How Do You Connect University Students with Street Children in Dhaka?


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“Jante Chai,” which means ‘want to know’ in Bengali – is a project that connects university students with underprivileged street children with the goal of mutually enriching their lives. My colleague Afra and I came up for the idea for the project when the South Asia Region of the World Bank provided an opportunity for young people to design and implement our own project known as the Emerging TTL Fund.

We not only wanted to conduct a survey on the lives of 200 street children, find about their living standards and access to services, we also wanted to connect them with university students, who are comparatively privileged. This provides an opportunity for the students to engage in practical experience and learn about their communities and for the street children to learn about potential services that are available to them. Our core idea was to include local youth in the development process in their communities which is critical to sustainable and inclusive development.

Right after our arrival in Dhaka, we held a workshop to provide 20 3rd year University of Dhaka Economics students with an introduction of our project as well as instructions on conducting the survey which includes data collection and analysis. We emphasized that our objective was also for them to really interact with the children, talk to them to understand their lives and think about what they could do to connect with them.

Afterwards, many of the students were very empathetic of the difficulties and problems that the street children face. A nine-year-old child said that he had lost his father and has been responsible for the whole family ever since. Another student met a child who had to sometimes go without food when he could not work because of the rain. The children left an indelible impact on each individual student.

Even with the short time frame and limited budget, we feel that our aim has been fulfilled – in more ways than expected. When checking the final data the students had collected, they were eager to share their experiences, learn about how the World Bank is contributing, and what they could continue to do to help.

The students thought about the wider impact of making small differences in the world around them. One said, “If we really want to do something, we can do it.” –they realized their potential to make a difference in their communities. The students are thinking of different ways of helping the street children including providing them with further knowledge of available services, and hosting basic courses that the children can attend free of charge using facilities around the University of Dhaka.

This is just the beginning…


Kaori Oshima

Social Development Specialist

Afra Rahman Chowdhury

Social Protection Consultant

Join the Conversation

Nadir Shah Nadim
July 05, 2011

hi Kaori,
Its a nice write up and feeling pretty good that you are writing your experiences here and sharing about what we have done in this survey:-)

Jim Wolf
July 05, 2011

This sounds like development work at its best -- individual to individual, with winners all around. Congrats on your fine work, Kaori!

July 05, 2011

hello kaori. jante chai more :) great writing! xoxo. q.

July 06, 2011

Congratulations! for taking an initiative in conducting this study.It was great to see that you have tried to learn some of the factors underlying poverty and forcing them to be street children. During your study, were able to understand any ways of motivating them to go to school? Has the govt. taken any steps to encourage them to go to school?

July 06, 2011

Thank you so much for sharing this experience, its inspiring to read!

I can’t help but to think of the power of connection.

Many studies have documented on how human beings can be motivated to serve greater purposes then their own. However, in many cases this potential for change is not catalyzed because of lack of connection.

This makes me think more about the World Bank’s central role of institutional building and that we should more and more cultivate an adaptive culture that focuses on connecting with the key stakeholders and open a space for dialogue.

My guess is that this alone will initiate ripple effects that will lead into spontaneous collective action by the people we seek to serve.

Thanks. Your enthusiasm and creativity are contagious!

Afra R Chowdhury
July 06, 2011

Thank you for the great comment!
Street children is a complicated issue, but one thing we have learnt from our experience is that going to school is unfortunately not in the priority for most of them since they are living day to day lives. One interesting finding is that location of the street children plays important role in their education aspiration, children who live near university area are more likely to attend some kind of schooling. We will do a follow-up blog entry once we are done with the analysis and have some sense about their lives.
About steps taken to encourage them to go to school, there is a project titled "Disability and Children at Risk" supported by the WB that targets street children since they are a vulnerable group. The objective of that project is to expand the coverage, use, and quality of social care services for persons with disabilities and vulnerable children.

July 06, 2011

Thank you Nadim - remember ? - "this is just the beginning..." for you all, especially !!

July 06, 2011

This is great! I loved ho the students were touched by the project. You inspired them to look around and think about how they can help to create a better world around them. That is huge!

July 07, 2011

Great effort.

