M. K Aaref Director, EMK Center By: Ashik Mishu

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What is the motto of establishing an EMK center? How does it contribute to Bangladesh’s culture?

M.K Aaref: EMK center was established with the idea for those young people who want to literally change the society, people who want to come with the different ideas that want to work with education, leadership, entrepreneurship and volunteer ship. One of the things people always complain that there is nobody to support them and number two there is no space where they can meet. So EMK center thus involved. If someone comes to us that they want to have a training session and they’ve found that the venue cost is 30%/40% of their budget. But we give it to them for free and that money goes to more training. So this is our subsidize activities for the country and people. We also have a rental basis as we’ve different spaces. If we give it free, so the rental amount is our sponsorship. In terms of how we do contribute to Bangladeshi culture, Bangladeshi culture is quite rich but the problem is younger artists both visual and performing who do not get the exposure in terms of where they can perform or exhibition because you need links everywhere. So what we do is that we promote the young and talented upcoming artists. We don’t go after established artists. We also promote traditional Bengali music like Rabindranath, Nazrul, Polli Bawl, jazz, and pop. We are also done these concerts as well. So this is something our ongoing program promoting Bengali culture and heritage.

Please let us know the brief history of establishing EMK

M.K Aaref: The history of EMK Center is basically the legacy of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the youngest member of the Kennedy family who was a senator during the war of liberation in 1971 and he was the first public service guy in the US, the first public figure in the US who defy in administration in support of Bangladesh. He was denied entry to Bangladesh at the time during the war because he wanted to see the war situation by himself. But the Pakistani government would not give him the visa. After the victory in December, he came to Bangladesh in February 1972 to see the new country, give us hope and planted a banyan tree on Dhaka University’s campus as a living tribute to friendship, resilience, and hope. Forty years later that tree becomes our symbol. There are many cultural institutions in Dhanmondi along with other private universities and schools. So we wanted to reconnect to the audience. That is the reason EMK Center open in Dhanmondi.

What initiative you’ve taken to patronize the young startup or business minds?

M.K Aaref: Initiative of EMK, we’re doing a lot of volunteerism and leadership training among young people. We want to create employment through the training sessions. We establish in Bangladesh as a place for new ideas. About three years ago when we started, EMK center is the only center of different startup under the same roof. Since then, a lot of people graduated through our program. And we continue to support different startup activities and research as well. We also want to bring a lot of advisers and mentors both from local and abroad here to help the young people.

How do your initiatives bring changes in both cultural respect and business respect?

M.K Aaref: We want to prove to the rest of the world that Bangladesh is very culturally rich and vibrant. We’ve some traditions we need to be proud of it. And we continue to support different startup-related activities. Young people who can create something different, all of them need entrepreneurs like in the early 80s, there was only one garment industry in CTG. It was just like alone. When entrepreneurs came into this sector, Bangladesh becomes the 2nd largest RMG industrial sector in the world. Without government support, it was all done by entrepreneurs. Once we’ve different successful startup models in place, I think there are other scopes like government-industry where people can find employment and also create external revenue for us. That is something EMK Center will continue to work.

How do you support people who want to migrate to the USA in terms of business or something like that?

M.K Aaref: We do not help business or migration at all. What we do, if anyone wants to go to the USA to study, EMK Center has a separate USA education desk which is also funded by the USA State Department. Almost 4500 universities we presented. And the councilors behind the board, help the students how to write an application, how to write an essay, performance letter and whole the process guided for free. Right now there is a lot of scope like science, technology, engineering and math which has scholarships available.

 How does EMK help our jobseekers to absorb in the market?

M.K Aaref: We have a lot of career development programs that deal with how to write your CV, how to present yourself and basically we encourage a lot of volunteerism in the UK. Now the time many of our foreign countries like the UK and the USA do not look for GP rather they give priority on non-academic activities. So we certified them having non-academic activities through EMK Center.

Your future plan with EMK?

M.K Aaref: Our future plan, in the long run, is to continue as it is. We’ve planned to do in future what we’re doing right now. We don’t actually know if we scatter outside of Dhaka. We’re trying our best to maximize our service from here.

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