Sajida Rahman Danny is the founder and chairman at PFDA-Vocational Training Center, an organization that aims to nurture and develop the talents of children with special needs, so they may integrate themselves into mainstream society in the long run. She has worked for Unicef and UNHCR, but chose this as her life’s calling, and is organizing a concert with a fabulous band line-up to raise awareness about autism. The concert is happening today at Bangladesh Army Stadium. In a conversation with the Dhaka Tribune Showtime’s Al Faruque Ratul, Danny shares how she managed to execute such an awareness event
How did you come up with the idea of organizing a concert for autism awareness?
I first had this idea six years ago. That was when autism came into the limelight all over the world. However, in Bangladesh, even now people are not well-informed about this condition. So when I thought of the concert I first spoke with Maqsood. I spoke to Hamim Ahmed. I talked to some other people in the music industry, and everyone was interested. Somehow the plan just got stalled.
However, I was adamant about this project, because to really create an impact, or to work for a certain cause, people need to be aware about the issue first. And in concerts the audience comes from all ages and diverse backgrounds. To create awareness about autism I wanted this kind of a setting. Due to the massive support I have received from Bamba I am finally being able to execute this.
Did you face any challenges while executing your event?
Funds are a big challenge. Corporate entities and businesses are not very interested about this kind of cause. Even in the case of this one, our main sponsor vanished just a few days before the event.
However, we were able to pull through because of the immense support I have received from the Bangladesh Musical Band Association (Bamba) and our venue partner, the Bangladesh Army. The people of Bamba have this unity among them that is worth following for any organization. And the Bangladesh army was very accommodating about this cause. Even the people of the event management company, SkyTracker Limited, are giving their best for this concert.
Do you think the crowd who will attend the concert will get sufficient data about autism?
Well, first of all, music is a way of communication. It helps people adapt. It helps people connect with each other. Since it will be a widely popular line-up of bands performing at the concert, I am certain it will create a lot of empathy for the “differently abled” children, for whom this initiative was taken in the first place.
In fact, children are the ones who are contributing the most to make this concert a success. We have chosen to highlight the hidden creativity that some of these children have. Some of them can make very beautiful jewellery. There are some who make beautiful carpet slippers. Then there is also Angel Chef, a bakery food brand that I have been trying to promote online for the last one year. Some of the children were trained in baking, and we decided to sell the baked goods under the brand name, Angel Chef, and the quality is exquisite. Some of these products will be available at the concert.
We have also organized a nail polish campaign, where anyone who wants to show support for this cause will be able to polish one nail on their hand.
Aside from all of this we will also distribute leaflets with information about how to identify and care for such children. We have some audio-visuals made about this cause, which we will show at the concert. I am certain we will be able to get the message across. The message is simple. They are not disabled. They are “differently abled.” That is our slogan for this event.
Finally, mostly university students have signed up to appear at the event. They will see the “differently abled” children singing along with the band, just as they do. This will definitely connect both groups.
To ensure the “differently abled” children do not get disturbed by any other audience members, what facilities will be provided at the event?
We have definitely taken care of that. We have given a separate entrance so they do not have to stand in a long queue to get in. There are makeshift ramps in different places for those who will need them. The seating arrangement has been carefully devised. We have also ensured access for them in the VIP gallery, so they have the best lavatory facilities. Special educators will be present to assist and guide them throughout the event. I sincerely hope everyone enjoys this concert.