Rafah Nanjeba Torsa: In Pursuit of Smiles

Written by Basmah Zora

September 17, 2020

Rafah Nanjeba Torsa, the founder of The Smile Foundation, is the Miss World Bangladesh 2019 titleholder with two national awards in her possession. Torsa is unique in her way of telling people to be anything they want. Her sublime nature urges one to believe in her and her purpose. Here’s what she had to say to Entreur about her remarkable journey.

Don’t be a quitter. Try harder every time.

It must feel terrific to represent your country at an international level.

To put it in a few words is very difficult but yes, it has been terrific. To be an advocate of young women in our country is a one-of-a-kind experience. The most amazing part was to get a flavour of so many cultures with the Queens who represent it. It has been a remarkable journey, one of true honour and privilege.

As Miss World Bangladesh 2019, your purpose was to contribute to the field of education. What progress have you made so far regarding that?

Education these days is mostly about certificates and being the topper and less about what we are truly learning. I have been trying, on behalf of my organization The Smile Foundation, to encourage value-based education that enhances the ethical and humane part of an individual.

I believe, education changes a person who in turn can change the world for the better. I consider it my responsibility as a titleholder to work for the value-based education that we all so desperately need to build a better nation. It will take time, but there will definitely be progress, and it will be visible to all.  

What was the incentive behind setting up The Smile Foundation, and what are its current goals?

The Smile Foundation was a brainchild of mine. I have been into social work from a very young age. This led me to think that I would like to have something that I can call my own and contribute more by getting people on board to work with me. So, I, along with a friend, initiated this project. 

The foundation’s goals are very clear and connected to our SDG goals. It is working in three areas: Value-based education, mental health, environment.

In this pandemic situation, you have done an amazing job by working for people living on the breadline and stray animals. How can one contribute to your work?

First, hats off to all the good people working for others in this pandemic situation, including my own team. Our project was called “Amra Korbo Joy”, and it mostly focused on the distribution of food and medical supplies among rural people, middle and lower-middle-class families.

We have been trying to collect funds worldwide. One can contribute to the project via Bkash, Nogod and Rocket. Any amount is appreciated. For anyone willing to help from outside the country, we have the GoFundMe campaign going on. The details are all available on The Smile Foundation’s page or any of my social handles. 

Who/What inspires Rafah Nanjeba Torsa the most?

Mostly, my mom. I really can’t say who/what inspires me in particular. I suppose it’s myself, my intuitions, my thoughts. I’m not really sure what to say to that honestly [laughs].

The most amazing thing a fan has ever done for you?

A few days back, a fan sent me two pieces of décor handmade by herself, and she parcelled it to me as a surprise. This was something I really needed so a shoutout to her for being so incredible.

Tell us a little about your work as Madame President of Leo Club of Chittagong Dynamic City.

So, it’s actually only President. But the moment I was elected, everyone started calling me Madame President [chuckles].

It was honestly a big challenge for me because in the same year I was announced, Miss World Bangladesh. So, as President, I had a lot of obligations. My cabinet supported me relentlessly. The whole Leo District 315 B4 Bangladesh, my own club and everyone involved supported me so much.

Throughout your journey, what obstacles did you have to overcome? 

I have been looked down upon for my brown skin and body-shamed quite frequently. The hardest part, though, was staying focused on me in a crowd of talented women from all around the globe. But my friends and family always had my back. So, it was easier to go forward from thereon.

Plenty of stigmas surrounding mental health issues are prevalent in our society. As someone actively working for mental health safety, how do you think you can bring about a difference?

Mental health is a topic people have only recently started considering. It is important to acknowledge that mental health issues are a big deal. To the people struggling out there, the one thing I have learnt from my own life is, don’t be a quitter. Try harder every time.

For your question, I suppose I individually can’t bring change. It’s more of a group effort. But I have been trying to bring out the problems that I had to face through talking, making videos, conducting one-to-one sessions and webinars. I just want society to acknowledge mental health issues as a real problem.

If you had to, how would you describe yourself in a single sentence?

A dreamer, an achiever and a beautiful disaster.

Perhaps a bit of a message for our readers?

To all our readers out there, thank you so much for staying connected with Entreur and for loving and supporting me. Remember that you are who you are. No one can ever be as bold or beautiful or humble as you. Believe in yourself. To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, whatever you are, be the best.

 

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