‘Crikceter’ Bithi’s success story who came back from brink of death
Published: 02:59 PM, 25 October 2021
At a glance at the overall activities and achievements of Arifa Jahan Bithi
Arifa Jahan Bithi – known as a cricketer, a cricket instructor, a founder of a cricket academy, a volunteer, and most commonly as ‘Oxygen Lady’ – has achieved so much next to her name. The story behind Bithi’s success in breaking the shackles of poverty and climbing the ladder of success has inspired many more women. For this, Bithi received the ‘Inspiring Woman Volunteer Award’.
The award was handed over to Arifa Jahan Bithi on October 13 in recognition of her significant contribution in various fields including raising health awareness and food distribution during the COVID period.
Rising of Arifa Jahan Bithi
Third of four siblings from a poor family in Nurpur, Rangpur and raised amid poverty, Arifa Jahan Bithi was far from her fulfilling dreams. Even meeting basic needs was also difficult for her family – which gradually led her to commit crimes like suicide. But Bithi’s mother and elder sister did not allow her to commit suicide, they brought her back from the brink of death and gave her encouragement.
Arifa’s new struggle for survival begins. She started her journey at a grocery store with her mother. After passing secondary school, Bithi dreamt of becoming a great cricketer, for this, she started taking cricket training under a local coach. But the injury did not allow Arifa Jahan Bithi to fulfill her dream. Her cricket career ended before beginning due to a nose injury.
However, Arifa Jahan Bithi did not stop even though she could not become a cricketer. She built a cricket academy for women - showing her dreams to many more women in the country’s women cricket. From there, Bithi started to rise.
The 23-year-old Bithi’s academy is called “Women’s Dreamer Cricket Academy”. Girls can take cricket training there without any fee. The academy has currently 250 indomitable young women.
Apart from cricket training, Arifa Jahan Bithi has dedicated herself to serving the backward people of society. She stood by the helpless and pregnant women with oxygen and food in the COVID situation. She has delivered food to the houses of the poor in different festivals including Eid. At present, Bithi is regularly working for the helpless people.
Country’s first women’s cricket academy by Bithi
Bithi took part in a cricket tournament in 2010 for the Rangpur district. She also moved to Dhaka cricket as she did well in the club tournaments and played for Orient Sporting Club, Legend of Bhawal Cricket Academy, World Cricket Academy and Rayer Bazar Athletic Club. Bithi’s dream of wearing a red-green jersey came to fruition as she continued to play well. But at that time, her physical illness became an obstacle.
In 2017, during the Women’s Premier Cricket League, she suffered an unexpected nose injury. Blood was dripping from her nose. Although the treatment was continued, the bleeding from Bithi’s nose did not stop. At one time, Bithi came to know at risk of getting 80 percent cancer if she does not quit cricket.
Although she could not become a cricketer, Bithi could not stay away from the game. Later, she introduced herself as a trainer and started her coaching career with the six-day training of the Bangladesh wheelchair women’s cricket team in Brahmanbaria. After that, she founded a women’s cricket academy with the aim of creating potential women cricketers from the north by utilizing the field experience.
Arifa Jahan Bithi officially started her cricket academy journey on October 26, 2019, with 30 trainees. All the cricket equipment’s including bats, balls, pads, helmets were bought for the trainees with her savings of Tk 10,000 and Tk 20,000 of mother’s loan from an NGO.
Currently, 250 young women are taking free cricket training at Bithi Cricket Academy. From here, 11 cricketers have passed the Bangladesh Sports Education Institute (BKSP) exams this year and eight got the chance in BKSP. They are all daughters of low-income and indigent families.
Bithi in volunteer and social activities
Apart from building women cricketers, Arifa Jahan Bithi also works for the helpless and indigent. After the coronavirus outbreak, the former cricketer rushed to remote areas of Rangpur with food for pregnant mothers. At that time, she delivered various nutritious food to about 4,000 pregnant women. Bangladesh national team cricketer Tamim Iqbal, Rubel Hossain, coach Fahim Abedin and other individuals and organizations have assisted Bithi in this work.
Bithi did not move away from the helpless people even when the COVID situation in the country was in the worst condition. She helped countless COVID patients in her district with oxygen at her own initiative. Later, Arifa Jahan Bithi has been honored with the “Oxygen Lady” award for her courageous role in the COVID crisis.
Former cricketer Arifa Jahan Bithi has sacrificed three cows and distributed those among 700 families on Eid-ul-Azha despite the dire situation of Covid-19. From noon to night on the day of Eid, she distributed packets of sacrificial meats to helpless, destitute, unemployed, lower and middle-class families in different areas of Rangpur city including densely populated Nurpur, Mahadevpur, Lalbagh Railway Station, Adarshapara, Mandalpara.
Arifa Jahan Bithi also gave Iftar to the helpless last Ramadan. Besides, she made self-sufficient 25 helpless women with sewing machines. She gave new houses to 10 homeless families and provided financial assistance to 21 helpless students for college admission.
‘Inspiring Women Volunteer Award 2021’
Cricketer Arifa Jahan Bithi has been awarded the ‘Inspiring Women Volunteer Award 2021’ for organizing free cricket training for women, playing a courageous role in the COVID situation, and standing by the side of thousands of poor people with food and medicine at different times.
The award was jointly organized by UNV Bangladesh, VSO Bangladesh, Plan International Bangladesh and ActionAid Bangladesh. Sultana Afroz, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Authority at the Prime Minister’s Office, handed over the award to Bithi at the LGED building in Agargaon on Wednesday.
“We are organizing a tournament this month to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Women’s Dreamer Cricket Academy,” said Arifa Jahan Bithi. “90 women cricketers from all over the country including the academy are participating here. Six teams will play in the four-day tournament in the name of six women personalities of the country.”
She added that many students are not able to continue their studies financially after the COVID situation. “We are helping them as needed. Besides, helpless widows are being made self-reliant with training and sewing machines. We hope that we will be able to continue such volunteering in the future as well,” Bithi said.
Expressing gratitude to the well-wishers for extending a helping hand in times of need, Bithi said, “I can’t keep quiet when I hear someone’s difficulty. Again, I can’t go beyond my ability to cooperate. Those who are constantly extending a helping hand by responding to my Facebook post, I am grateful to them. I want to be on everyone’s side and benefit the helpless in the future as well.
Arifa Jahan Bithi is still working for many helpless people. At the same time, she is continuing the work of creating female cricketers. All in all, she is one step ahead to fulfilling her dream.