The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed millions into an uncertainty about where their next meal is coming from, or when. For a vast majority of daily wage-earners such as rickshaw pullers or day labourers, the situation is dire.
As the pandemic wreaks havoc, it has also brought out the best in people all over the world, and certainly in Bangladesh too. Many organizations and individuals have risen to the challenge and are standing beside those that are struggling to even meet the most basic of all needs, food.
“CHANGE” (Creating Hope and Ability for Navigating Growth and Empowerment) is one such organization that is providing food with an aim to reach over 4,000 individuals as part of its Covid-19 response. Saifuddin Ahmed, President of CHANGE, and Oli Mahmud, General Secretary, elaborated that although CHANGE mainly focuses on supporting education, skills development, and provision of healthcare, the Covid-19 pandemic has encouraged the organization to prioritize humanitarian assistance. “It was always a question of when, and not if, CHANGE will support our fellow countrymen, the disadvantaged residents of our great city, in their hour of need. It is our duty and responsibility to come together as people and make a difference,” said Saifuddin.
CHANGE is a not-for-profit organization that seeks a world where people have renewed hope due to their enhanced abilities, resulting in changed lives and inclusive growth and empowerment for the whole of society. The organization is dedicated to enhancing people’s abilities to become empowered and be their own changemakers. It is also committed to engaging citizens and corporations, offering them opportunities to do their part for the society. CHANGE’s food assistance initiative started from June 5 in the capital’s Panthapath area at the Green Road intersection -- in partnership with philanthropist couple Jamiul Islam Maruf and Faria Fariel -- and continued for a week in its first phase. A similar initiative is ongoing this week in Gulshan near United Hospital, in partnership with social worker Nadia Sarker, and will also be undertaken in other locations in the city in partnership with collaborators. The distributions are taking place maintaining proper social distancing rules, with participants in the food queue three feet away from each other. CHANGE is also providing cash assistance to post-secondary students with physical disabilities in partnership with Women with Disabilities Development Foundation (WDDF).
Speaking to a few of the food recipients from these distributions, the financial impact of the pandemic on people’s daily lives becomes clear. A middle-aged Jomuna Begum, a domestic helper by profession, told Dhaka Tribune that she’s been requested by her employer not to come to work since the outbreak, preventing her from making a living for her family of three. Golam, a rickshaw puller, shared his similar struggles stating that he has five family members to feed at home. Stories are similar throughout the queue for food, and then there are also those who are ashamed to line up for food due to perceived social status and are struggling in silence.
“CHANGE is not about giving food to the poor, rather we see it as sharing with others, as we believe in sharing our capacity by engaging local communities, volunteers, and working partners,” said Mahmud. “We are looking for partnerships with additional collaborators so that we can share food with people in different parts of the city and even beyond. We partner with dedicated community initiatives and organizations in innovative programs to empower communities,” Saifuddin added.