When Richard Sarker photographed the newly constructed school in Shambhuganj, Bangladesh that he and Conscience International's partners helped to fund in 2012, he felt a sense of 'mission accomplished.' But it was on his last visit to Shambhuganj that he witnessed a disturbing development.
These children, he observed, "are coming to school hungry!"
As Conscience International's Program Director for Southeast Asia, and a native of Bangladesh himself, Richard knew how important it was to deliver a quality, basic education so grade school children would get a head start and a step out of the poverty their families have endured for decades. Richard, who now lives in the United States, makes periodic returns to check up on his projects and focus on progress. While there had been growth since the school became operational in 2013 with 85 students in three levels-play group, nursery, kindergarten, and there had been expansion-grade two, added in 2014, and grade three, opened in 2015, for a new total of 140 students, he realized that building a school and hiring good teachers and staff were not enough.
"I observed the nutritional status of these children who come from very poor families, many of whom are day laborers or poor landless farmers," he said. "Many of these kids walk to and from school more than a mile each day without having anything to eat before they arrive, let alone anything nutritious, and there is no guarantee they receive anything nutritious when they go back home after a day of studies."
He knew it wouldn't be easy to launch a lunch program for 140 students plus teachers and staff, but seeing children trying to learn on empty stomachs wasn't something he could not address, so he put pen to paper, did some simple arithmetic, and is on a mission to add a school lunch program to the other programs he has helped launch in his home region.
Richard currently oversees several 'people empowerment' programs designed to provide local citizens with entrepreneurial skills that are giving them a sense of accomplishment and allowing both young and old, particularly women, to earn income that is helping to lift their families out of poverty. Now, young women are learning to sew and become professional tailors, older women are raising donated goats and selling them and/or the milk for income. In addition, a healthcare center is providing free services to the neediest, food is being supplied to widows, and a scholarship program is sending more children to school and college, giving village youth the education they will need to progress in life- programs that are invigorating the entire community.
Recently, Conscience International was recognized by the local government authority of Shambhuganj as "the best out of five charitable organizations working in the area."
For more information on our work in Bangladesh, and to learn how you can personally be a part of helping this struggling community in one of the neediest countries in the world, please see our Give Now link to donate on-line or send a check in any amount, marked 'Bangladesh Programs', to:
44 Milton Ave., Suite 122
Alpharetta, GA 30009
Conscience International is a 501- (c) 3 organization registered with the IRS. All contributions are tax deductible