Korvi Rakshand, founder of JAAGO Foundation, is a young social entrepreneur who decided to be the change he wanted to see in the world.
by Aisiri Amin
The craving to know more about his country took Korvi Rakshand on a trip around Bangladesh that changed his life. While traveling, he came across a group of children playing beside a huge garbage dump and asked them if he could join. One of kids replied: “We are not playing. We are earning our livelihood. We sell these scraps to get money for food.”
As he sat down to hear their stories, every word they uttered brought him closer to a reality that was a far cry from his life. When it was time to leave, a little girl held on to his hand and asked, “I have nowhere to go. Can I come with you?” He was just 21 year-old at the time. As helplessness flooded him, he knew he couldn’t take her with him.
That was a turning point in Korvi’s life and that’s when he decided that if he was to do something, it would be for the children of Bangladesh. His zeal to actually act for these children led him to found JAAGO Foundation in 2007 with initially just 17 students enrolled. Today, JAAGO has made education accessible for around 2,500 children, set up 13 schools all over Bangladesh and now have a total of 25,000 volunteers as part of the JAAGO family.
Korvi Rakhshand talks to INKLINE about economic imbalances in Bangladesh, the poverty that shadows the slum children and how Jaago is on a mission to awaken an entire nation.
INKLINE: How did Jaago Foundation come about?
Korvi Rakshand: From a very young age I tried my best to make sure as much as I could to help people in need. I arranged concerts and other events with the motive of using the profit amount for charity. Well, people call it charity but I call it responsibility.
This went on for quite a long time, then at one point I realised that even with my honest intentions I wasn’t really helping. I wanted to do something more constructive and sustainable that will drive me towards a lifelong quest and do something for the betterment of the country. With that thought I founded JAAGO.
The idea is to provide free of cost quality education to underprivileged children and empower the disadvantaged youth to participate in the welfare of their community.
I: The Foundation is working towards changing the society for the better by making education accessible to underprivileged children among other programs. Can you walk us through how you are making a difference?
K: JAAGO believes in building a better society—one in which every child can and has access to quality education and on the other hand the youth has a platform to serve their community. JAAGO Foundation mainly focuses on education and youth. We believe in combining education and the power of the youth to foster sustainable growth of the country.
One of the principal programs of JAAGO Foundation is the ‘Free of Cost International Standard School’ which aims to provide international standard education to underprivileged children. To ensure quality education in the remote areas of Bangladesh, JAAGO has become a pioneer of the online education in Bangladesh.
Besides formal and institutional arrangement of education, JAAGO provides physical and emotional development through supporting projects: Call For Hygiene, Healthy Living, and Medical Care that provide hygiene products, weekly nutritious food, and monthly free medical services to the students.
I: You have around 1,500 students in your online schools which is a commendable achievement. What have been some of the other milestones in your 10 year journey?
K: With help from technology, JAAGO online schools ensure quality teaching to students in remote areas of Bangladesh and prevent distance to stop a child to receive education despite geographic location. Currently, we have 2,500 students studying in 13 schools in different districts, and 10 out of 13 schools are online schools.
Another important achievement has been establishing the largest volunteer platform in Bangladesh—Volunteer for Bangladesh (VBD)—which has secured a staggering 25,000 volunteers at home and abroad. Each year several international volunteers come for community work in international setting. It started as a branch of JAAGO Foundation in 2011 in Dhaka, and was later expanded in 32 other districts in the country.
JAAGO kids are special, not only have they achieved 100% passing rate in government exams but they also participated in various co-curricular activity programs like dance, art, drama as a part of their course work.
I: What are the factors that amplify the importance of foundations such as JAAGO.
K: Bangladesh is a country of 161 million people and a large number of the population lives under the poverty line. Providing accessible education is a major cause of concern here. There are free of cost schools but people are unaware about the benefits they can get through education and other basic needs.
The importance of organisations like JAAGO is to create awareness and make sure that these people have access to quality education and other basic human needs.
I: How do you fund this array of programmes?
K: There are some corporate funding, general and personal donations that we get. Besides, JAAGO has a Sponsorship Program called ‘Sponsor a Child’ where people from all walks can sponsor a JAAGO kid by donating $27 per month. JAAGO spends this amount for the whole educational purpose per month of one kid including his/her uniforms, books, notebooks, and school shoes.
I: What has been the biggest challenge?
K: It has to be the age! I started the journey when I was only 21. Being a student, my resources were limited. It is very hard for a student in Bangladesh to step forward and try to do something for the welfare of his nation. But I moved forward with whatever I had and learnt how to be helpful with just that.
I: What does the future hold for JAAGO?
K: JAAGO believes in building a better society—one in which every child can and has access to quality education and on the other hand the youth has a platform to serve in their community. JAAGO Foundation mainly focuses on education and youth. We believe in combined development of education and youth which ultimately foster sustainable growth of the country.
After 10 years of a relentless journey, we have now reached 2,500 kids in different districts of Bangladesh, which is much fewer than the needed quantity. Our aim is to reach as many people as possible with the light of education. Working with the government may help us reaching millions of people and we are very much looking forward to it.
I: What advice would you give to aspiring youths who hope to start an empowering foundation such as yours or work towards bringing a positive change in the society?
K: Everyone says the millennials are the leaders of the future but I firmly believe that millennials are the leaders of today. I would urge the youth that if you want to start something by yourself, start it now! Don’t wait for tomorrow because you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.
Find your passion. Find something sustainable that will drive you for a long time. Gather knowledge and enhance your skills. Then go for it, head like it’s now or never!
Aisiri Amin (she/her) is an independent journalist specializing in gender, culture, and social justice. She is a struggling optimist, trying to understand the world through cinema, books, and travel.