By Shea Parton
Photos by Atish Saha
"I believe in my dad."
That's what Ghayasuddin's son, Shabbir, told me over a cup of tea today. I had asked him if he was surprised by his dad's vision for taking Saidpur Enterprises from its humble beginnings—as a tin-roofed, single-story rental workshop—to where it is now: an impressive six-story facility which employs over a hundred people and continues to hire more as it produces Apolis market bags.
A father's character is usually reflected by the quality of his kids, and I can say that Shabbir (nicknamed Afridi) reflects very well on Ghayasuddin and his wife. Ghayasuddin had invited me over to have breakfast with his family, after which Afridi took me for a ride on his motorcycle. During the ride, Afridi told me about the entrepreneurial goals he hopes to accomplish once he finishes studying business at the local college. Hanging out with him, I was struck by how similar a college student in Bangladesh is to a college student in California—as evidenced in the way Afridi quickly weaved his motorcycle between cars, while simultaneously taking phone calls and snapping a selfie with me. It was kind of epic, and maybe a little bit harrowing—needless to say, I loved every minute of it.
I also had a realization today regarding my propensity for greeting friends with the occasional bear hug. While having breakfast with Ghayasuddin's family, it dawned on me that unisex bear hugs are not a normal part of this traditional Islamic culture. I connected the dots that the bear hug I gave Ghayasuddin's wife when she first welcomed me at the airport a few days ago was probably the only hug she has ever received from a man other than her husband. I made a mental note to dial back the bear hugs, just as I learned to dial back the shaka during this trip as well. You live and you learn!
During the rest of the day, our team spent time taking photographic portraits of the moms behind the market bag, while also learning about Saidpur Enterprises' initiatives for giving back to the local community. There's a primary school (ages 6-11) right across the street from the factory, and for the past five years, Saidpur Enterprises has been using a portion of their profits to provide school supplies (books, pencils, uniforms, backpacks) for local children whose parents can't afford to purchase these items. It's crazy to think that these are items we often take for granted in our lives, but these kids might not be able to get them and attend classes if not for Saidpur's donation program.
Educational support programs like this one are rare in rural communities, and Ghayasuddin told us that there is now a growing demand for similar projects. It such an honor that Apolis gets to be a part of this effort to help Saidpur's families by supporting the growth of their own industry. Every Apolis customer who has purchased a market bag is a part of this too, as those proceeds help provide children in this community with the tools they need to succeed in school.
Tomorrow, we'll share of the images and stories behind the market bag as we continue our Bangladesh updates, so stay tuned! You can catch live broadcasts on the Apolis Instagram, as well as daily updates with photos right here on the Apolis Journal. Below are some images from Day Seven, along with some links to some beloved travel items accompanying me on this trip. Thanks for reading!