On Starting Young And Becoming Part of The Solution: An Interview With Shamir Shehab [Updated]

On Starting Young And Becoming Part of The Solution: An Interview With Shamir Shehab [Updated]

On Starting Young, Climate Change, Passion and Becoming Part Of The Solution

Shamir Shehab is the Founder and President of Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI)-a youth led Non-profit Organization mainly focuses on capacity building of the youth to address environmental issues. This year BYEI will be launching its flagship Earth Champions Program to train, build capacity, and develop young leaders to work for environmental sustainability.

While Shehab is busy launching his first project, in a fine evening We sat with him to know more about his passion, behind scene stories of BYEI, his future plan for BYEI and his ideas and perspective about life and taking initiative.

It’s onerous for a young person to start something in this beautiful country called Bangladesh. The culture is leaned against youth and it sets boundary. Lack of finance and support is a perpetual problem. Often middle class status prohibits young people from dreaming big. But even then there are people who have courage, who stand against all the odds and win!

Shehab is one of those people. We believe his story will inspire you to be more courageous and to show up and to take risk and to dare a bit more and often.

Update: BYEI has just celebrated its 5th year of being recently. We take part and congratulate and wish a wonderful journey ahead. 

The culture around us is to speak about problems and criticize someone for it. But, you will rarely find any conversation on how to solve the problems. I want to be a part of the solution rather than talking about problems while doing nothing.

Briefly tell us about yourself and your passion.

Academically I’m interested in Renewable Energy. This is the future. I believe a lot has to be done in this sector to address many socio-economic and environmental challenges of contemporary world. If we can innovate in this field it will benefit millions of people worldwide.

I’m passionate about taking initiatives that will lead to a better Bangladesh. In future I would like to continue my effort to align our youth in the process of protecting environment through capacity building, leadership development and promoting awareness.

What was your underlying motivation behind starting your own venture at such a young age?

The culture around us is to speak about problems and criticize someone for it. But, you will rarely find any conversation on how to solve the problems. I want to be a part of the solution rather than talking about problems while doing nothing. I believe once we see and understand any problem in our society and environment, we should try to contribute to the solution rather than blaming the system or someone else. To me, change comes from action. And action speaks louder than words. I am not interested in wasting my time just by blaming others.

I want to count on my own impact.

My understanding of environmental problems and challenges for Bangladesh has motivated me to start Bangladesh Youth Environmental Initiative (BYEI). At BYEI we are reaching out to young people to raise awareness among them on different environmental issues and also working on capacity building of young people so that they can contribute to protect and promote better environment and sustainable development.

BYEI web Screen

BYEI web Screen

How did you get the idea and how did you get started? What was first few months look like?

As I said earlier, my understanding about the severity of environmental degradation and challenges for Bangladesh has motivated me to do something. And that’s how the idea of starting BYEI came to my mind.

The state of environment and development of Bangladesh gave me an impression, a question regarding the impact of environmental degradation of Bangladesh and a question indeed to myself that what I can do. To be frank as an active and responsible citizen of the country I thought I need to do something within my capacity to address this issue.

Starting something is hard work and self-consuming.

At the beginning, reaching out and making people to understand about environmental problems was the most difficult job. There is a very little understanding about environment in Bangladesh and very few people have a comprehensive understanding of environmental problems.

First few months, I spent in reaching out to my friends and to people who might be interested to work on this issue. I had to convince them about what I thought and understood.

After having few people convinced I focused in getting support from people around me. Financing was a big problem. The first few months were really tough and I had to dry me up to get things done. It kept me up for months and consumed my days.

What do you think, what are the major obstacles for young people who want take initiative in Bangladesh?

We have a collective cynical mentality. We don’t know how to appreciate people for good works. It makes sense when you see people don’t take initiatives. Taking initiative is hard and why should I care when nobody pays a shit to work I do for the betterment of all. That’s a very demoralizing experience and that de-motivates many youth.

Getting your idea popularized and taking it out of your own circle is also a bumpy ride because people don’t care and people don’t appreciate good initiative. This is largely a cultural problem and this needs to be fixed if we want to achieve anything great as a nation.

On the similar note: finding like minded people who would love to work with you is difficult as well. Not many youth are interested in dedicating themselves in something that demands hard work, dedication and that involves uncertainty. The popular trend is to do things that can be used in your CV. And there is a serious lacking of sense of work ethic among many young people that makes working with them a true challenge. And finance has always been a problem.

However, I would say, starting something is difficult regardless of your geographic location. Initiatives fail all over the world. The most important thing is to start anyway.

What are the few major obstacles you have faced in your journey to date?

Finding right people has always been a challenge. Starting a social initiative, especially a movement, and taking it ahead is avalanche of works. I have also found it difficult to manage people efficiently. Moreover, as a volunteer organization mobilizing people and keeping up the motivation takes a great deal of effort.

As I mentioned in my earlier response: money is a problem. We don’t have funding culture yet. For non-profit the situation is direr. Financing and human resource were and are the two major challenges.

We have a collective cynical mentality. We don’t know how to appreciate people for good works. It makes sense when you see people don’t take initiatives.

5 year celebration of BYEI

05 year celebration of BYEI

Please share few of the lessons you have learned from your journey.

Regardless of the nature of the organization people plays vital role in its success. Find people who are equally passionate about your cause as you are.

I have learned that few people with dedication, passion, and love are way more effective than more people with no love. Select someone with a bit less quality but with higher dedication and passion.

If you are given with another chance to start all over again, what are the few things you would do differently.

That’s an interesting question. I should have started with more preparation. I would say my timing and calculation was not perfect. If I would have started a bit later after increasing my capacity and network, it could have brought better result.

Cultivate a positive mindset. Starting anything is like riding on a roller coaster. You will experience pressure and epiphany at the same time, try to enjoy both. Believe in what you are capable to achieve and don’t give a shit to what naysayers have to say about you.

We have a great bi-weekly newsletter coming out soon. If you liked this Interview signup here for more intriguing and thought provoking articles delivered directly to your inbox.

What would you say to a young person who wants to start his/her own venture?

Having fun in work is good but don’t start anything just for fun. If you are not passionate about something don’t go for it. The ability to take risk is critical. When you are starting something the road ahead is uncertain and there will be lots of bumpy rides and road blocks. Expect anything worthwhile to demand a lot of hard work and patience and risk.

Cultivate a positive mindset. Starting anything is like riding on a roller coaster. You will experience pressure and epiphany at the same time, try to enjoy both. Believe in what you are capable to achieve and don’t give a shit to what naysayers have to say about you.

Always keep in mind this is a long road and it will take time. Never give up and never give up to despair. Challenges will be there and most of the time people would not be encouraging but don’t take them seriously.

The most critical challenge would be to keep your motivation up. Find a community that share your passion and experience and find inspiration in the works of others.

What do you think, what is the one capability that can be a game changer for a young entrepreneur?

Giving oneself to the very thing you want most. Dedication. Just think about some of the successful people of recent times like Steve Jobs, JK Rowling. Steve Jobs was a college dropout and later on he dropped into classes that interested him. He attended calligraphy and drawing classes and you know the later story.

Similarly, JK Rowling studied classics ignoring his parent’s advice to study a technical subject because she strongly felt the passion for it. So, that is what passion can do.

Always keep in mind this is a long road and it will take time. Never give up and never give up to despair. Challenges will be there and most of the time people would not be encouraging but don’t take them seriously.

Credits: Interview: Ruhul Kader | Proof: Ashiqur Rab | Images: BYEI

We Recommend

Type to Search

See all results
Shares