In June 2020, the coronavirus was spreading, countries across the world were mandating distancing and restricting human contact, and individuals were struggling to get a handle on rapid change and increasing chaos. Amidst confusion and growing anxiety worldwide, a group of students, academics, and professionals - several from Northfield - began meeting on Zoom to address urgent needs for hunger relief in Bangladesh. I was one of them. Our discussions led us to found an organization that was a natural and heartfelt outpouring of support, a response to the global pandemic, and even partly a way to escape the worry outside the front door. Nourish Bangladesh was born and hasn't looked back.
The many generous volunteers who've lent a hand to help launch and sustain Nourish focused on one basic question: how can I help? Starting with organizational meetings, interviews with NGOs and grassroots groups, and donation solicitations from friends and family, Nourish members used creative thinking and thorough research to tackle questions of how to responsibly and carefully receive and disburse donations to do the greatest good for those in need. Through our combined efforts, more than $50,000 has been raised and disbursed to rigorously vetted organizations in Bangladesh, providing hundreds of thousands of meals to thousands of households throughout the country.
Working with Nourish has been an eye opening experience for me in many ways. Coming in as an inexperienced fundraiser, and actually usually shying away from asking people for money (unless it's for my son's school read-a-thon), I had to overcome a certain amount of nerves. I had to overcome a sense of personal risk and even fear, and I took some challenging leaps of faith to step outside of my comfort zone. It was difficult, but I trust that small personal failures and embarrassing moments of insecurity do in fact make us stronger.
While I have done a modest amount of fundraising, I feel more comfortable in areas where I have more strength of experience, and I have primarily focused my time and energy on website development and getting the organization registered as a non-profit with the state and IRS. The latter has been a bit of a learning experience, and, just in case you’re considering starting a non-profit, I can offer this advice: have a clear vision, allow plenty of time for bureaucratic processes, and surround yourself with great people.
Thanks to Nourish I have learned a great deal about non-profit administration and registration, but much more important to me is the great feeling of satisfaction I have felt when I hear stories of how our funds have directly impacted the lives of Bangladeshi people. When it feels like we're getting lost in the weeds, arguing about the per kilogram rice price in various regions of Bangladesh or debating the overhead and delivery costs within the groups we support, I remind myself to take a step back. At the end of the day, I'm reminded by the pictures and videos our partners send of the difference that $10 donations by children, high schoolers, and adults from London to Minnesota to Australia can truly make in Bangladeshi communities that seem to be a world away. What's more powerful than discovering that you can help people in the community and the world? Instead of being crushed by the despair of Covid19, I am thankful for the many ways that Nourish Bangladesh has helped me embrace the positive side of the question "What difference can I possibly make?"
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