Auto-rickshaw driver Tara Miah has not let his profession define himself.
The 33 years old from Chaklengura village of Durgapur in Netrokona finds time and enthusiasm to help others – especially when it comes to education – although his own financial condition is quite strained.
Himself illiterate, Tara spends half of his daily average earning of Tk700 on poor students and encourages them to study.
At the end of each month, he buys notebooks, pens and pencils, school bags, pencil boxes, tiffin boxes, sports equipment, and visits an educational institution and distributes them among the students.
He has been giving educational stuff to students at 17 primary schools and one madrasa in the poverty-prone area of Durgapur upazila for the past seven years. A large part of these students are from small and ethnic groups such as Garo, Hajong etc.
Tara Miah is now a role model for everyone in the area for his endless enthusiasm for education despite being a low-income person.
Amiya Kumar Gupta, headmaster of Naluapara Government Primary School, said shortly before the school closed during the pandemic, Tara Miah gave him 90 notebooks, seven tiffin boxes, 30 ballpoint pens and a football.
Tara distributed 572 books in Dhanshira Government Primary School just a few days ago, said Headmaster Sajeda Begum.
Nur Mohammad, a teacher at Baitul Quran Islamiah Madrasa in Chaklengura village, said, "Tara Miah gave our students copies of the Quran, notebooks, pens and footballs. He often does that."
Abdul Khaleq, a resident of village Chaklengura, said, "Tara Miah is a poor man but is big-hearted. There are many rich people who do not spend a single penny for society."
In recognition of his generosity, Eastland Insurance Company Limited awarded him Tk1 lakh in 2017, which he spent for the poor of the area. He kept nothing for himself, said Abdul Khaleq, a resident of the village.
In the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, humanitarian activities of Tara Miah were a bit disrupted as his income was cut off. However, he did not seek help from anyone and tried to stand by others. He donated Tk10,200 to the Prime Minister's Covid-19 Assistance Fund, said Durgapur Upazila Nirbahi Officer Farzana Khanam.
After knowing about a food crisis in a Bede Palli, Tara rushed there with some sacks of rice and some cash. He selected 50 students from very poor families and distributed some money among them.
Although all educational institutions are currently closed due to the pandemic, Tara is still relentless in his education-support activities.
He distributed educational materials among the students of Chaklengura Baitul Quran Islamiah Madrasa on 9 November and Devthail Government Primary School on 15 November.
Apart from this, he also maintains a cemetery in the village at his own expense and labour.
Tara Miah lives with his wife, 11-year-old son Rifat and 1.5-year-old daughter Sumaiya. Rifat is a sixth grader in the local high school. The couple dreams of educating their children.
"My husband has a big heart, otherwise an auto-rickshaw driver would not have been able to do such things. If he had not spent like this, maybe we could have eaten a little better.
"But we have no regrets about that. Many poor children are encouraged to study and I am very happy that my husband does this kind of work," said Nazma Begum.
Tara Miah said he could not learn to read and write for lack of awareness but when he grew up he realised an illiterate life was worthless.
"Maybe I could not address everyone's poverty but I could give a little assistance or a little encouragement. The children become very happy when I go to a school. Their enthusiasm for education increases," he added.
UNO Farzana Khanam said, "Tara Miah does not like publicity even after doing such great work for society. We have a lot to learn from him."