“That’s when Madeline had the idea to start United Across Borders, to provide basic necessities to people who don’t have anything, honestly,” Rahman said.
BUY A SHIRT, GIVE A SHIRT
Second-year law student Madeline Heeren plays with children in Bangladesh, where she was inspired to start United Across Borders, an organization that aims to provide basic necessities to people in need around the world.
world, the people working in the garment factories didn’t have clothes to wear themselves. “After living in the U.S. for an extended period of time and then going back, it really hits you, the immense level of poverty that’s there,” Rahman said. “The things that we as Americans take for granted on a daily basis are luxuries for people living in poverty in Bangladesh.”
BIRTH OF AN IDEA Heeren took some Reese’s chocolate to share with the kids in Dhaka. So many kids gathered around the vehicle, she couldn’t move. After seeing how easily delighted the children were, she also gave away a couple of old Jayhawk shirts out of their own luggage when visiting Dhaka’s slums. Chocolate, Heeren believes, is universal — everyone knows it and loves it. Apparently, so is a smiling Jayhawk. “It was really exciting to give them something that perhaps doesn’t mean that much to us, a used shirt, but gave them so much joy,” Rahman said. “I think all the kids loved the Jayhawk. It’s a smiling bird, and they probably didn’t understand it, but from our point of view, it was exciting to share our Jayhawk pride with them, to see them in crimson and blue.” On their way back, Heeren and Rahman were trailed by children running after the car for a good 10 minutes in hopes of more treats.
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With the help of the Alumni Association, the organization is calling on Jayhawks around the nation to donate old KU shirts and blankets or buy a United Across Borders shirt from the KU Bookstore for its Buy A Shirt, Give A Shirt campaign. For every shirt sold, the organization can give two shirts and a blanket to someone in Bangladesh. “What happens in Bangladesh is that if a family gets a blanket, the whole family will huddle up with this one blanket during the night, so one blanket can support a family of four or five,” Rahman said. Rahman and Heeren already held a successful clothing drive at the law school, and KU Bookstore Director Estella McCollum is optimistic about the new campaign. “I’m really impressed with the passion they have for what they are doing, and I think it’s a good opportunity to provide KU students and alumni and fans to buy not just another KU shirt, but a KU shirt that has a positive message with it,” McCollum said. With the success of the Buy A Shirt, Give A Shirt campaign, the organization hopes to expand further, to create a global Jayhawk force. “Bangladesh is just a starting point,” Rahman said. “You have to start somewhere, and because we were there this summer, it hits close to us and I think it’s a good place to begin. Hopefully, we can expand to all corners of the world if we can get enough help from our Jayhawk fans.” For now, Rahman and Heeren are content with creating a second home for the Jayhawks in Dhaka. The simplest way to help is to donate a shirt or buy a shirt, Rahman said. “The T-shirt, it represents that the Jayhawk nation is everywhere,” Rahman said. “Wherever in the world you are, your Jayhawk pride travels. And if you buy our T-shirt, hopefully, we can create Jayhawk pride in the slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh, whether they know it or not.” — This story by KU student Yu Kyung Lee first appeared in the University Daily Kansan on March 26, 2014.
HOW TO HELP For every $20 T-shirt sold, two shirts and one blanket are produced and provided to those in need in least developed countries. Buy online at law.ku.edu/uab. Learn more at unitedacrossborders.com.