The inspiration should continue and spread among others. "Jante Chai" should be transformed into "Janate chai"

Saif Mehadi
July 07, 2011

Hi Kaori, this is a good initiative taken by you.This project will be helpful for Street Children in Dhaka.I am a student of University Of Dhaka.I want to get involve at your project.If you select me as a member of this project then i will happy.
Thank you.

July 07, 2011

How we can be a member?...

July 07, 2011

Thank you very much Saif for your message and passion ! This particular project is actually already finalized in Dhaka. However, we say "this is just the beginning" as we believe that realizing any new aspects of your surrounding world is just the starting point for us to do something which could make a difference. Catalysts could be anything - I thought that it would be great if you could first have discussions with the students who participated in the project, so that you could probably get more ideas and they could also again share what they did and what they thought by interacting with those children. I am hoping that there would be more opportunities for local youth to have firsthand experience on issues of their own community. Thank you again, a message like this motivates us, too !

July 07, 2011

Thank you Moinul ! I think what you meant was that you want to know first, and once you learned something, then now you want others to know about what you learned, too - is that a right interpretation ? I really agree that "to continue" is very important !!

July 08, 2011

Right you are Kaori-san.

Those who are learning today should continue their effort to make others learn.

July 10, 2011

Dear Kaori,

A very unique and interesting project which has a great potential to continue even when the project itself is finished.
Mobilizing the domestic resources is the best way for sustainable and down-to-earth development of a country.

Much impressed!

July 13, 2011

Thank you very much Isabel for the comment ! Yes, we saw and really "felt" the huge potential of those young members of the community. Observing the development (happened even in a week !) of their sense of responsibility and motivation to become a better member of the society taught us a lot - we want to make sure that they have chance and access to what they want to realize !

July 13, 2011

Thank you very much Faisal for your interest ! As I have written to another question, the project itself has been already finalized... (if you meant "member" of this particular project). But of course, the same kind of initiative could happen in lots more different ways ! - does not have to be WB project or any other big events, but also could be some small ideas or opportunities which should be around us. We would be happy to hear from you, too, if you have any ideas or suggestions !

July 13, 2011

Yuka, thank you very much ! I am glad that you pointed out sustainability of this "short-life" (in implementation) project. Afra and I want to do our best to provide support to the students if they are planning to further take actions on this issue, as support is still needed to make it more sustainable. - and "support" does not necessarily mean money ... One of the students said to me that "we just need a little help and encouragement". I think this applies to youth in many other countries and communities. I am also hoping that it has some spillover effects on the participants' friends and families who hear about their experience of interacting with children...

Suraj Pradhan
August 04, 2011

Dear Kaori and Afra,

I am in Dhaka for past few days and have seen a lot of children in the street begging. What I Have seen must be a fraction from reality that really exists...I was feeling sorry for them and even talked with a colleague about it but I felt extremely happy with what you did? People only talk and feel sorry for them like me but don't do anything. You two did great by implementing it and walking the talk. Great Going and our prayers and support are with you two.....

August 08, 2011

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments and encouragements. I felt the same when I first went to Dhaka in October 2010. Many children came around me but I did nothing, and I still remember those faces. I think now our challenge is follow-up. Just doing a one-time event and being sartisfied is not responsible... We are also writing a report now about our findings, so that we could hopefully share it with more people and contribute to raising awareness. Comments like yours encourage us and also remind us of importance of continuation. Thank you very much once more and hope to discuss these issues more with you sometime !

August 14, 2011

I am so proud of your enthusiasm and the great work you are doing. Your project in Dhaka reminds of us the importance of continuing and sharing the action. It might be "just the beginning" but it's a big step forward!!! Really impressed with the project!

January 30, 2012

Dear Kaori-san,

I was moved by your blog contents and would love to know more about the process of project designing. While maximizing available resources, the main role is played by the people of the Dhaka. Inclusive and educative aspects of the story made me think the sustainability of the project, although it is a short term project. One can do a very sustainable project with the time constrain.

I was also wondering:"what is the reason for reaching out only to the economic students out of many other social science major students." Is it Bank's tradition?

Looking forward to more coming up!