Gram Theke Shuru
"A project to provide income generating opportunities and educational stipends"
A field report from Rayed Khan/Raquib Khan , SpaandanB representatives:
Having volunteered for SpaandanB the past several years, I've had the opportunity to visit villages in rural Bangladesh several times with my father (Raquib Khan), who coordinates a few projects with the organization. Three years ago, we went to the village of Masimnagar (Bancharampur, Brammanbariya District) where my father was visiting men and women who had received 10,000 taka earlier from SpaandanB (roughly $170 US) through the Gram Theke Shuru Project. Translated literally, 'It Starts with the Village', Gram Theke Shuru targets villagers who would benefit from receiving enough money to purchase a cow. Cows provide nourishment and income through their daily milk production, and often provide offspring that can be sold or kept to make milk and children of their own, all at a profit to the owner.
On my first visit to Bancharampur, I met a man named Sohrab who was very poor but appeared to have benefited greatly from the cow he received from SpanndanB. Recently, in February, 2011, my father visited the village again and returned with great news about many of the charity recipients, but his description of the great success Sohrab had attained in the past few years because of Gram Theke Shuru truly moved me.
As Sohrab narrated in a video-interview my father conducted that I later watched with great excitement, he spent 9,000 of the original 10,000 taka given to him by SpaandanB on a cow. This cow provided her owner with 2 kilograms of milk daily, providing both nourishment for Sohrab, his wife, and many children, and income at the local market. After a short time, the cow gave birth to a calf which Sohrab sold for 22,000 taka. Astoundingly, this was only the first of many. Soon afterwards, the cow again gave birth to another calf, which Sohrab sold for 24,000 taka, and it eventually gave birth to another two calves which Sohrab sold for 24,000 taka each. These sales provided Sohrab with an amazing 94,000 taka !! in income, all from the original 10,000 SpaandanB donated. Sohrab decided to take a part of his earnings and pay off loans he had on his rice paddy fields. Again, his cow gave birth, and with the earnings from this fifth sale and some savings, the man purchased a new cow with a calf. After selling the calf, he was able to spend money on his brother's wedding, and now, with his excess funds, he is leasing tracts of farmland for cultivation.
Among many others, this man's life has changed so immensely, virtually entirely through the efforts and donations of SpaandanB. Because of that small, one time, less-than-200-dollar donation to Sohrab, his life has completely turned around for the better. Less than a decade ago, like many of the villagers, Sohrab struggled to provide for his family on a daily basis. Now, not only is he feeding his family, he is helping his relatives, investing in land, and leading a successful life. Here in the United States, we often spend $200 like it is not much, it's the price of an iPod! But, in the rural villages of Bangladesh, this $200 can have such a profound impact on the lives of the inhabitants.
As is evident in Sohrab and many of the other villagers who have received support from SpaandanB, these people are so enthusiastic, grateful, and appreciative for the relatively small amount of money Gram Theke Shuru has provided them with. SpaandanB gives these villagers the ability to actually pursue their dreams of a better future. With a small donation, these Bangladeshi men and women now have the means to improve their lives and explore new horizons.
A field report from Rayed , a SpaandanB representative:
The small children scurry behind the car, grabbing on to the bars attached to its rear bumper. They squeal in excitement as the engine starts and the car comes to life. As we gradually make our way along the narrow dirt 'road', the children still hang on, smiling in excitement as to what this large moving device is, walking along with the slow pace of the car. What are they doing? Why are they hanging on? was my reaction the first time I went to gram in the summer of 2004. But this time, I understood greatly. They have never seen a car! What a wonder it would be to see something so large and quick for the first time!
The Gram is a completely wonderful place to me. I find it very pleasing every time I go there. Especially, this second time, there have been great improvements in the road in just less than two years, and you can now take a car via ferry all the way into the village as opposed to before where you had to take a boat after the ferry. Though the small boat seemed to be more exciting in my opinion, being able to take your car the whole way showed signs of advancement and development. These were great things.
The one thing at gram that captivated me the most was the 'scholarship giving' at the school with students around my age. It was great to see their faces light up when they heard we were here. The ones that were awarded with scholarships seemed very grateful as to what they were receiving. It was a great sight seeing the fact that SpaandanB was able to make a poor child in Bangladesh very happy and that with the money the child received, he could go to better schooling for a better education. However, the one thing that greatly touched me was the difference between them and I. There they were, joyous, living in small concrete and tin houses, receiving a small education, and wearing ripped and tattered clothing. And there I was, standing in my brand-name jeans and rugby shirt with a video camera in one hand. I wasn't surprised when I was recording from the back of the crowd, and within fifteen minutes, most were behind me, staring at the camera screen. Furthermore, I wasn't surprised when a boy maybe my age asked me for money.
After the school, we had gone to see how the families who had received cows from SpaandanB were. It was fascinating. With the money they received to buy a cow, some cows had born more cows, and some were giving a substantial amount of work. It was great to see how this small donation from SpaandanB made such a huge impact on the unfortunates' lives. The people were treating the cattle very well. One family was even getting about 4-5 Kg's of milk from their cow everyday, which they could drink, and most of which they would sell for an amount of money that would over some time, cover the cost of the cow it self.
Overall, I believe that if the rich do not help the poor, the rich will get richer, the poor will get poorer, and the world will become unbalanced. However, what SpaandanB is doing is really showing that, with a small amount of money, you can make a huge difference in someone's life. And that slowly, we can bring the many people of Bangladesh in poverty out of poverty and mold a shining future for them.