“I cannot explain in words how important it is for me to own my own rickshaw. I cannot believe that I am finally [an] owner… It is [a] big asset for me,” Mohammad Azizul commented upon receiving a rickshaw from Zakat Foundation of America (ZF). Like Mohammad Azizul, 100 Muslim rickshaw drivers participated in Zakat Foundation’s (ZF) first Eid rickshaw distribution ceremony in Netrakona city’s Muktar Para field in Bangladesh on Sunday, July 28, 2013. Through the support of ZF’s donors, ZF gifted new rickshaws for each of them.
The program was presided by District Commissioner of Netrakona Anis Mahmood and featured prominent Parliament Member Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru. Special guests of the ceremony included Director General of NGO Affairs Bureau, Nur Nabi Talukder, and Superintendent of Netrakona District Zakir Hossain Khan. Speakers expressed a deep appreciation for ZF’s sustainable development initiative. In particular, they praised the long-term benefits of the program and encouraged the community to follow ZF’s example to provide a self-reliant and empowering means for those in poverty.
Rickshaw recipients of the program expressed their gratitude to ZF. I feel like the happiest man in the world. I am very grateful to Zakat Foundation,” rickshaw recipient Joynal Abedin said. Recipients like Abedin discussed the importance of owning a new rickshaw. “I am a very poor man. Whatever I earn through pulling a rickshaw, after paying my rent, I cannot provide sufficiently for my family. Zakat Foundation of America’s gift of a rickshaw has changed my life,” commented one recipient.
The lives of rickshaw pullers in Bangladesh are often characterized by financial hardship and chronic poverty. Often times, an individual may be trapped in poverty due to a lack of necessary capital needed to earn a sufficient income. For most pullers, rickshaws are rented and not owned, taking more than 50 percent of a rickshaw puller’s income on any given day. In times of slow business, rickshaw pullers cover rental expenses from their own pockets. This makes it difficult for rickshaw pullers to earn a level of subsistence for basic necessities, let alone savings. Rickshaw recipient Mohammad Sulaiman Miah explains this situation. “Poverty does not leave my family. Even my old mother sometimes fasts without eating anything.” Similar thoughts were echoed by other recipients. “Due to lack of money, I can’t send my children to school nor can I buy the required medicine in times of sickness.”
Now, through Zakat Foundation, these individuals will be able to own their rickshaw and have a chance to raise their standard of living to the meet the basic needs of their families with the possibility of saving some money for times of emergencies. “I never thought that I would become the owner of a rickshaw. All my life I’ve rented my rickshaw to earn and thought that this is the way I would have to do it for the rest of my life. Suddenly Allah favored me through Zakat Foundation. They have fulfilled my dream,” Abedin said.