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Compassion in the midst of Chaos

By: Russ Jowell & Saifullah Khawaja
May 9

April 24 is a day that WRAP's Bangladesh staff members will not soon forget. The day started innocently enough, with all 5 WRAP staff members trying to brave the congested streets of Dhaka to make their way to work. That was when our Bangladesh office director, Saifullah Khawaja, got a phone call from our auditor, Stella Mondol. "She said she was unable to come in because the whole road in front of her house was blocked due to the collapse of a building called Rana Plaza," he said. Anxious to find out more, he rushed to turn on the TV receiver of his laptop only to see pictures that, like thousands of others around the world that day, would leave him in disbelief. "An 8 story building had crumbled down like a card house. People shouting from inside to help them. Bystanders were trying to bring them out. It was like a nightmare, one after one dead body was being pulled out. I could not stop my tears," he recalls. What happened at the Rana Plaza building in Savar on Arpil 24 will be remembered as one of the most tragic events in Bangladesh's history. As of the writing of this post, the death toll stands at over 900 with thousands of others injured and suddenly unemployed. But behind the rubble and dust was also an image of resolve, resilience, and genuine compassion. Shortly after the collapse, Saifullah received a phone call from his youngest daughter telling him that first responders at the site were in need of torch lights to search the rubble for survivors. It was at that moment that resolve and compassion were turned into action. "I called Kamrun Nahar, our office administrator, and told her to purchase some torch lights for the rescuers. I also asked her to contact the company that we partner with that provides equipment for our Fire Safety Course to see if they could provide helmets, dust masks, safety goggles, and other workwear for the first responders," said Saifullah.

Car hired by WRAP's Bangladesh staff to take donated supplies to Rana Plaza.

The equipment was immediately delivered to the site by WRAP's 2 other staff members in Bangladesh, Tanvir Alam and Helal Uddin, along with a supply of fabric and other supplies to help with the rescue and recovery effort which were provided by WRAP-certified factory Welltex and monitoring partner ALGI. “We are grateful for the contributions of Welltex and ALGI,” said Saifullah. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building was indeed a tragedy of the highest magnitude. But it also revealed the great resiliency and genuine care found within Bangladesh’s garment making community. “I learned that if we work together, we can really make a difference,” said Saifullah.

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