IMPACT
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated 4 days ago

Japanese Student Becomes Advocate For Impoverished In Bangladesh

Hiroki Watanabe had his "a-ha" moment in 2001, when the Japanese student noticed impoverished children in slum areas of Phuket, Thailand. He recalls thinking that the only difference between him and the poor children were their places of birth.

With this thought in mind, he traveled a year later to Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in Asia, to make a difference in the lives of children.

He started Ekmattra, an organization that provides open-air classes for Bangladeshi children. Parents were overly cautious at first, fearful that Watanabe might have been a human trafficker. Over time, they came to trust him, and many happily enroll their children in the classes, hoping that it might lead to a more secure life.

From The Japan Times:

He produced a movie, titled "The Whirlpool," to introduce street children's actual conditions and began showing it in Japan. With the money raised, he plans to build a self-help center in Bangladesh where vocational training, including English conversation classes, will be given.

"I would like to give them the maximum chance to be able to become politicians even if they were born on the streets," he said.

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