Residents of the area could get all kinds of fresh vegetables, fish and daily necessaries for free in the market
The month-long “Free Haat” program organized by Muktir Bondhon Foundation at Atharobari in Iswarganj upazila of Mymensingh ended on Wednesday.
Since the first day of the market, volunteers helped provide fresh fish, vegetables such as gourds, sweet pumpkins, potatoes, tomatoes as also dates to a total of 2,000 families, with 500 visitors making it to the haat everyday.
There were kites, toys and balloon stalls for children as well. As schools are closed, the children were given gifts through maintaining health safety rules to give them some recreation.
Lokman Hossain, a resident of Sahilati village, said: “I am in deep water after my only hope, the boro crop, was ruined. I had not even visited the market on the first day of Ramadan.
“The boys of this organization gave me very good fish, vegetables and dates without taking any money, with which I could fast for two or three days. Such good food is not available even with money. They also asked us to wear face masks and wash our hands with soap again and again.”
Another resident of the area, Roxana Akhter, said: “I had shopped from the free haat during Ramadan last year also. This year too I got vegetables and pangas fish without having to pay any money. With all this, we can keep going for a few days. The youths’ action is commendable. May Allah bless them.”
The free haat program was organised with donations from the members of the organization and with money donated by common people, who came to know about the initiative from social media.
Azharul Islam Palash, coordinator of the Free Haat Program, said though the Ramadan free haat is over, two more free hats would be launched on the occasion of the holy Eid-ul-Fitr.
There will be new clothes for the children of helpless and financially disadvantaged families, vermicelli for cooking on Eid day, sugar, rice, pulses and much more.
Azharul Islam also said: “There was a free haat last year during Ramadan. Due to a huge response from the public, this program was launched on the first Ramadan this year as well.”
Anik Kumar Nandi, organizer of the Free Haat Program, said the free market had been run from day one in compliance with strict hygiene rules. An infrared thermometer was placed at the entrance of the market, and there was also a hand washing system as well.
Volunteers and recipients all wore masks and gloves. The stalls were arranged at a distance of three feet from one another in compliance with hygiene rules, he added.
Nandi added: “If we had wanted, we could have sent help from door to door, but we also wanted to teach the people of this area to follow hygiene rules.
“In fact, we have shown how a market can be run during the Covid-19 period so that the common man can learn to deal with this pandemic without lockdowns.”
“However, we have delivered the necessary items to those who felt shy about visiting the market,” he added.
A social worker of the area, Ali Yusuf, said: “Humanitarian work with such participation of young people really raises hope.” He said that the youths were standing by people in their tough times to ensure food for them. “What could be better than this?” He asked.
Tasmima Hossain, chief adviser of Muktir Bondhon Foundation and editor of the national daily Ittefaq, inaugurated the virtual Free Haat Program on April 14.
She said that in the month of self-purification, Ramadan, such activities conveyed a sense of self-satisfaction. At the forthcoming Eid, new clothes would be provided to thousands of children and the elderly of underprivileged families through this program.
Ishwarganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer Zakir Hossain said: “Undoubtedly, this is a good humanitarian initiative. The upazila administration has also extended all kinds of cooperation to them to run the free haat program.”