Community Participation made the Project Viable

Fahim, as are all the children of the street, did not trust Kaushik initially. But, as he listened to him explain the benefits of having an education, a safe place to stay, friends, food without the need to beg, Fahim came around to the idea. All children at the school chose to be there. Kaushik’s work was being noticed by others. People donated fish and shrimps. We began to get even more help from the community. It was a rough road. But we all believed in the project, says, Michelle, in her weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Fahim, a young boy from the streets, was found by my partner, begging for food. He is five years old. He will not tell us his story of before but we can guess. So many are the same here in Bangladesh. Fahim is five years old. He was too much for his poverty stricken parents to handle. They most likely threw him out, perhaps other siblings have met the same fate. The trauma, terror, of having this happen at such a young age will affect behavior and attitudes, ways of seeing the world, that are more watcher than participant, or many other possibilities.

My partner, Md. Koushik Ahmed, listened to Fahim’s story and realised the circumstances the child was really in and told him about the school. Fahim, as are all the children of the street, did not trust Koushik at his word. But, as he listened to my very earnest partner explain the benefits of having an education, a safe place to stay, friends, food without the need to beg, he came around to the idea. All children at the school chose to be there.

The project is not complete yet. We are working as fast as we can. In order for the school to survive without constant outside financial support is to work with non-traditional ideas, or maybe just old ones, to become self- sufficient. Koushik came up with the idea of the farm. We certainly needed space for the incoming students. Koushik worked his way with the community and we were given rooms in the farmhouse next to the land! He had achieved part of his dream. Getting children off the streets.

But we needed food to feed them all. I and a donor provided the money for food, while we worked on problem solving long term. I asked about chickens and rabbits. Koushik said chickens and goats. This is how I actually work. I am a teacher of making dreams into goals, problem solving obstacles, cheerleading my student’s and letting their dreams take the lead. Because it is not, never has, never will be about me. I like to think of myself as a tree with many branches to climb. My leaves hold ideas, thoughts, suggestions, experience, a shoulder for tears. I can provide a nest for a rest, a place to gain confidence, and eventually, I get to watch them fly, waving goodbye.


So we got the chickens and goats too. Even a cow. A woman with nothing got to keep the mother goat and cow. She is grateful to be part of the project. Thank you Koushik, for finding her for us. It was still too slow, so we kept funding food and salary for Koushik to do his job properly. The students were flooding in at a rate we could not keep up with and this troubled us to no end. We talked about vegetables versus rice. Rice was chosen. Koushik needed help. Our other donor had provided a full time teacher but the fields needed to get ready.


Much to our surprise, all of Kaushik’s work was being noticed by others. People who had barely more than us donated fish and shrimp. Said things like, “I remember you!” And he began to get even more help from the community. It was a rough road and still is so far. But we all believe in the project, so I think, We Win!

The chickens need time to grow, so do the goats. The rice has been planted and is growing very well. After the harvest, vegetables next. I would like more room for the children inside. When the rainstorms come, they either play in the rain or stay inside. We have a woman who has given us her child so she may get an education. In exchange, she helps with the some of the farm work. She does not interact with her daughter at all. But her daughter seems happy just to get away from the farm work she does at home with her single mother.

That is Asia, different, old, new, interesting and complex. I could not have started such a project without a local guide to the subtle nuances of the culture we are working around. Koushik and his dreams of making change for the poor have driven every aspect of this and I could not be more proud or amazed at what they have achieved so far. A brighter future, dreams come true, who knows how far the generosity will go. I have never been a mentor to one with such big dreams before. It is exciting to be part of it all. I hear success calling to them now, for them somehow, improving lives, growing and sharing, loving and caring, my dreams for them to have for a lifetime.

©Michelle Yost

Pix sourced by author.

Michelle Yost

Michelle Yost

Michelle Yost is the co-founder of We Help and We Learn. She has many years of experience working in the field of social services. Helping people with disabilities find jobs, homes, food, social opportunities, activities, find and fight discrimination. She has worked with different types of people, but it has taught her along the way. Social workers don't stay, skills do and that can't be taken away. This is the way she teaches.
Michelle Yost