Draper teen delivers school supplies to Bangladesh
In July 2011, while Akbar Khan was visiting colleges near his uncle’s family in San Francisco, he asked his uncle for a bag for all the college brochures he was gathering. When he saw a pile of conference bags that his uncle was about to discard, Akbar had a vision of getting people in need those bags, filled with supplies.
Soon after, the then 15-year-old formed his own nonprofit company, Bags to Riches, and began working with conferences to pick up unwanted bags for organizations who could then distribute them to people in need.
The Draper resident, who is a junior at Hillcrest High School in Midvale, works with conventions nationwide, getting them to put out drop-off boxes during the conference and arranging pick-up of the bags afterward.
“My goal is to get every conference in the world to participate,” Akbar said. “Physically, I won’t be present, but it’s logistically possible, working with a conference organizer or the convention center.”
To date, Akbar has arranged for conference bags from medical, technology and science conferences to be donated to the Utah Refugee Coalition, Utah Youth Mentor Project and the local Homeless Youth Resource Center, as along with other national and international organizations.
This past December, he arranged for shoulder bags and backpacks filled with school supplies and personal hygiene items to go to schoolchildren in Gambia. He then delivered another shipment to Bangladesh, where he tutored some of the 400 students in the Gulshan Literacy Program while there.
“I put a lot of time and effort into it, and I do put my own money into it, to mail posters, brochures and supply the boxes,” he said. “I don’t get anything material-wise from it, but it’s emotionally rewarding to get people in need items they can’t get on their own. Ever since I was little, I was taught to help others and to preserve the environment. By recycling these conference bags and redistributing them to people in need, I’m doing both.”
Akbar said he is motivated to eliminate material waste when he knows it makes a difference in people’s lives.
“I’m really passionate about helping people. Life consists of wisdom and knowledge,” he said. “Knowledge, I’m getting with my eight hours of school each day, but the wisdom is gained through experience and by helping where I have the opportunity to make a difference.”
Akbar has distributed more than 2,000 bags during the18 months he’s been in business. He has acquired logistic and efficiency skills, created a website and is learning about becoming registered as a 501(c) nonprofit organization.
Akbar gave a presentation at the TEDx (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, Dec. 9, in Santa Ana, Calif., to share his experiences with Bags to Riches. The conference invites speakers whose ideas have been acknowledged by the conference organizers as ones worth spreading worldwide.
To donate or learn more about Bags to Riches, visit www.bagstoriches.org.