Bangladesh now has to focus more on the education of underprivileged children to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and more corporations should be engaged in this, JAAGO Foundation Founder Korvi Rakshand Dhrubo told The Business Post’s Rafikul Islam in an interview
Tell us about your involvement in volunteerism as a social entrepreneur.
The initial days of JAAGO Foundation started with volunteers in April 2007 when I was a student. Over time, I realised that volunteering allows us to learn unknown practicalities that we may encounter in our professional careers, thus preparing us for the challenges we may encounter.
How does JAAGO Foundation play a role in social transformation? What are its salient activities?
Fifteen years back, the situation in Bangladesh was quite different. There were rarely any formal voluntary activities. Many such initiatives were taken informally at the time, which made us think of creating a platform where like-minded people can share and work on their ideas. They could also raise funds by themselves to help the people in society.
Currently, JAAGO Foundation, which is a civil society organisation, operates schools and encourages youths to participate in voluntary activities for society’s benefit. We actually promote activities that integrate the participation of youths, inclusion, transparency, and accountability to support good governance.
What inspired you to work for the underprivileged children in Bangladesh?
There are a lot of underprivileged children in slums in cities. There are also many children in villages belonging to the extreme poor group. They should be helped so that they can become part of the mainstream society by getting quality education. There was a time when I was unable to help a seven-year-old girl, and that made me rethink the value of my life.
Later, six of my friends and I planned and started JAAGO on a small scale. Since then, we have been actively working for the betterment of people.
As a member of the United Nations, Bangladesh pledged to ensure that no one would be left behind with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals agenda. These goals cannot be achieved by a single sector; it has to be achieved by everyone.
In light of such circumstances, proper access to education is paramount. Hence, we must invest in our teachers and update our curriculum to help children keep up with the pace of the world.
Why do you choose youths as your prime activists? How many volunteers do you have in Bangladesh now?
The nation’s strength lies in its youth population. Bangladesh has a demographic dividend. Around 50 per cent of the population are aged below 25, and 21 per cent of them are youths.
This demographic dividend will last till 2030. After that, the number of youths may not increase. So, we only have eight years to invest in our youths who are full of energy, creativity, and honesty. We now have over 50,000 volunteers working across the country.
Can the youth get benefits from volunteering in their professional lives?
Our young volunteers not only help the people and the country but also help themselves. They learn through mistakes, which is not possible in their jobs.
Volunteering comes with the opportunity to learn and teach, where volunteers can receive training and also conduct training sessions for others. They can learn planning skills while meeting people and also get first-hand experience in learning how to work with government bodies. These do not only help them in their future jobs but also prepare them for entrepreneurship.
For instance, fundraising as a volunteer gives them leadership opportunities, helping them learn how to manage and work with all sorts of people.
How corporations can contribute to improving the socio-economic situation?
Bangladesh is going to be a middle-income country, and the local and international corporate sectors significantly drive this journey. For example, instant messaging software imo recently donated necessary stationeries to approximately 1,200 underprivileged children and organised an event to interact with students at a JAAGO school. This was a great favour for us.
What are JAAGO Foundation’s current activities?
Through our foundation, the underprivileged children coming from slums get opportunities to study abroad. Two of our students have already gone abroad for study. Now we are teaching 4,500 underprivileged children in 11 districts.
Right now, we have 400 employees. We are not only helping the underprivileged but also creating employment opportunities, and this is where our achievements lie. We are working in different segments, such as providing quality education to children, empowering youths, promoting women empowerment, and tackling climate change.
Do you look for any government policy support?
Definitely! We worked together when the youth policies and voluntary policies were formulated. If there are more opportunities to work with the government, we would love to be a part of that – be it regarding social media or the youth.
The government can help us realise our plans. Without their support, we cannot accomplish anything. Thus, it is essential to incorporate the government into our operations.