The World Orphan Centre (WOC) had dedicated its first observance of the World Orphans Day on April 20, to the cause of orphans and street children around the world. WOC is a voluntary organisation, made up of college and university going students, working to create awareness about these children.
The day – declared by WOC but still not recognised by the United Nations – was simultaneously observed in Bangladesh, Slovenia, UK, Australia, USA, Germany, France, India, Zambia, Netherlands and Uganda. In Bangladesh, the Centre organised various awareness-raising programmes in Dhaka and Chittagong.
In retrospect, it was a day as much for the orphans as for the young volunteers, who so lovingly, and passionately, reached out to their underprivileged peers and promised to work harder towards creating a better future for them.
Losing a parent is traumatic for any child. You don't need to be an orphan yourself to understand this. In countries where war, famine and poverty are common, millions of children are orphaned and left hungry and homeless. Staying with a compassionate relative helps orphans begin to overcome the trauma of losing their parents.
Orphans are often exploited for cheap labour when they are forced to fend for themselves. This not only robs them of their childhood, but also limits their potential to grow up in a healthy way.
Millions of children living on the streets in Bangladesh and elsewhere are either orphans or victims of extreme poverty. Although some children have parents, they are deprived of education and basic amenities. Sometimes they are exploited by their close relatives and greedy guardians.
WOC was created to mainly raise awareness about these issues. Besides hosting regular awareness and educational programmes, it funds initiatives that respond to the vital needs of its beneficiaries.
On April 20, when a group of WOC volunteers gathered at the Korail slum in Banani, their purpose was not only to see firsthand how these children live, but also to plan their future course of action in light of the experiences gathered.
The motto of the day was “Be the guardian of orphans and street children.” Journalist and human rights activist Badiuzzaman Bay was present as chief guest of the programme and led the volunteers' team across the slum inspecting the living condition of the slum-dwellers and their children.
Later, in his speech, the chief guest said anyone with a sympathetic mind can work for the underprivileged children in their own little ways.
“It's our everyday efforts and acts of kindness that can bring about real changes. Teaming up for a common cause is important, but volunteering should be an everyday exercise, beginning with your own neighbourhood. That will demonstrate your level of awareness,” he said.
The chairman of WOC, Mohammad Aman Ullah said there are 143 million orphans all over the world. “In Bangladesh, we have five million orphans and street children. If we can ensure a healthy childhood for them, educate them properly, we can put an end to terrorism and poverty,” he said.
Mohammad Dawood, Dhaka district representative of WOC and a student of Northern University of Bangladesh, also highlighted the importance of working for the street children and orphans.
The programme was also attended by Mr Rana, the chairman of Benian Foundation which is running a school for the slum's children.
In Chittagong, WOC organised a seminar, a roadshow and provided food to dozens of orphans as part of its initiatives to mark the day. Among others present were Advocate Nasir Uddin and Chittagong district representative Minhaj Uddin Shabbir.
(Mohammad Aman Ullah is the chairman of World Orphan Centre.)
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