Face To Face With Korvi Rakshand, Founder, Jaago Foundation [Updated]

Korvi on Jaago, Development, Education, Entrepreneurship And On What It Takes To Make Ideas Happen

Korvi Rakshand

Korvi Rakshand

Korvi Rakshand is the Founder of JAAGO Foundation. He started Jaago in 2007 with a carpet, a black board, one box of chalks and a handful of local students. After years of hardships and struggles, today, JAAGO is a well known youth-based organization with over 300 students, two branches and thousands of volunteers.

In 2014 Korvi was ranked 5th in list of top 10 inspirational Bangladeshis around the world published by British Bangladeshi Power & Inspiration 100 at the British Parliament Commonwealth Room. In 2013 he was also named as one of the Top 99 under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders by Diplomatic Courier.

Korvi has a profound passion for the underprivileged population of the country and a deep faith in the saying: be the change you want to see in the world.

Recently, we sat with Korvi at the Head Quarter of Jaago to know more about his journey and to understand what it takes to make things happen. We hope his journey will inspire and instigate you to respond to your own inner calling that you have been ignoring for years.

I started JAAGO Foundation in 2007 with 17 children and a white board on a piece of carpet. We didn’t have money to buy a notice board. 

Tell us about yourself and your passion.

Well, Who am I? I’m a citizen of Bangladesh and that’s the first introduction of mine.

My passion is to work for the people. Yes, lots of people work, few people work for one day and some people dedicate their whole life. My passion is to be the second one. I want to work for the people and to bring sustainable change in their lives. You cannot revolutionize anything overnight. Development is not an event, rather it’s a process. Most of the time, after arranging a big event we think, our responsibility is over and that’s one the reasons why we have too many problems unresolved.

We have a culture of immediacy. But progress is incremental. You have to build it step by step.

I will keep working for people.

Jaggo 01Briefly tell us more about JAAGO Foundation. What are you doing here and what is the future plan?

I started JAAGO Foundation in 2007 with 17 children and a white board on a piece of carpet. We didn’t have money to buy a notice board. Instead we hang over the alphabets in a rope for the child. After four years now we have three fully functional schools, and over 600 students. The JAAGO School is the first of its kind to provide international standards English medium education, followed by Scholastica or Sunbeam Curriculum, to the destitute children of Bangladesh, for the free of cost.

Although, we follow English medium Curriculum, we equally emphasize on teaching Bangla to our students. Extra-curricular activities such as art, dance, drama debate, sports, singing, photography etc are also given special priority.

At the beginning it was not like a school. We were just teaching children very basic things such as, how the kids can clean themselves, and how they can maintain hygiene etc. But we had the dream and fortunately, at the end of our first year we managed to have 40 kids to take part in our school. It was the beginning.

But the journey was not smooth. Right after our start we were hit by the problem of migration. We found out slum dwellers often migrate from one slum to another for diverse reasons. As a result, we could not keep our children for the time we need to educate them. To solve that problem we started a swing center, three years back from now, to provide parents with better job opportunities and a candle factory for parents with sight problem. To date, we have trained more than 200 people from this center. We produce and export garments mainly to Australia naming a brand “Baccara” (Children). Each dress is named after a child.

We recently have started an online school in Tongi. Facilitators will help children to get education through Internet and it is the first of its kind in Bangladesh.

Among our other projects I can name few-

“Call for Hygiene Program” -Provides five items to the kids: Brash, pest, detergent, shampoo, and soap.

“Healthy Living Program” -We provide the nutritious foods such as milk, egg, banana per week.

“First Aid Center” -Provides complete health check up, providing free medicine for kids as well as free check up for their parents and medicines at discounted price. Local people also get check up and medicine at a minimum price.

Jaggo 02I think our main achievement so far is that, we have been able to provide education to 600 slum children. If JAAGO was not here these children might never have to opportunity to get education. At Jaago we’re like a family. We have already formed team (Social Worker) for different divisional districts such as, Chittagong, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur, Barisal, and Khulna.

We have seven teams (consists of both Bangladeshi and the local people) in Australia, Canada, UK, USA, Japan, Malaysia, and Denmark. They work for fund raising, providing international volunteer, educating people about our work and about Bangladesh. This reminds me the saying that: you can take a Bangladeshi out of Bangladesh, but you cannot take Bangladesh out of a Bangladeshi

We dream of establishing 64 schools in 64 districts and 64 youth group who’ll work for their own districts.

What was your underlying motivation to become an entrepreneur instead of taking a safer path?

Most of the people think for himself/herself only and prefer “I” rather than “WE”. But from the very beginning of my life I always tried to share the opportunities with those who didn’t get them. So from the “WE” concept, this thinking actually generated. If we want to change our country, we have to consider majority of the people, majority’s problem not only the people of certain area.

We need to find out something that can be used to bring sustainable development and that can be scaled up as well. I believe only education can do that. Teaching people how to fish is way better a strategy to make them self reliant than giving them fish.

We talk about the development of Bangladesh. But the overall development doesn’t depend on the few cities only. If we think about the ultimate development, we have to consider the villages where 80% of total population lives.

