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21 October 2021

A day with a
poverty fighter -
Topoti Rani Roy

 

I live four hours from Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city.

You will know you’re getting close to my home when the cars turn into rickshaw vans.

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Wind powers our lights.

Almost everyone here owns their own business.

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My house is next to the BRAC Bagbati branch office.

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My morning has just started. I am the first to wake up in our house.

My name is Topoti Rani Roy. You can call me Topoti Di. I’m a Programme Organiser in BRAC’s Ultra Poor Graduation Programme.

I start the day with making fuel for everyone - the food everyone will eat for the rest of the day.

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I have fresh fruit sitting by their beds before the morning light comes through the window.

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I tidy the house and get my children up. I have two children - Sreya and Anik. Sreya is 5 years old and had to stop schooling when COVID-19 hit.

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Anik is 16 and studies in Grade 10. He has a tutor who comes to help him for an hour before he goes to school. I’ll make some snacks for them before I head off to work.

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I drop Sreya off to the house next door, for my neighbour to look after her.

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Sometimes I don’t have the time to dry my hair after showering. I have a system, but sometimes things fall through. Today’s one of those days.

I grab my tab and my phone. I can’t reach my participants without them.

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My motorbike is waiting for me. First off, a group visit.

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It’s 8:15. It takes 20 minutes to reach my first stop.

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I get off my motorbike, because there’s only enough space to walk the rest of the way. I am greeted with Salaams and smiling faces.

I sit down and ask everyone about how they are. These women have just started the journey of overcoming poverty. We started working with them a few months ago.

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I run the session in phases. Firstly, we check on everyone’s wellbeing. Then, we discuss a specific topic. Today it was maternal health.

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I end the sessions by assessing everyone’s loan instalments. The group is almost halfway through repaying their initial loans.

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We have a guest in our meeting. I don’t think he'll be paying any instalments today.

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Next, I head off to a home visit.

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Shapla, which means lotus in Bangla, has just joined the programme. I saw some chilli plants in a nursery in town on the way here and thought she could use some. I’m going to give them to her.

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We talk about how she is doing. Her new cow sniffs my tab.

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She was fixing her tubewell, so I gave her advice on how to make long-term repairs. We also talked about how to ensure the cow was protected when it rained, and ensure her chickens have enough space.

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Shapla plants her new chilli plant in a small corner. People in the programme often support each other with plants and other resources, and I like to be involved too.

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I visit ten other homes around Bagbati, on foot and on the bike, and then ride to the office.

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I work with a team of five, but I feel like I am part of a big family.

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We report to the manager about our day and hand over any loan instalments we’ve received. It’s been hot today, so it's nice to cool off under the fan.

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I head home through the village. My most important stakeholder has been waiting all day to see me.

I cook, clean and play with Sreya, and then with Anik when he arrives home.

I’ve been with BRAC for 20 years, and I hope to be here for the next 20 as well.