In her home country of Bangladesh, Sang Rem Mawi “Julie” Bawm has seen an increase in unemployment, with the educated unable to secure well-paying jobs.
That’s why she wants to make a difference.
“Coming from a small indigenous group, I have seen poverty everywhere in my community. But there are enough resources to practice and become an entrepreneur,” she said. “I would like to solve the unemployment problem by creating job opportunities for those who have unique skills but don’t how to use the skills. And I truly believe that through my entrepreneurship, my community will be able to solve poverty, lack of education, malnutrition and unemployment.”
Baum herself didn’t have many opportunities for education. Her parents are farmers and with four siblings, she needed financial assistance to pursue her dream. Then she discovered the U.S. State Department’s Community College Initiative (CCI) Program, which provides underserved and underrepresented students from around the world with full scholarships that cover housing, tuition and a monthly stipend for one academic year of study at community colleges.
“When I read the application form, I was saying to myself that this is what I have dreamed for many years,” she said. “The CCI Program has many fields of study options. I found the business field suitable for me because my goal was to become an entrepreneur in the clothing and textile business sector.”
She came to College of DuPage, which has been a CCI Program partner institution for many years. Although English is her third language, Bawm found support through Kayla Chepyator, coordinator of COD’s CCI Program.
“I am so blessed to have such a kind, loving and caring CCI coordinator who believed in me and stood by me in every failure and mistake that I made. Whenever I was in difficulties with my study or personal life, she would suggest to me where to go and what to do to solve the problems. She is not only my coordinator, but she is also like my parents, friend and advisors behind every success that I made during my study at COD. She introduced me to my professors and all the facilities that COD has. As my English is not so good, she would help me email my professors when I faced any problems with classes.”
Baum worked with her professors, who took the time to answer her many questions. She also took advantage of the many resources available to her, including the Learning Commons, Career Services, Counseling and Advising, and especially the COD Library.
“As I lived in an apartment where I had a roommate, the environment wasn’t always suitable for study. After I finished my class, I used to go to the library. The place is so calm, silent and a healthy environment for study,” she said. “I had so many difficulties understanding my courses, but COD resources helped me to become a successful student.”
She also participated in the Living Leadership Program, which motivated her to become a good leader for her community, and was featured in the Virtual Maker Market event, which inspired her to become an entrepreneur.
After receiving the Entrepreneurship and Supervision certificates, Baum returned home and began her business, NUFA Handloom Textile.
“Before attending classes at COD, I didn't have any idea about how to start a business plan,” she said. “During my entrepreneurship class, I completed all my business plan assignments and had them re-checked by my professor and other advisors, which helped me to start my business professionally.
“It was always my dream that I will let the world know my mother’s talent, even if she couldn’t go to school when she was a kid because of poverty. But she is one of the most talented handicraft artists. So, I named my company ‘NUFA,’ which means ‘Mother and Child.’ I hope we can help many mothers and children in our community. I truly believe that if my community can be financially independent, they can educate their children.”
NUFA promotes eco-friendly fashion accessories and clothing made by handloom and recently launched women’s handbags. While her products are only available in Bangladesh, Baum is building relationships in order to ship her products to other countries and make her company international.
“Our materials—the golden natural fiber of Bangladesh, Jute, wool, cotton—are eco-friendly, biodegradable and renewable,” she said. “Our products are made by indigenous, professional handicraft artists. We ensure that you look stylish, trendy and also protect the planet.”
Baum would like to thank COD and the U.S. State Department’s CCI Program for giving her the opportunity to pursue her dreams.
“Thank you to the CCI Program for giving me the biggest opportunity to bring change to my life, thank you COD, and thank you to the CCI coordinator for accepting me the way I am and helping me, supporting me continuously to not only become a successful student but also to help me achieve my goal to become an entrepreneur.
“My advice for students who are considering COD would be to use all resources that COD has, such as the Library, Learning Commons, Career Services Center, tutoring, and Counseling and Advising. Always feel free to discuss your concerns with your instructors. If you are enrolled in the Business/Management/Marketing program, you are in the right place.”