The other day when I was going to Mohakhali from Uttara, a different thing caught my attention. I found hundreds of street children and elderly persons making a long queue at the Airport Railway Station, all waiting for something. I was really surprised because I had never seen such an organized gathering at that place before. As the days passed on, I found the repetition of the same happening there twice a week. Then out of my curiosity, one day I stopped at the railway station to know what was actually going on there. Well, to my sheer astonishment I discovered that a group of people were distributing lunch boxes among the underprivileged children and hungry elderly persons. After speaking with a volunteer about their programme I came to learn that they serve lunch boxes to those individuals on Sundays and Thursdays in exchange of a token money of 1 taka. Bidyanondo Foundation, a non-profit charitable organisation, has taken such an extraordinary initiative to stand beside the underprivileged people of the society.
Since its beginning on December 22, 2013, Bidyanondo conducted only an education programme that provided basic education to the underprivileged children in the urban areas. Soon the organisers found that apart from their illiteracy, these children have a more serious problem, that is, hunger (lack of food). Then on May 15, 2016, the organization launched ‘1 Taka Meal’ project with only 50 lunch boxes for serving food to these kids and ensuring their attendance at the school. Initially with only 4 persons they provided rice, mashed potato, and vegetable curry in the lunch boxes. It has been a blessing that with only a few years having passed, the foundation now has nine branches and 300 volunteers. Now it is providing kichuri-egg, khichuri-vegetable or rice-egg as food item in the lunch boxes. And with their collective efforts they distribute 10,000 lunch boxes per day in different parts of the country.In fact, food is a basic need in one’s life, without which you cannot live. Without having a practical experience it is hard on one’s part to imagine how a person feels when he or she feels hungry but has no food to eat. Kishor Kumar Das, the founder of Bidyanondo Foundation, realised the sufferings of hungry people through his real life experiences as in his childhood days sometimes he had to take food from the temples. Thus he wanted to do something for the underprivileged section of the society so that no one has to feel the bitter pang of hunger like him. Now it can be said that his thought has worked successfully as Bidyanondo Foundation’s ‘1 Taka Meal’ project has already served around 24,00,000 meal boxes among the deprived people.
When asked about why they are taking 1 taka for a meal box as they could easily provide them food completely free of cost, Sultana Jannat Shikha, one of the volunteers of Bidyanondo Foundation, replied, “We basically sell this food to the underprivileged children under twelve years and elderly persons above sixty years. Mentally or physically challenged people can also buy our foods. If we distribute this food totally free of cost, the receivers may suffer from a feeling of inferiority complex while taking the food. Generally, the street children want to manage their food without paying money. Because of our initiative now they are spending 1 taka to buy their food. It is bringing a change in their viewpoint to have something respectfully. So it is spreading ethical values and developing morals among the street children as well.”
While replying to our query about the quality of their food, Sultana Jannat Shikha stated, “We can say for sure that throughout the whole process of cooking and distributing our food, it is maintained well. And our volunteers test the foods before distributing them.”
Though the organisers sell per meal at 1 taka, they need to spend at least 31 taka for per lunch box. At the end of the month it takes 751 taka to arrange nutritious meal to feed an underprivileged child. In Bangladesh where there are many people who have financial capability to feed the poverty-stricken children and the needy, their little contribution can make a real difference in their lives. Kishor Kumar Das dreams that one day, after reaching a certain level of success, one of these underprivileged children will also stand beside the other underprivileged people remembering the contributions of Bidyanondo Foundation in his or her life.
When it comes to funding and expending it, the foundation always maintains transparency in their work. Although initially its founder Kishor Kumar Das bore almost all the expenses of the project, now many kind-hearted people have come forward to help him. Apart from the local donors, a huge part of the total donations are collected from the Bangladeshi expatriates and foreigners. The foundation received a donation amount of approximately Tk. 4,00,00,000 alone in 2018. While speaking about the transparency of their works, Kishor Kumar Das said, “We are blessed by some true and energetic souls who dedicate their time for the greater welfare of the humanity. Our volunteers and workers don’t take money for their service. They work with utmost enthusiasm so that no child has to suffer from hunger. We need to spend money for food items and other arrangements. We do it maintaining transparency. That is why the number of volunteers and donors in our project has increased with the passage of time.”
Committed volunteers of Bidyanondo Foundation cook the food and distribute it across the country. They also collect food donations from the people. And in order to receive such donations they even go to the wedding parties. The sleepless volunteers visit different parts of the cities to distribute the collected foods among the hungry people. Apart from this, the volunteers of Bidyanondo Foundation serve free food during the month of Ramadan. And they conduct similar programmes in the famine-affected areas and refugee camps.
Well, Bidyanondo Foundation has never put emphasis on forming a committee or following a certain structural method. From the very beginning they have been working as a team. Besides 1 Taka Meal project, they are continuing their initiatives to educate underprivileged children. They have libraries in their branches which have a good number of books. And those libraries are open for all. The foundation is creating educational video tutorials by an excellent team of university students for children studying in high schools. They think that among the numerous fields of social works, feeding the hungry people and spreading the light of education are the most significant ones. But they believe that a single organisation cannot change the fate of the underprivileged children and poor elderly persons. They have just set an example so that others can follow it and work for humanity.