Change Makers: Clouds over ‘Mama Bari’

Committed to create happiness for disadvantaged children, Mahboob himself ends up with serious illness

There are many around us who we know help as much as they can; few, however, can match 38-year-old Mahboob Robbani, better known as “Mama” to his loved ones.

A resident of Dhaka’s Mirpur, Mahboob has been a guardian, mentor, teacher and friend to 70 children for the past seven years. His story is nothing short of an inspiration.

Mahboob began supporting a few underprivileged children from his locality and provided for their school fees, uniforms, books, food, and even arranged a little stipend for their families out of his own pocket. He also started hosting weekly get-togethers at his own home. The children were elated at spending time with their Mama, and he helped them with their homework, which gradually blossomed further into activities such as art and music lessons to writing poetry and watching educational videos on TV. Mahboob’s deep engagement and encouragement have kindled the creative abilities in these children.

With time, the number increased to 70 as word spread around of a kind man who invested his time into the well-being of the needy. Mahboob is not alone in this journey; he appreciates support from his wife Ayasa Akter, his family members, and Shariful Islam Khan, a friend. Moreover, his oldest students, who are now educated and empowered, take care of the youngest ones. The group consists of a majority of girls — between the ages 3 and 15 — with teachers and martial arts gold medallists in the mix.

Mahboob Robbani

“I believe the children have a right to what they receive here. I do it from that simple notion — that every child has the basic right to proper education, good health and a quality life,” says Mahboob.

It is no surprise that such an initiative would face challenges — sceptic parents trying to marry off their young daughters and boys dropping out from school are just to name a few. Thankfully, Mahboob has defied the odds every time and found solutions to such setbacks that have been beneficial to the children as well as the respective families.

Two years ago, however, Mahboob was diagnosed with a precarious illness for which he had to leave his job as the chief executive of a trading company. Supporting his family of 70 has since been an uphill task with costs having to be cut. Mahboob worries about the future of these children and welcomes all and sundry to visit or contribute in any way, to continue with the big-hearted efforts of Mama Bari.