Only by properly educating them and managing employment facilities for them we can change and develop the country. In most of the time, we think of helping people by providing them with one time assistance. If you give money to the poor people, first of all they will buy food and other necessary goods. It will not bring any sustainable development.

We need to find out something that can be used to bring sustainable development and that can be scaled up as well. I believe only education can do that. Teaching people how to fish is way better a strategy to make them self reliant than giving them fish. There is a vicious cycle of poverty going on for generations. These people, unable to find a way out, remain caged for their whole life. I believe only education can be the remedy to this problem.

The most important lesson we learnt in first few months was that, these children were not only deprived from basic living amenities but they were also deprived from love.

How did you get the idea and get started? Briefly walk us through first few months?

On 14th April, 2007 we (I & some of my friends) called for a meeting where my friends and their friends total about more than 70 people joined us. We decided that, we’ll work for the country. As we’re students, we had time.

We decided to establish a school in Rayer Bazar for the deprived and underprivileged children. But in the next day when we came for visiting the location only seven of us showed up. But it did not stop us. We settled a place and managed a small room. Unfortunately, the bad days were ahead and after some days, flood occurred and our school was destroyed. But we had the spirit and hope together that kept us going. After then we rented a new room and started our school with 17 kids having a white-board and a carpet.

At the beginning, the people had the wrong conception that, we came here to convert them into Christian. However, later on we did able to convince them. Besides, as we were all new; we got some problems in handling kids. From day one, our focus was to find out a way to make kids happier and interested to study. As an attempt we started to make fun with them, sharing stories with them to make them more involved. Fortunately, it worked.

The most important lesson we learnt in first few months was that, these children were not only deprived from basic living amenities but they were also deprived from love. We found that, when we asked them about their story, dream, feelings they were startled because no one did so with them before. That approach helped us to build a very authentic bonding with the kids. And this is still going on.

One day when I was taking class one of our kids said-‘sir you please pay the due rent with the money you would buy rice for our family instead of giving us rice. Surprisingly she already managed all of her friends to agree with her and promised me to manage their parents too. I was speechless!

Briefly tell us about few major obstacles you faced at the beginning and the way you outperformed those obstacles.

I went through lots of hardships. The very first was started from my home: to start Jaago I left my own home. For the last one and a half year I’m living here with the kids. The story is simple: every parent has their own dream for their children. So was mine. My parents wanted me to join our family business but I was more passionate to do something for the country. I tried to make them understand but I could not and I left my home to pursue my passion.

The very next big blow came from parents of the children we teach here. We had to work hard to convince the parents of kids to keep them in school. To keep children in school we would give each kid half Kg of Rice so that their parents do not send them to work instead of school.

However, the story is not only of hardships. There are good memories too. Once we could not pay the rent of our school house for almost two month. The house-owner was a continuous pressure on me to pay the due rent. My children somehow knew the situation. One day when I was taking class one of our kids said, “Sir you please pay the due rent with the money you would buy rice for our family instead of giving us rice”. Surprisingly she already managed all her friends to agree with her and promised me to manage their parents too. I was speechless!

Hardships and struggles are part of every great journey and stories that I just shared are too, what if we can capitalize on later one and get moving.

Briefly tell us few of your lessons you have learned from your journey.

The people here are not as poor as they are portrayed. My observation is that, poverty is more in their mind. Here people don’t die for want of food. It’s a very wrong idea. I’ve seen many people live in slum even though they earn enough and can afford to lead a better life. But they cannot break the trend, cannot dream big.

Here at Jaago we try to give a child an aim, teach them how to dream big. We teach hope is a good thing.

First time when they kids came here, they dreamed of becoming rickshaw puller but now you ask them: some of them wants to be doctor to serve poor people, some of them wants to be lawyer and few of them wants to be pilot. They now know how to dream big.

And knowing how to dream big is the most important education most of us need.

What are the biggest challenges for a young person who wants to start in Bangladesh?

From my experience I can tell you that: the biggest obstacle is Funding. The second biggest problem is Mentorship.

You can’t build a thing out of nothing. You need guidance, suggestion and advice but we have serious lacking of this kind of eco-system.

If a young person comes to you and ask for advice on starting what would you tell him?

Don’t just follow others. Be your true-self. First of all understand your idea. I mean find out the area or problem you want to work on. Then keep going with passion and commitment.

Be honest. When you’re successful don’t be a snob.

Give credit to all the people involved behind your success.

What are the few traits you think one should try to possess to make something happen?

I think there is no hard and fast rule to that. However, I think following traits can help-

Leadership quality: Leader work hard but you also have to know how to delegate. And you have to love and protect your people as they work for you.

Patience: Entrepreneurship is a long, hard and lonely journey. It is certain that when you are starting a new enterprise all the things may not work in the way you want. Have patience and remember good things take time to happen.

Peer quality: You have to be a people person. You have to know how to talk to people nicely. You have to let people know what you’re doing and to convince your people that you care for them.

Transparency: Accountability, dealing with transparency is very critical.

You can’t build a thing out of nothing. You need guidance, suggestion and advice but we have serious lacking of this kind of eco-system.

Jaggo 03

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Credits: Interview & Words: Ashiqur Rab & Muhammad Zakaria | Edits: Ruhul Kader | Images: Jaago Foundation

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