Ki Ki May’s Story
Ki Ki May Marma(21) hails from Tulachori Para, a tiny remote village in Bandarban district. She lost her father at an early age and could not afford to study after her secondary school. To support her farmer mother for running the family, she started working in the Jhum cultivation with her. She was passing her life struggling with the hardships. Everyday at 5 in the morning she had to climb the hills for jhum cultivation. The only rest time for her was in the evening when she would meet and greet with her friends from village.
One day with her friends Ki Ki May joined a community outreach meeting conducted by Tahzingdong, an organization to support and empower the indigenous community. She gleamed with joy knowing about Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) from that meeting. YCC is a initiative of USAID’s Community Partnerships to Strengthen Sustainable Development (Compass) program, an inter-agency project implemented by the US Forest Service, International Programs (USFS/IP). By providing a 5-month residential training program with a focus on vocational skills training and 1-month internship on the participants’ selected trade, YCC prepares the underprivileged and vulnerable youths in Bangladesh as environmental stewards and provides them opportunities to earn a sustainable living. Ki Ki May became enthusiastic to join YCC after learning about it. Seeing her enthusiasm, her mother, community leader (karbari) and villagers inspired her to get enrolled.
At YCC, she received hands on training on how to protect the forests, wildlife, watersheds and the environment. Despite being a farmer, Ki Ki May did not know much about environment conservation before joining the YCC cohort. It intrigued her to pursue her vocational training on green course. This was the first step of her journey towards making her dream nursery. She shares, “Previously I had no idea of the Importance of trees and deforestation. Now, I know about the nature conservation and that is why I pick plastic wastes from my village once a month.”
After completing the YCC training and internship, Ki Ki May set up a mini nursery in her home, made her first income by selling cashew nut seedlings, followed by the production of papaya seedlings. In addition to her work at this tiny nursery, Ki Ki May is currently employed by the Compass program as a seedling supervisor in the Forest Land Restoration (FLR) project. Everyday she supplies a large quantity of saplings to the project area.
The YCC training program has led Ki Ki May on the way to make her dreams come true. Now she is making 8000 BDT (78 USD apx.) every month and supporting her mother financially. She has stayed in touch with everyone in the youth network and keeping up with everyone to encourage and be encouraged. Moving forward Ki Ki May plans to continue working on the FLR project's seedling production while also expanding her little nursery.