Michelle tells us how she met Md. Koushik Ahmed. He was a shopkeeper at a mall. He did the things that other single men of his age did after work. Ride motorcycles, play pool and just mess around. They laughed and joked around, but gradually their friendship deepened. He agreed to work on the project. He was her boots on the ground, navigating her through the cultural pitfalls. Koushik took his rightful place as the Director of ‘We Help and We Learn,’ says the author, in her weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
This column brings us right back to the beginning of the journey of ‘We Help and We Learn’. You see, I have always believed in a sort of fate when it comes to meeting people. Md. Koushik Ahmed and I met when he was a shop keeper at a mall. He did the things that other single men of his age did after work. Ride motorcycles, play pool and just mess around.
Koushik and I became friends. We laughed and joked around, but gradually came to know each other very well. Our friendship deepened when we started to tell each other the truth about ourselves, our past pains and experiences, the joyful parts too. We found a mutual respect. He always disliked the imbalanced attitudes between the rich and the poor, like me.
I began telling him about my idea and problem solving project, going nowhere at the time, and he found it good, honest, and worthy. I was thrilled! He and I talked and talked until we came up with a plan. He would work on the project. He would be my boots on the ground. And of course, navigate me through the cultural pitfalls.
Be prepared to trust and honour promises! Koushik was faced with two natural disasters in a row. First, an earthquake. He went to visit the children’s area. He sent me pictures, then of a child who had died. He stopped after that. I asked him to stay away for a few days. It took longer than that for him to overcome the trauma. He started out as a cook. But he kept feeding the poor and got in trouble. I call him Hercules because he is a true, good, honest man in this world and proves it with his instinctive actions.
The second disaster was a cyclone. All the normal citizens were rounded up in buses to take them to safety. Not so the widows and orphans area. They were left on their own. Koushik watched the storm, taking pictures for me. When everything was safe, he went straight to the area. He found it flooded and destroyed. The guards had put up barriers, he hesitated for a moment with me, and snuck in to rescue survivors. He rescued ten people that day.
The more he worked with the poor, the less my ideas were talked about and the more slightly, adapted version of the garden trellis project came together, Koushik’s way. I was smiling because it was him and the women, who decided on the changes. I fell in love! This was what the project was all about, adaptation and self-sustainability. Our women farmers have that now. Was that me? No, indeed not. I contributed money for seeds.
Koushik dreamed, as I did, of saving the children of the streets. We talked for hours, back and forth, what could I afford, how soon, and so on. This stage of our relationship changed a lot. Koushik needed to help them faster, so he found a way. A donor, a farmhouse, a farm, and the teacher! Tell me Koushik isn’t a hero, and I will tell you so many stories about his deeds.
Koushik wanted to be a teacher and that dream came true. I contributed money, suggestions, emotional support and opportunities if he opened his mind. It is so wide open, just like his heart. This is when I realised that I was doing what I have always done. Been like a tree to climb. I had become the teacher and Koushik my student. The partner part of our relationship was over. Now, we are busy transferring everything in his name. I own property, it should belong to the school. We have a lawyer working on it now.
Koushik will have it all, including the responsibility of maintaining standards, keeping the budget for the tea room, keeping up with the English classes, supervise people, volunteers or hired help, he has a mountain of work ahead of him. I will not desert my student at all. But, it is time Koushik took his rightful place as Director of ‘We Help and We Learn’. I have all the faith in the world in him. His problem solving skills are a sight to behold! His instincts are right on the nose. And before I can make a suggestion, he is already asking me what I think of the idea. What can I tell you about Koushik? Almost anything. Look for his beautiful photography on Facebook We Help Photography. You will be able to see his excellent work, the wonderful people and students, the colorful old and new mixture of Bangladesh through his eyes. You will be impressed too!
Pic by Kaushik and author.
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.