Akhi, 17, a girl withdrawn from hazardous child labour by Jiboner Jannya Project of World Vision, could not be re-admitted to school because of her age. World Vision provided her training in tailoring and supported her with a sewing machine and some clothes.
Today Akhi runs her own business with the support of her mother and elder sister. When Covid-19 started to spread in Bangladesh, she decided to make masks as they were not available in the market.
Akhi sells her masks at a low price so that her poor neighbours can afford them.
"When coronavirus broke out, masks were very expensive and there was an acute shortage of those in the market. I decided to make masks by myself and sell those for a low price so that poor people can afford those. I even give masks for free to those who have no money," says Akhi, who is from Khulna.
She lives with her parents and two siblings in a corrugated-iron-sheet-made one-room house in a slum-like area.
Akhi's father Masud, 47, used to work in a shrimp processing factory. But he is unable to work now as he is physically disabled.
Her mother Anowara, 40, along with her two daughters, worked in the shrimp processing factory for survival. Even the combined income of these three family members was not sufficient for having three meals a day.
Akhi missed her school for three years to help support her family.
After meeting Akhi's patents, frontline officials of World Vision's Child Protection Project invited Akhi to the World Vision Centre and offered her both life skills and catch-up education.
"We took Akhi to several schools, but they rejected her because she had exceeded the age limit for incoming students," says Abeda, a project officer.
Akhi changed her dream and wanted to learn sewing skills to run a tailoring store at home and own a garment factory once she grew up.
"Then we offered her sewing training and donated a new sewing machine with a pile of fabrics," Abeda adds.
"I kept receiving orders to make tunics and children's dress from my community and was making Tk3,000 ($37) a month. From social media, I also learned to make many other handicrafts like flower vase, mats, and vanity bags with recycled papers and beads. With my extra income, we had good food, meat, fish, and seasonal fresh fruits," says Akhi.
"But everything stood still when coronavirus started spreading in the country. My mother and sister could not go to work at the shrimp factory. Neither could I keep my store open," she says.
When the government closed factories and banned public movement to curb the spread of the virus, the whole country was shut down.
"My parents, siblings, and I always stayed home for the last two months. We were not allowed to go out. I continued my sewing work but received very limited orders. My income declined. I could hardly make Tk1,000 ($12)," says Akhi.
"As everyone was asked to stay home, the children in the community started flying kites on their rooftops. So, in addition to making masks, my mother, sister, and I also made kites and sold those at reduced prices to our neighbours' children," she adds.
Akhi's mother Anowara says, "World Vision taught us to be good to our neighbours. We are poor. We cannot give money to our neighbours. That is why we offer a reduced price so that our neighbours can afford masks. Sometimes, we donate masks to our neighbours who are not able to buy those."
"As World Vision officials told us, we in turn tell our neighbours to wash hands with soap and running water, wear masks when going out and maintain social distancing."
Akhi sets a great example of how to love neighbours and help them in times of need.
Abeda says, "We believe Akhi and her neighbours will continue practicing healthy behaviour and remain safe amidst the coronavirus pandemic."