Fashion for a Cause

- July 11, 2011 3 MIN READ

The history of Bachhara is like a love story – to capture its essence it must be told with passion, not timelines or statistics… So allow what inspired us to inspire you and join us on the Bachhara journey..Bachhara’s journey began with an 8 year old Bangladeshi boy named Kawlsar and his single mother, Brishty.

When Bachhara’s founder, Amanda Ryan, first met them, Brishty was working 90 hours a week to make AUD$10 – barely enough money to feed and shelter her family. Kawlsar, who had never attended school, was addicted to sniffing shoe polish and cutting himself.

Like many women in Bangladesh, Brishty married young and quickly had children. But it didn’t take long for her husband to lose interest and he eventually replaced her with a second wife. Heartbroken, Brishty left to find work so she could pay the rent on her tin shanty house and buy food for her children. She worked such long hours that she could no longer spend time with her family. Kawlsar, left on his own at home, began running with gangs and experimenting with the drugs which were rife in the slums. He had never been given the opportunity to pursue an education.

When the Jaago Foundation School – a free-of-cost English medium school for slum children – began operating in his slum, Kawlsar applied to become a student. Based on a rigorous selection process targeting the most disadvantaged groups of the Rayer Bazar slum, Kawlsar was awarded a place at the school.

Kawlsar’s problems did not vanish when he became a student at Jaago, but they became much more difficult to hide. At the time, Amanda was teaching art classes at Jaago and noticed Kawlsar’s behaviour was as dark and destructive as the artwork he produced. Through art, Amanda and Kawlsar created a special bond and he began spending more time at school than out on the streets. With the attention he received from the volunteers at Jaago, his grades began improving, he gradually stopped cutting himself and he became a dedicated student.

However the root cause of Kawlsar’s problems had not changed – he still barely saw his mother and had no structure in his life. So when his behaviour began to deteriorate again, Amanda called his mother up to the school to find a solution. Brishty was at a loss to find balance in her life and in her despair, she asked Amanda to take Kawlsar and be his mother. Witnessing her desperation, Amanda understood this situation needed to be dealt with immediately. It was through her determination to find a solution for Brishty that the idea of the Jaago Sewing Centre and Bachhara was born.

It seemed like such an easy solution: The sewing centre would create a stable income for the Jaago Foundation so they could expand, while providing employment opportunities for the parents so they could invest more time in their children’s futures. Amanda and Jaago founder, Korvi Rakshand, secured a donation to start the sewing centre and took Brishty on as their first employee. Then to generate business, Amanda created a fashion label which could be produced in the sewing centre. She returned to Australia to launch Bachhara, its clothes and its mission..As is often the case when working in development, things don’t always work out the way we plan. On the day Amanda flew back to Australia, Brishty was due to start her new job at the sewing centre. Sadly, she did not turn up for work.

Despite being offered double her normal salary for working half as many hours, Brishty was crippled by her fear of change. She abandoned the opportunity because, after all her hardship, she was not prepared to make the difficult transition from the job she knew to a new career which involved learning a new skill. Initially shocked and saddened by Brishty’s decision, the team at Bachhara and Jaago now understand it was a glimpse of the road which lay ahead. We have come to learn that you can give people all the help you feel they may need, but it may never be enough. We’ve learnt that pity and tears make no difference and even with the greatest effort, no problem which is caused by century-old habits and traditions will be fixed overnight. Many of the problems facing people in Bangladesh are a result of their collective conscious and their society’s structured belief system. Every day Bachhara and Jaago must learn from and adapt to the people who benefit from our work.

Bachhara may not have been able to help Brishty but the work she inspired has provided life-changing opportunities for other women in need of employment in the Rayer Bazar slum. While many of us living in the Western world are horrified by stories of life in the developing world, we fail to make a connection to our own impact on the lives of people living in poverty. You can make a positive impact by joining Bachhara on our journey to create a change in the world. No matter how great the problem, when we work together for a common goal, anything is possible.