Share the Privilege

Sardar Ruhan ‘26, better known as Ruhan, is a Harward Center International Student Experiential Learning Fellow. He hails from Dhaka, Bangladesh. A key reason he wanted to become an International Fellow was because of his experience running a non-profit organization back home, called “Share the Privilege.” 

Ruhan providing food to two women in the streets of Dhaka.

Growing up, Ruhan felt like he should do something to try to address the stark class divide in his community. “You have the people who threw excess food away, and those who went to bed hungry,” he notes. But once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he knew for certain that he had to take action. As homelessness and poverty rates exponentially increased, often tripling their pre-COVID rates, street vendors, workers, and anyone living on a daily wage in Dhaka lost their jobs and had no means of supporting themselves or their family. 

In response, Ruhan recruited three friends and began buying lentils, rice, and other foods, putting them in bags, and leaving them around the city for whoever might need them. As he recalls, “They were gone in minutes because of the huge demand. It is then we decided to fundraise money to buy emergency food supplies.” 

Last winter’s clothing drive.

This was the first project of the fledgling organization, Share the Privilege, and through word of mouth, friends of friends, and family members, others started to join in and help, whether financially or as a volunteer. “Most of our volunteers were students,” Ruhan recalls. “We had as young as a grade 6 student and as old as a university grad helping us. In all we have about seventy-five active volunteers, coming from Canada, Dhaka of course, and other cities.” After creating a bigger network, using Facebook (the biggest social media platform in Bangladesh) to stay connected, they held seven fundraisers, which allowed them to provide about 20,000 meals. Ruhan and his friends exemplify how impactful youth can be – something the Harward Center recognizes and mobilizes through diverse programs.

A rickshaw biker with his new hat.

As the pandemic waned, Ruhan decided to direct his energy to a new problem he noticed in his home community. When he returned home last summer after a year in Maine, he realized how the extremely hot, polluted air in Dhaka made it difficult to breathe and function at an optimal level. “If I, as a young and healthy teenager, was feeling this way, imagine the older adults who are always outside,” he reflected. “My dad works 5-6 hours outside every day, and my mom too – all the vendors, rickshaw drivers, etc.” Enter “Mathar Chhata,” the name of the next big project Share the Privilege focused on. In Dhaka, there are over 2 million rickshaw bikes in use (picture shown), which are essentially taxis and the main form of transportation. While the passengers have an awning to shade them from extreme heat and weather conditions, the drivers are left exposed the whole day as they bike people around. It is a tiring job for sure, but they are also often sick, suffering from dizziness, dehydration, heat stroke, or catching a cold from exposure to rain. Ruhan saw this and “decided to buy some cheap umbrella hats that can really last a long time if taken care of. I started by just giving them to a few bikers as sort of a product trial, and asked them to let me know in three days if they like it.” It is safe to say the bikers loved them, as within those three days, other bikers began approaching Ruhan for their own hats. Just like he did with the food, Ruhan and his team fundraised through social media and were able to buy 100 umbrella hats. They gained further traction when local news agencies picked up the story, allowing them to raise funds for another 600 umbrellas. This project shows just how far a simple yet creative way to help one’s local community can go.

As an International Student Experiential Learning Fellow at the Harward Center, Ruhan’s work is similar in a lot of ways to the work he did back home. “A lot of the problems you see in Dhaka still exist in Lewiston, including poverty, homelessness, and substance use disorder. It is a completely different picture of America than I originally had in mind, but I have come to realize these problems are truly universal.” Right now, Ruhan works primarily with the Maine Social Learning Center, working with older residents who have a range of mental and physical disabilities. Back home, he will soon be hosting Share the Privilege’s second annual winter clothing drive. “I have a desire to help people – because you learn from them as you seek to help them. It has been a lot to be at Bates so far, as my perspective keeps changing. I am doing a lot of learning from people here–there is just so much diversity of thought.” Young people like Ruhan, who recognize the value and the symbiotic relationship between students and community members, are who keep the Harward Center going. Ruhan shows there are so many ways to help out, and all communities can benefit from young people’s ideas. 

For more information about Ruhan’s organization and how you can get involved, see below.

Share the Privilege Foundation’s Mission Statement: 

Share the Privilege (STP) Foundation is a student-led non-profit organization with a mission to alleviate hunger, reduce food waste, and address systemic issues impacting the underprivileged in Bangladesh. Engaging 75 volunteers, including 6 core members, we strive to create innovative and sustainable solutions, involving students and community members. Over the past two years, we have donated 30,000 meals and 300 sweaters and blankets to underprivileged families in Dhaka through 7 successful fundraising events, even amidst the challenges of the Covid19 lockdown. With a diverse range of skills from prominent institutions both in Bangladesh and abroad, we are committed to making an enduring positive impact on society. 

If you have any questions or want to support the work Ruhan is doing, please visit their facebook page:, their instagram or email Ruhan at

All pictures credit: Share the Privilege Foundation.