This short Q/A session is from interview 18 of the Bangladeshi Perspective with Shah Rafayat Chowdhury, Co-Founder and President of Footsteps.
A bit about Shah Rafayat Chowdhury:
Shah Rafayat Chowdhury is a Bangladeshi social entrepreneur and environmentalist currently running a social enterprise called Footsteps which designs social ventures to help communities overcome various social challenges, such as water access, waste management, etc.
He has been involved in the development sector since the age of 16 when he joined the Bangladesh delegation as it’s youth Ambassador for various United Nations Summits. The experience at these summits opened Rafayat’s eyes to the problems in the real world and after receiving his leadership training from former US Vice President Al Gore, he started Footsteps in Bangladesh with the mission of empowering communities to overcome social obstacles and change their livelihoods.
In 2015, Rafayat came across a certain experience with a rickshaw puller which led him to start a project called Trishna, which empowers communities through safe water access. Since starting this project under Footsteps, Rafayat and his team have ensured safe water for over 50,000 people among which 10,000 are children.
In 2018, he completed his graduation on Environmental Economics and Policy from Pennsylvania State University and came back to Bangladesh to chase his dream of empowering communities through Footsteps as a full time gig. Rafayat has been nominated as one of the 16 global young leaders by the European Commission in 2018 and as one of the 60 inspirational changemakers by Swiss NGO Global Changemakers in 2017.
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Seeam: What was the most early on important part of your resume that got you here?
Rafayat: My experience as a young writer who wrote a lot about environmental advocacy.
Seeam: What was the most early on important part NOT on your resume that got you here?
Rafayat: Being stubborn about what I want to do and not giving up no matter the odds.
Seeam: What is a book(s)/movie that influenced you a lot?
Rafayat: An Inconvenient Truth – by Al Gore
Seeam: What’s one weird habit that you have that you think is great?
Rafayat: I collect model airplanes as I’m an aviation enthusiast.
Seeam: What is one apparent failure that set you up on a successful path?
My failure at the initial stage of Project Trishna got me to work hard on improving its technology and impact on our communitiesShah Rafayat Chowdhury
Seeam: What’s one advice/philosophy that changed your life?
Rafayat: ‘The Journey of a Thousand Miles Must Begin with a Simple Step’.
Seeam: What is one time investment that you consider your best?
Rafayat: Stand up comedy, especially ones by Biswa Kallyan Rath and watching political dramas such as House of Cards and Designated Survivor.
Seeam: What is one monetary investment that you consider your best?
Rafayat: Travel whenever I’m free. Traveling is the best investment a person can make for self actualization.
Seeam: What do you do when you can’t focus/feel overwhelmed?
Rafayat: Listen to Post Malone.
Seeam: What drives you to do good work every day when you wake up?
Shah Rafayat Chowdhury
There are still many people out there who are drinking contaminated water. If I work hard today, they won’t have to drink dirty water tomorrow.
Seeam: What is one-advice that you’d give to a student looking to enter your field?
This field requires a lot of passion and patience. So, if you have the right intentions to serve people, you will go a long way.Shah Rafayat Chowdhury
Seeam: If people wanted to reach you, what is the best way?
Seeam: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Rafayat: Running the organization which is empowering communities and changing livelihoods all over Bangladesh and beyond.
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This interview was transribed by: Fateen Tahseen Alam
Fateen Tahseen Alam is a 1st year student at the University of Dhaka studying Mass Communication and Journalism, and is passionate about promoting “Empowerment through ideas and skills, Sustainability through empowerment”. He is an ardent supporter of professional development in communities around him. Email him at email@example.com to express opinions, requests and compliments.