Footsteps is one of the prominent NGOs of Bangladesh working for the marginalized communities of the country in establishing sustainable social growth and development. Its Co-Founder and President Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, a recipient of the prestigious Diana Award, has gone in partnership with The Shawn Mendes Foundation and is selected to receive the Wonder grant for Project Trishna in ensuring safe water in educational institutions all around the world. Team Entreur had the opportunity to go further in-depth about the project with Shah Rafayat Chowdhury himself. Here’s what he had to say about it.
How does it feel to be in collaboration with Shawn Mendes?
Being recognized and selected by the Wonder grant of The Shawn Mendes Foundation as a Bangladeshi Organization is an honor in itself. But being in collaboration with an international celebrity is a special feeling. When an international personality like Shawn Mendes steps up for the cause, it is not just about the monetary assistance anymore, rather the experience of working together for the cause.
How did they choose Footsteps and Project Trishna?
We have been associated with a Swiss-based NGO called Global Changemakers. They have been in affiliation and working with the Shawn Mendes Foundation. In 2017, I received training from them through the Global Youth Summit. As they keep track of the activities of their alumni, they have been monitoring what footsteps and I have been doing. So, they must have liked it as they recommended my profile to the Shawn Mendes Foundation. Apparently, the Foundation liked it too and now we are one of the four organizations to receive the Wonder Grant this year.
Where is the money going?
We have been working to expand project Trishna to different schools in Sylhet for a long time. Sylhet has a natural beauty that is beyond description with waterfalls and scenic landscapes. Unfortunately, the students still travel a distance of 2-3 Km to collect clean water. Thus, we will be setting up large-scale water systems and drinking stations, which will not only help the students but the community as well
How big of an impact are you guys hoping to achieve from this Grant?
Okay, so the impact of this collaboration cannot be determined overnight. It will take time to bring out the full potential of the project. But us being Footsteps, we work honestly and passionately for the cause we believe in. And this recognition has only increased our dedication and morale. If you want to focus on the impact, trust me when I say that the project in Sylhet has been my dream for more than a year and it would be a big step for us if we pull this off.
We are often used to such saying that people of older generations had to travel miles for school or water but we do not recognize that these situations are still persisting.
Exactly, Not only in Sylhet but there are places even in Dhaka and Chittagong as well where people face the crisis of clean water. Is that believable in this day and age? It seems like we traveled through a time portal to the past when we went there. People often asked why we didn’t expand outside of Dhaka before 2020. Although at present we are working in several districts, there are many places in Dhaka that still require a lifetime’s work.
What is the current status of the Trishna Project?
Trishna project is currently working in 5 districts and around 75,000 people are being inducted through the project among which 17,000 are children in primary and secondary school. We obviously plan to expand on it.
Is there any commercial benefit with the social services for you through Project Trishna? Any chance of this being a social enterprise in the future?
That is another model for the project which we plan to enact very soon in the future. But for now, the current ones are non-profit driven where the water we provide is free but the generated funds are mobilized accordingly so that the system and the organization can run smoothly.
The project promises to ensure the basic right of having safe drinking water to as many marginalized communities in Bangladesh as much as possible and the grant received will only be a boost to that notable cause. We look forward to its success.