Oporajeo (Invincible) was setup after the Rana Plaza disaster on April 24th, 2013 to create job opportunities for some of the survivors as a rehabilitation initiative. It was inaugurated on June 24th, 2013 and started its operation on July 1st, 2013.
Right after the disaster, planning and funds collection were initiated to start a rehabilitation program for the victims and survivors. Many drives were organized where direct donations, medical camps, reallocation programs, cattle distribution and different ways of income earning such as tea stalls, tailor shop equipments, ration distribution were provided to some of these victims. But these were unsuccessful in keeping the victims motivated towards a more permanent mode of living by earning a guaranteed monthly income.
After some serious discussions and planning with teams, the survivors, and other experts from different fields a collective decision was made to setup a small factory that will produce bags made of jute and jute cotton to be sold in the local market at first which won’t require much skill migration from these workers but a little bit of training. This was a prototype model that could be a revolutionary concept for others to follow. Oporajeo was started by a group of ordinary citizens and donations from many both in the country and abroad who like every other person during that time wanted to help in all possible ways.
Oporajeo started with 6 industrial sewing machines and 7 workers. At present, the factory is equipped with 21 machines and 23 workers. It is entirely run and operated by these survivors who produce different types of bags made from cotton and jute. A production manager, QA expert and R&D expert were recently hired to further improve the quality of these products to be marketed internationally and reach foreign markets.
Oporajeo is completely owned by the workers. They are paid remunerations as per market rate. On top of that 50% of the profit is equally distributed among them. From the rest 50% of the profit, a percentage is utilized to support the workers’ children education and the rest amount is kept for different operational costs. Besides providing job opportunity, the factory setup is ensuring the workers’ children education. The children are admitted in local schools supported by the factory. Oporajeo also provides medical support to the workers. There are some workers who require long term physiotherapy. The workers take time off during the physiotherapy session and cover the hours on other time in the week. The workers also get free treatment as and when required.
Overseeing all management, fund allocation, marketing, PR, purchases and expansion by many volunteering professionals and experts from different organizations and businesses this initiative has so far been successful due to all their collective hard work, dedication and planning. Future plans are to open up many such factories in different regions with these survivors for this model to work and owned by the workers themselves. Also in plans are to open an educational institution fully run and operated by this model for children of the survivors and any other workers in the locality that cannot afford to provide education to such children. This institution will also be responsible for running adult educational programs such as weekend programs and night school to help educate anyone who wants to gain a formal education. Training programs such as vocational training, worker rights, safety and women rights will be introduced in this institution. These are in planning stages at present to be implemented soon in the future.
Oporajeo in Thanchi
For the last couple of years, it’s been widespread that the disadvantaged hill people of Thanchi Upazila in Bandarban face immense economic crisis every year due to shortage of food. According to the Upazila Administration, around 2,500 families living under Thanchi, Remakri and Tindu unions have reportedly been in need for food and other basic needs. But no effective step has yet been taken to address this situation.
Oporajeo has observed that these poor people also lack proper education and do not have access to pure drinking water, sanitation and electricity. They need supports in agriculture to boost production while ensuring fertility of the land and create their own supply chain to market their products.
Our volunteers have developed a Pico Hydro Power Plant with a capacity of 10KW at our own cost, which is first of its kind. It’ll be installed at AMI Para under Tindu Union of Thanchi soon. Once installed, the plant will be able to cater the daily needs of electricity of at least 30 families and help them start different profitable ventures using electricity.
We’ve set up six sanitary latrines at AMI Para and are working to supply safe drinking water to the houses as the natural sources of water get contaminated in the monsoon season. Recently, we’ve resumed operations of the only primary school established at AMI Para by a local NGO in 2001 but left abandoned in 2008. Now 19 kids of the village attend classes at the school every day. The nearest government primary school is 4-5km from this village.
We’re implementing two pilot projects – a high-yield papaya farm with the help of the local agriculture office and a banana farm with our own arrangement – in Thanchi Sadar area.
Oporajeo is also supervising several teams in Thanchi Sadar area for producing pickles and processing hazardous chemical-free spices using natural preservatives and selling them in the local and the international markets.
As part of another scheme, Oporajeo has engaged three teams from the three villages to produce handloom under the supervision of experts. We’ll buy the handloom to produce high-end fashion items.
Our other priority is to establish an easy supply chain for the local farmers, who have been deceived for years, to market their agricultural and handmade products. In future, they will lead the supply operations themselves and compete with the middlemen.
Primarily, we’re ready to deliver spices and pickles to anywhere in Bangladesh within 24-72 hours.
- Powdered turmeric (150g) = Tk90/-
Note: The turmeric of Bandarban is known as the best one in the country. It’s produced without using any fertilizer or pesticide. It’s three times stronger than what we buy from the market.
- Powdered red chili (150g) = Tk150/-
Note: This chili is produced in jhum land. No fertilizer or pesticide was used during cultivation. It’s two times stronger than what we buy from the market.
- Olive pickles (350g) = Tk150/-
Note: This special olive is smaller in size and sourer in taste than what we get in the plain land. The recipe derived from the Marma community in Thanchi who use a locally-found root as preservative. We used less mustard oil because mustard is not easily available in Thanchi.
- Mango pickles (350g) = Tk150/-
Note: This pickle is made using “Rangunia” mangoes produced in Thanchi (originally from Myanmar). This mango is found only in hilly areas. The Marma people of Thanchi use a locally-found root as preservative.