Yasmeen Maqbool, an all-time softie is the Features Editor of Filmfare ME, Salt ‘n’ Peppa and Femina ME. Her passion lies in telling stories about people who do what they do because it matters.
“If most of us do our bit so that the next generation can have it easier on them than when we were growing up, the world indeed can be a better place,” says Mohammed Alaluddin, a wheel chair attendant with Emirates Airlines and founder of Helping Hands, a small school in a town in Bangladesh that provides free education for his village children.
Being a former rickshaw puller from Bangladesh who supported his family on barely Dh5 a day, Alaluddin’s life changed after he started working in Dubai. Having lived below the poverty line, as soon as he experienced better living, he decided to pull his community out of it too from within his limited means.
Eager to help others, in the November of 2012, he built a school that offered free education, a meal and a set of uniform for his village children from Lalmonirhat, a small town close to Dhaka.
He managed to convince parents of some twenty-five children to begin schooling in the one room tin school he could build with his Dhs2,300 salary per month.
It was for the first time then that children living in his village could avail of such an opportunity, as the nearest school from their village was a few kilometres away. Many parents like Alaluddin, could neither afford to pay for books nor transport to send their children there.
He cannot forget the slum life in a hut, which was covered with only cloth and plastic sheeting that leaked whenever it rained and an open drain that ran in front of his main door.
Alaluddin hadn’t been able to complete his school education because his family was too poor. He was expected to work to contribute to the family, so he had no option but to become a rickshaw puller – a common job in Dhaka.
“I’ve experienced how even a little education can improve a person’s life, and I want these children to have a better life when they grow up,’’ says the 54-year-old.
Meeting with Maria Conceicao, a Portugese Emirates Airline flight attendant was a turning point in Alaluddin’s life. It was in 2006 when he learnt of the Dhaka Project, a charity devoted to improving the lives of Dhaka’s slum children through education and social transformation, that his life took a U-turn
“I immediately enrolled my three younger kids aged between five and 12”. Along with free schooling for the children, the Dhaka Project also provided his family with essentials such as rice, lentils, clothes and a sum for house rent, among other things. “For the first time in our lives, my family and I were able to enjoy four meals a day and could sleep on proper beds.”
“I always dreamt of providing the best for my children. To do that I knew I would also have to improve myself – learn a new skill, a new language like English – so I could earn more.”
So when Maria introduced a new initiative called The Catalyst in 2009, which aimed to help adults in Dhaka learn new skills, Alaluddin seized the opportunity and promptly enrolled to learn basic English and how to prepare for job interviews. Though being tired from all day’s work, he used to attend classes in the evenings to realise his dreams.
Within a year he was able to speak a little English and he found a job in a grocery shop set up with the help of the same charity in his village Kurigram. “For the first time I was able to dream to improve my life and my family’s.”
In 2011 he was among a group of seven men that Maria brought to Dubai in the hope of finding employment. He landed a job at Emirates Airlines earning Dh2,300 per month; “the equivalent to what I would earn pulling my rickshaw for two years.”
Alaluddin couldn’t bring his family along with him to Dubai on his salary but he could provide them with a better life than before. He continued to save as much as he could and sent home money that made a huge difference. After four years now, Alaluddin prefers to just go from his accommodation to the airport and keeps away from any outing that would require him to shell out any money. “I’d rather save for my family and my village children,” he says.
On a vacation to his home country at the end of October 2012, Alaluddin once again witnessed the poverty, destitution and stark reality of life he had left behind. He immediately knew he was meant to bring about a change and returned with a plan.
And he hasn’t looked back since. He initiated his school project in 2012 with a one-room tin shed and today boasts of a brick laden five-room classes and a common room for the teachers. He continues to provide free education, breakfast, uniform sets to not just 25 but to 68 students studying in grades 1 and 2 in just a span of three years.
Alaluddin envisions to someday be able to take it further and beyond and build a college too. His means and resources are limited but not his vision and positive spirit.
He hopes that in time, more people will offer sponsorship and he will be able to fulfill his dream. You can extend a helping hand to Mohammed Alaluddin on