My time volunteering
I recently volunteered with VSO in Bangladesh. My role as a volunteer was to help improve communities and contribute to their development in the following subjects: Governance, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights and Livelihoods.
This involved visiting and working with 5 developing communities in a rural area, north of Bangladesh.
The impact of my placement
As the first cycle it was a lot of pressure to make a good impression on the communities and deliver to their expectations. These communities had little to no knowledge about who we were and the aims of VSO. As you can guess this is pretty daunting for a new group of people to convince all of these communities why we were there and what our aims were.
We managed to adjust to the social norms quicker than I anticipated and the welcoming responses of all communities was overwhelming. We had managed to make an impressionable start not only with the locals but with the government officials also. We were there to help them help themselves.
Some communities were more responsive than other but our determination to do well by them was never lost. In our three teams we succeeded in improving the employability of women in the areas we worked by providing trainings and courses for them. Not just women but for the youth and men also. Our SRHR team managed to successfully install a women's hygiene corner; an initiative that gave the local women a safe and private space to wash their rags and feel less embarrassed about their menstruation. A blood donor campaign to register willing blood donors, for in emergency situations the doctors can get blood quicker to those in need of it. Promoting women empowerment was something we were all very passionate for as in them communities people were willing to listen about change. Our governance team led sessions on recycling, providing awareness of child marriage, mental health and people living with disabilities, learning difficulties and many more.
We never lacked ambition and sought to prevent great issues affecting these communities.
My unforgettable moments
As part of our many schemes, I noticed that many children and adults were living with special needs, disabilities and learning difficulties. The only problem was that they had no educational facilities so were to grow up without a school and this prevented these children from developing properly. These kids were protected by their families and so when a group of strange people came to offer them a better education and understanding of their situation, no wonder they had questions. We were not their to belittle anyone let alone the people who raised these children and adults because although their financial circumstances were poor these families were rich in life. Happy and blessed to be around one another. We simply believed they deserved more and we wanted to help make that possible.
We searched for schools that focus solely on providing specialised educational attention to those with special needs and we found nothing. After some further research we came across a school and it was the closest one to the communities. The Protibudi Autistic School. I could not wait to visit and see what facilities they had and hopefully arrange enrollment for the children in the communities.
We took a journey to this school and when we arrived we were surprised, and distressed to say the least. The classrooms were lifeless, dusty, and it was very upsetting to see how little resources were available. It was emotional and after a conversation with the head teacher we had learned that they had no funding from the government because only a handful of schools were able to become public. Being public entitled them to allowances for books and pens and posters and most importantly educational resources. The school had no electricity or air conditioning and all of the teachers were volunteers who had little training. The teachers did their best by the children but agreed they wanted more.
After a persuasive discussion to the government we were able to arrange a change for them. This was the school that our communities children would visit and so it was important to us to improve their conditions quickly. We arranged specialised training for all staff on special needs education. We arranged educational training for all parents by a doctor to give them more knowledge about special needs and learning difficulties. We enrolled many children to this school and provided transportation for them all so they can get there without worry. We painted the school bright and calming colours. Most importantly the school managed to become public and so they will receive funding to help them.
This school was not part of our duristiction but it was important to us. We managed to meet so many beautiful, intelligent souls. The children were happy and excited about our being there. To celebrate we held asmall party; inviting local college students to come and interact and help out, all of the Protibudi students and staff. There was bubbles, balloons, music, dancing and most importantly a change. It was a proud moment and we were proud to be a part of this journey with the school and its students. Still now the volunteers from college visit the school and in our communities children will get to experience interaction with others without the fear of being different or left out. This was a problem that had occurred before. We promoted a campaign to help register all special needed children and adults to the government so that families would receive allowances.
All over the world people are missing out on quality education for many reasons and with VSO's help maybe we can make a contribution to stoping this.
There were so many unforgettable moments in Bangladesh. We opened two new youth buildings, created a library, our Community Action Days were big events in my time there as it was a day to celebrate the people and promote awareness. Building relationships with the people and making friends were all big parts of this experience. The place was amazing but the people were inspiring and taught me a lot.
The impact my placement has had on me
I returned from Bangladesh and instantly felt different. The things that would have been so important to me just were not anymore, the people in my life changed, my morals changed and I was so grateful for this. Anyone who has taken part in VSO can agree that this experiences affects your life.
I have a greater appreciation for those around me and the things I have in my life. Coming from a place where family means everything and being part of a community makes you stronger, it made me want to give back to mine.
I miss Bangladesh every single day and the moments and memories too but what I have learned about the world and about myself, I will be forever grateful. VSO gave me a chance to make friends that will last forever who come from all over the world, it also gave me an insight to what is really important. I can safely say I will never forget Birampur and it's people, they made a change in our lives too.