Houston’s Bangladesh community seeks funds for cultural center

The growing immigrant Bangladeshi population of Houston has been trying for years to build a permanent community center but has been stalled by a lack of funds.

Now, the Bangladesh Association, Houston, is hoping to raise about $1 million in what board members hope will be a major step toward reaching their fund-raising goal.The nonprofit is holding a multicultural gala on Friday at Crowne Plaza Galleria to attract support.

The BangladeshAssociationCenter is a $2.5 million project being built on four acres purchased in 2001 at 13145 Renn Road in southwest HarrisCounty.

bd cultureThe completed center would have an auditorium, a lobby, a sports complex, classrooms, an office and a contemplation room to serve more than 15,000 Bangladeshis in the Houston area, as well as the broader community.

“We’re hoping to reach more corporate donors,” said Shah Haleem, the association’s chairman. “We hope that one of the foundations will come forward and say, ‘You know what we’re going to help your organization because you try to help not only your community but you try to help the local community at large.’ ”

Corporate backing

Shahid Ullah, president of Afren, an independent oil & gas company and the event’s chair, said he believes in the association’s mission.

“I’m a donor and a big believer in multicultural centers,” said Ullah, who is of Bangladeshi heritage and American by choice. “Houston is slated to become probably the top global city in this country … because in the past 10 years or so the immigrant population has increased at a astounding rate.”

The association, established in 1978 by recent graduatesof the Bangladesh Student Association at the University of Houston, is maintained by more than 100 volunteers and runs on donations, “charity and the love of people,” said Haleem.

He said supporters give what they can but “their resources are very limited.” Haleem added: We’re hoping other companies will come through and help us. Otherwise, we will have a hard time finishing this center.”

Anyone welcome

Once completed, the center will be open to anyone as the association takes pride in being multicultural and secular.

“Our goal is community service,” said the association’s vice chair Khaled Khan. “They serve anyone who knocks on their door, not just Bangladeshi-Americans.”

Besides free medical and employment assistance, the association serves as a liaison between the community and local, state and federal agencies. Once a year, the group opens its doors to Bangladesh Consulate officials from Washington, D.C., to process passports and other immigration issues.

The organization also offers classes on Sundays that include sports, music and an interfaith class that focuses on values, ethnics and teaches about different religions.

“It is our duty to pass on our heritage to our children,” said Rawnak “Rumana” Chowdhury, coordinator for the Bangladesh school.