By Rio Augusta and Mehedi Hasan Shishir, IFRC
A fire was the first of three tragedies which struck Abdul Khaleque and his family. Two years ago, the 45-year-old was a busy electrician in Bangladesh, repairing a variety of electronics for his customers. The fire razed his workshop to the ground along with his customers’ electronics, forcing Mr Khaleque had to sell his house to compensate his customers for the loss.
To support his wife and six children, one of whom is physically disabled, Mr. Khaleque moved to a low-cost, 15-meter square house with jute walls and roof near a riverbank at the Tangail district. While his oldest son works as a laborer for local fishermen, Mr. Khaleque continues to do what he does best; being an electrician. He started small with his remaining resources, building cell-phone chargers for discontinued old models, which is mostly used by his neighbors. With the average earning of 200 Bangladeshi Taka (2.30 US Dollars) a day, he managed to feed his family, but was always eager to expand his business.
“With 70 Bangladeshi Taka (0.80 US Dollars) I have made low-voltage chargers for old phones, and managed to sell them for 100 Bangladeshi Taka (1.2 US Dollars),” he explained. “I have made plenty of customers here, who are not only my neighbors, but also people from the surrounding unions and villages.”
For the next few months, his resilience was put to the test twice more, as the region suffered the brunt of massive flooding in the months of June and August 2017.
When the floods inundated his house, he raised the beds, desks, and electronic resources using bamboo sticks to keep them dry. Knowing he might lose his customers if he left his house, Mr. Khaleque and his family chose to stay.
“I have created a steady market here, but it will not follow me if I leave,” said Mr. Khaleque. “My skills are in demand here. After the floods receded, there was a great need for electricians to repair damaged electronics.”
When Mr. Khaleque was chosen by the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society to receive a cash grant of 4,000 Bangladeshi Taka (approximately 48 US Dollars), he and his wife agreed to invest the money on their small business, with a small sum allocated for repairing their house.
“I am glad the assistance comes in cash form, as it gives us the flexibility to use the money according to our needs and priorities. We are happy we will finally be able to boost our small business,” he said with a smile.
This is the next step forward for Mr. Khaleque to expand his livelihood, and gives him the opportunity to attend training courses to improve his electronic skills. “I am a fighter. I will not give up, and I am working hard to rebuild my life and make it better.”