Introduction: Gandhi Ashram Trust (GAT) is a philanthropic development organization working at Noakhali. It is working since 1946 with Gandhian philosophy of rural development, peace and social harmony. Since inception, GAT is working for the rural poor, specially for women, in the encircled area of the Ashram. It has two prong functions of development and charitable activities. The goal, objectives and activities of GAT are drived from the core value of Gandhian philosophy and guideline. In establishing the Gandhian philosophy, Gandhi Ashram Trust taken the vision as:
At present GAT is working for 6 Upazillas of Noakhali, Lakshmipur and Feni District. It is working directly with 40,000 poorest families of the area.
Background: The establishment of Gandhi Ashram Trust is rooted with the ‘Peace Mission’ of Mahatma Gandhi immediate after the communal riot in 1946 at Noakhali. Gandhi stayed for about four months in the riot stricken areas. He started moving around the villages and motivates the people of his peaceful co-existence and non-violence philosophy. The day was 29th January when Gandhiji came to Jayag and all sphere of life greeted him with whole-hearted support.
At that time, Barrister Hemanta Kumar Gosh of the village donated all his resources to Mahatma for the development and peace of the area and “Ambika Kaliganga Charitable Trust” was formed. The office of the Gandhi Peace Mission, formerly known as Gandhi Camp, was shifted to the present campus of Jayag. The Gandhi Camp started working for both peace and charitable functions and it continues till partition of India.
After the partition, specially after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, most of the Gandhi followers left Noakhali except a few. The non-secular government of Pakistan come-up with oppression to the Gandhians and majority of them were in jail for almost the lifetime of Pakistan. The properties of the Trust were forcefully taken away by some land gravers and anti-social elements. The activities of the Trust were not possible. The Team manager of Peace Mission Mr. Charu Chowdhury was detained in jail for several times and finally for 1963-71. He was released in 1971 after independence of Bangladesh.
Charu Chowdhury started re-organizing the Ashram in the newly independent Bangladesh and released land and properties from the land gravers. It look final shape with the Gazette notification of Bangladesh Government in 2nd October 1975 where “Ambika Kaliganga Charitable Trust” was renamed as “Gandhi Ashram Trust”. A committee representing from both Bangladesh and Indian Government was formed to run the activities of the Trust.
GAT Over the Period: In the initial stage, Ambika Kaliganga Charitable Trust thought of charitable functions and started working for the riot victims of Noakhali. The victims were rehabilitated in their society and relief functions were carried out. Besides, motivational works for communal co-existence were taken in the whole area. These functions continued till the separation of India. In the Pakistan period, the Trust could continue it’s activities due to the policy of the then Government.
Strategy and Programme: The GAT programme approach is the Target Group Approach. At the beginning, the target group/beneficiaries are organized in small groups and institution building & programme support are provided in phases. The Trust envisages, following Gandhian Philosophy, in development and maintenance of local oriental crafts & trades. For this, GAT provides technical, financial and marketing support to the groups in developing their tradition and profession. GAT believes in special emphasis in women and Gender development; and 80% of it’s support goes to the women. Gandhi Ashram also believes in sustainable development and started ecological farming and fish culture. It maintains a participatory culture in its organizational process of decision- making planning and implementation.