BBF: What was the inspiration behind the founding of JAAGO? And it started its journey?
Korvi: Before JAAGO, I was a regular person finishing my undergraduate. Like typical Bangladeshi sons, I was also expected to take over my family business. I was involved in some minor philanthropic activities since my school years, like arranging small fundraising programs and giving the collected amount to the ones in need. But that process was not sustainable and also making them lazy. Determined to do better for this community, I decided to circle the whole country to find the actual need to break the barrier of poverty. While visiting Sylhet, I came across a handful of street urchins playing near a dustbin. I requested them to play with me, but they refused as they were collecting scraps to sell and earn money for food. I offered them the amount they could make for that day, and they agreed to spend the day with me. We spent the day talking and playing with colour. When I was about to return, a small girl came to me and asked me to be her parent as she has been an orphan from her toddler days.
I was stranded, had no other choice but to leave her behind. That day I found my calling. I realised that if we can educate the underprivileged children by mobilising the youth, it will help us take our country forward. With that urge of uplifting the deprived society, I started JAAGO back in 2007. Initially, our focus was only children. With time, we started receiving a massive amount of response from the youth of Bangladesh who also wanted to give back to the society. Even though I came from a welloff family, I was still given the choice- either my madness or the business. So it was not hard for me to understand that the youth of our country did not have a place to go with their ideas. We had many young volunteers working with us but had no idea how to utilize their passion. To encourage and strengthen the youth to participate in discussions for different governance and entrepreneurial issues, and collectively work towards national as well as individual development, we formed the biggest volunteering platform- Volunteer For Bangladesh in 2011.
BBF: How is Volunteer for Bangladesh enabling the youth in overcoming barriers? What is the process to engage them in the initiative?
Korvi: With 20% of population between the ages of 15-24 years, Bangladesh’s future depends upon the proper utilisation of youths. But they suffer from various socioeconomic problems- lack of leadership, accountability, communication skills. JAAGO’s Youth Development Program aims to empower and facilitate volunteerism to develop the nation by reallocating skills and resources to foster self-reliance and growth within every Bangladeshi youth. Trainings include Good Governance, Project Planning, Communication, Fund Raising, which helps them break barriers and become self-aware.
VBD is welcoming to everyone who wants to work for the betterment of society. Anyone from any background can be a part of this network. To engage and make the volunteering practice democracy, we also developed an election system. After working for a certain period of time, the volunteers become committee members and get the right to elect their 7 District Board members whose responsibility is to support the volunteers and conduct various projects. To oversee all the works of each district, there is a Division Board with 5 members. They supervise, monitor, evaluate the works of the volunteers. Those who contribute for years with Volunteer for Bangladesh get selected for the National Board. National Board members take part in policymaking, implementation, and overall evaluation.
BBF: Tell us about some of the impactful projects that your organisations have
Korvi: In Bangladesh, Universal Children’s Day (UCD) was a little known concept. The volunteers of Volunteer for Bangladesh took the initiative to celebrate the day for the first time. It’s VBD’s signature event which has been observed every year since 2009. Volunteers celebrate the day with underprivileged children who hardly get to enjoy their childhood. Bioscopes, puppet shows, nagordolas, merry-go-rounds- all these are brought in to bring smiles to their faces. Wearing yellow JAAGO t-shirts, and with sheer joy sparkling in their eyes they enjoy the day-long carnival filled with entertainment, food, and medical checkup for underprivileged children.
Secondly, the Great Kindness Challenge – the power of kindness within the society can be promoted to make the world a better place, with even the simplest of kind acts. Youth Development Program of JAAGO Foundation has been celebrating the “Great Kindness Challenge” since 2011 with the theme ‘Kindness Matters’- a worldwide initiative to show respect and inspire people who constantly work to keep us safe. Volunteers meet with various Political Personnel, Journalists, Lawyers, NGOs, Freedom Fighters, and Sportsmen of the country. VBD volunteers and students thank these personnel for serving us sincerely without receiving any appreciation for years.
Volunteer for Bangladesh also organizes the National Youth Assembly, with Empowering Youth for National Development theme in Cox’s Bazar since 2017. The 4-day long training program is the continuation of the organization’s effort to empower the youth to achieve a holistic set of skills required to drive progress and long-term growth, helping them achieve SDGs. The assembly is a perfect platform for them to gather knowledge and practice hands-on skills needed to rise in adverse conditions.
BBF: What are the challenges during COVID situation and how has JAAGO rolled out of it?
Korvi: Usually, our volunteers jump into any situation to solve problems or to help the affected. But COVID-19 was a whole new situation for all of us. For the first time not doing anything and staying home became the best thing that they could do for the society. They had to holt all their projects and stay home for their own safety. But eventually once we figured out the dos and don’ts they rolled their sleeves again. From JAAGO we took all the safety precautions to ensure their safety. They started working in the roster system. Once one team is done with their work they disinfected the place for the next team. Moreover, they are conducting all the meetings and workshops online to maintain social distance.
BBF: You’ve been recently awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light Award. Do share a few words regarding this remarkable achievement.
Korvi: I am incredibly honored and delighted to be awarded the Commonwealth Points of Light Award. It is a huge achievement for every volunteer of Volunteer for Bangladesh. I believe such achievement will encourage the volunteers to carry the cause further.
BBF: How JAAGO would inspire youth to change the typical and traditional system of the mindset of people?
Korvi: One organization can’t change the mindset of the people. But JAAGO is continuously working to positively impact our youth by creating awareness and arranging workshops on a particular topic. The most important thing that we can do right now to change the typical mindsets of the people is to bring the topic out there and talk about it. It will help the youth to get a better understanding of the topic while unlearning taboos.
BBF: How technology can be a tool to reshape this unique venture in terms of community engagement
One of the biggest challenges of our time right now is to take quality to hard-to-reach areas. Using technology, we can take quality education, healthcare or any kind of service anywhere. The youth can also use technology to solve any problem in their local area.