Girls bring Brighter Dawns to Bangladesh

November 3, 2011 (CHICAGO)

For 21-year-old Tasmiha Khan and her 17-year-old sister, Tarmim, a 2008 vacation to visit family in Bangladesh changed them for good.

"I was just taken aback by how people were living, how the conditions were, how people were living in such small quarters," Tasmiha said. "It just really struck a chord in me and I decided that you know that I had to do something about it."

"We were out going to a family's house, we saw a child, probably six to nine months completely bare, with no clothes on and he was drinking water out of a sewer and that just broke my heart," Tarmim said.

The sisters decided they would return the following summer to help. This time they conducted seminars about hygiene and passed out diabetes screening kits. Still, they knew they needed to do more.

"For example, we emphasize like washing your hands before eating and many times it's such as struggle to even go to respective areas to even get their hands washed or to even get drinking water," Tasmiha said.

When they returned home, they formed a non-profit organization, Brighter Dawns (, to represent hope. They decided to make sanitation their focus.

"Currently 99.9 million people, don't have access to safe sanitation and over 100,000 children die each year alone due to water-borne infections and I thought, why don't I work on this?" Tasmiha said.

After winning several grants and holding fundraisers at their schools, the sisters raised more than $15,000.

"We targeted a project for $15,329 where we would fund two wells, latrines and sanitary kits which would involve sanitary napkins, soap, pine-sol like material and also we would provide cleaning agents for the bathrooms," Tasmih a said.

They purchased all of the products in Bangladesh to help boost the local economy. Still, they have plans to do more.

"We're planning to go into maternity and childcare and providing them with those type of assistance," Tarmim siad. "A lot of the women there are exposed to HIV and AIDS and other diseases so we are planning to offer them vaccines."

"Through local action, you can impact global change no matter how small or big it might be," Tasmiha said.

Tasmiha Khan is a senior at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She studying neuroscience, behavior and psychology and wants to pursue a career in public health. Tarmim is a senior at the Universal School in Bridgeview. Both sisters are leading chapters of Brighter Dawns on their campuses.

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