Here we share the latest news on our activities.
We hope to add more projects and stories in future!
Punoh is an internet-based business selling new and rarely used quality clothing and accessories. It is also a social business enterprise which uses its profits to help the underprivileged and needy in Bangladesh, where Punoh is based.
Tribal peoples in Bangladesh often face adversity and prejudice in their day-to-day life. Sonali is one such person, from the Garo tribe in Mymensingh.
Some years ago, in her 20s, Sonali came to Dhaka to seek work as a domestic helper, leaving her three young sons behind in her village home in the care of her mother. Sonali’s husband already worked in Dhaka as a guard in a private residence, but he didn’t make enough money provide for his family. Work is not easy to get, especially for tribal people, so Sonali was fortunate to find a job.
But after some time Sonali needed to return to the village and look after her boys – the youngest was just 7 at the time. Soon after, her mother died, and coming from a matriarchal tribe, Sonali inherited her mother’s smallholding.
Devastated at the loss of her mother, but with a smallholding to look after, Sonali was grateful to her uncle who helped her with the physical work involved in farming – but one day the uncle’s son said she would have to manage the land by herself. This proved hard for a petite woman – the work was demanding, on top of which she needed to maintain her home and look after her three boys. At that point she contacted her former employer, who, luckily knew that Punoh might be able to help her.
Punoh knew from the employer’s reference that Sonali was hard working and honest, so Punoh was able to offer Sonali an interest-free ‘micro-loan’ of 10,000 taka (about £100). Sonali used this to set up her own small ‘fishery’ in her pukur (a man-made pond common in Bangladesh which is used to supply water and for bathing and washing). Since then, Sonali has given birth to a daughter and is now making a profit on her investment, meaning she can start making loan repayments. She hopes soon to improve her smallholding and fishery and perhaps buy a goat for milk that she can sell. Sonali came to visit Punoh recently with her daughter, wearing their finest clothes. It was good to see her and hear how our loan had helped transform her family’s life.
Joree is another young tribal woman that we were able to help. Also hailing from Mymensingh, Joree was a good student and got good grades at school. Her father was a guard and her mother helped out in a local beauty parlour – both with minimal education and earning low wages.
After finishing her high school, Joree was accepted on a diploma course in nursing at a well-known college in Dhaka. There, she was doing well and was looking forward to finishing her studies when personal circumstances meant she was unable to pay the 5,000 taka registration fees for her final exam.
Punoh got to hear of Joree’s plight; we didn’t want a young, bright, ambitious girl to fall at the final hurdle on her career path after doing so well in her studies, so we agreed to make a loan to cover the fee. Since then Joree has secured a government job (these are much in demand and competitive to get) in Sunamganj, with a salary of 10,000 taka per month (about £100). As well as helping out her parents, she is now paying her interest-free loan back to Punoh on a monthly basis. Again, she came to visit us lately with her proud parents. We hope she will continue to well in her career, and are pleased to have played a role in helping her.
Lailu’s life story is full of hardship and tragedy, but we hope with our help and that of others we can help improve her life.
Lailu lives in a small island called Nogorbari, near Pabna in Bangladesh – about 4 hours drive from Dhaka. Like many others, her home was a rudimentary affair, made of tin, straw and bamboo. There, Lailu lived with her three children while her husband worked to provide for them. But then tragedy struck as he became paralysed and bedbound, unable to do anything for himself. Nevertheless, the family managed to get by, thanks to having previously bought two dairy cows which they kept in a shelter adjoining their house. They would sell the milk and live on the income.
One evening, Lailu was tending to her husband and children when she smelled smoke – the small oil-filled clay saucers that they used for lighting had set part of the home on fire. Panicked, and with the help of neighbours, Lailu managed to get all of her family to safety. But then she saw the cow shelter on fire. Courageously and without hesitating she rushed in to help her poor animals, but the flames were too strong and she was overpowered. Thankfully, neighbouring villagers managed to pull her out – but not before she had received serious burns to her face, arms and body. Sadly, her cows died in the fierce fire – which was caught on camera by people passing by on a boat (see video).
Lailu needed intensive hospital treatment but was not in a position to pay for this; fortunately, a Rotarian heard of her situation and the Rotary Club of Dhaka has managed to pay for all her treatment as needed. But she still has no home – at the moment she is still staying with a neighbour, but she knows that will have to come to an end, now that she is able to stand and move about a little. Again, the Rotary Club of Dhaka came to her help with a generous donation of 30,000 taka (approx. £300) for tin and other materials for a new house. But Lailu still has no means of support for herself, her husband and children. Through contacts, Punoh got to hear about Lailu and has been pleased to raise 40,000 (approx. £400) towards purchase of a cow so that Lailu can return to her small dairy business. Given her exceptional hardship this money has been gifted to Lailu, with no expectations of a return.
Punoh employees & Punomees: their stories
Punoh gives a part of the sale price of items to sellers. The rest is used to cover staff costs and business overheads. All of Punoh’s Directors and many of its supporters give their time to Punoh voluntarily, and we are very grateful for their help.
As one of Punoh’s aims is to help the underprivileged (not just the rural poor) and give people opportunities they might not otherwise have, we hope to employ staff with that type of background.
Here are some of the personal stories of our beneficiaries and staff.
Soraya was Punoh’s first staff member. She was a young, recently married Master’s graduate – but without any work experience was finding it impossible to get on the career ladder. Moreover, she had a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, and her husband was also erratic in his behaviour to her – at times she was obliged to go back to her parental home. She wanted a job to learn new skills, get work experience and also to get some independence and financial security.
Punoh took Soraya on as paid staff member and gave her experience in data input and manual book keeping; she gained essential computer skills, including the use of MS Word and Excel. Soraya also improved her social skills and confidence while at Punoh. She stayed at Punoh for some time before she had to leave to have a baby. She is now a happy mother and, thanks somewhat to her experience from working at Punoh, she has a job as a teacher at a good school in Dhaka.
Mintu joined Punoh with only an Intermediate level of education, reducing his chances of getting a job in today’s competitive environment. Yet he needed a job urgently as his elderly father had become paralysed and Mintu had two younger brothers to provide for. Mintu joined Punoh with a little bit of office experience, but while at Punoh he improved his skills substantially. For instance, he learnt about data input and management, web content management, and the use of social media for marketing. He also gained computer skills including the use of MS Word and Excel. He learned to identify textiles and improved his communication skills considerably. Having gained these skills Mintu was able, eventually, to obtain a job as a manager for a local property owner.
Note: Some names on this page have been changed in the interests of privacy.
Punoh hopes to continue to help the underprivileged through future projects. We are particularly interested in employment projects, and would welcome suggestions from you. Please contact us (visit our Contact page) if you have any projects that you think Punoh could help support.