our team constantly looks out for people beset in the most vulnerable condition. We realise that the communities which are already stigmatised by society are susceptible to severe plight. Thus, we extend our warm support to transgender and sex worker communities. Through distributing food relief and issuing long-term solutions in gaining financial solvency, our support goes out for them.’
When creativity meshes with moral endeavours, the result is surely gratifying. Pashe Achi Initiative caught much spotlight in the social media by their innovative approach of utilising ‘Rickshaw Art’ in spreading awareness about wearing masks. They rejuvenated the nearly lost rickshaw art and spread awareness about necessary aspects, both in one go. ‘There was a controversial rape incident in last year’s October. To address the issue, we were thinking of innovative ways. One day, I came across a person who happened to be a rickshaw artist. He shared about his devastating condition of loss in his rickshaw art business. Seemingly miserable, he was desperate for a job. That’s when the idea clicked. As rickshaw art is one of the traditional art forms of our country, we thought of reviving the art. In exchange for some money, we gave that man the job of doing the rickshaw art. Catchy dialogues of iconic fictional characters to spread awareness about various issues certainly caught the attention of people. So, the unemployment issue eradicated, rickshaw art revitalised and awareness regarding various issues disseminated among people.’
Nilkhet is a kingdom of its own for the book lovers in the capital. Bustled with zeal, the heart of Nilkhet book stores beat incessantly of the book lovers, buyers, and sellers. However, the execution of strict lockdown to ease the rapid spread of coronavirus has taken away the vigour of this place. This pandemic circumstance has been creating a shattering loss for the booksellers. Withstanding that, Pashe Achi Initiative came to the rescue of this situation with their project entitled ‘Gronthomongol’. Tahmid Hasan shared deep insights, ‘We started our project Gronthomongol by the end of May 2020. As I was walking by Nilkhet one day, I noticed two booksellers sitting in despair. So, I went to them to know what the matter was. They shared that due to the lockdown their income had halted. Also, they had loads of loans due. That’s when our team decided to bridge the gap between these booksellers and booklovers. We bought books from these two booksellers and shared them on social media for sale at a reasonable price, like Tk 200. Interestingly, the response was marvellous and within one hour all the books were sold out. After that, we fixed on taking this initiative on a large scale and entitled it ‘Gronthomongol’. We bought more books, according to demand, from more buyers and arranged them in a catalogue. Since the booksellers do not have much idea about social media, we worked as a medium for them to reach their customers. Revenue started to flow in for the booksellers. The profit derived from this project is utilised for our further social endeavours rather than any personal consumption.’
Terracotta art is one of our significant traditional art forms that represent our heritage. Especially at the eve of Pahela Baishakh, many terracotta artists create various aesthetic handmade crafts and potteries. Unfortunately, the horrendous impact of the pandemic did not spare them as well. ‘We were aware that due to the public restriction of Pahela Baishakh celebration, these terracotta artists had faced loss. Their anticipated earning to a substantial extent relies on this event. So, we contacted terracotta artists from Rajshahi and Jashore. We took snaps of their products namely — ‘Shokher Haari’, ‘Haat-Pakha’, ‘Maatir Putul’, and posted them on social media. Owing to social media, the urban people had easy access to these traditional crafts and hence these crafts got widely sold,” said Tahmid Hasan.
Close interaction with people from different communities helps in forming deeper bonds and understanding. More so, it broadens perspective. Unravelling his realisation, Tahmid Hasan expressed, ‘We are more or less aware about the suffering of these marginalised income groups of people. Having said that, their agony and struggle can only be felt once we can go closer to their life. Each penny they earn ensures them a day of survival. So, when any kind of calamity hits us hard, they are the ones to fall in the utmost vulnerability. As humans, we must stay by each other through thick and thins.’ Pashe Achi Initiative exemplifies the true essence of humanity by caring for the anguish of others.
Afnan Rahman is a student of North South University.
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