Its been a pretty crazy few weeks. I’m in a little town called Mongla in south Bangladesh. We’re working with a local partner called Bangladesh Nazarene Mission (BNM) who are focused predominantly on preparing communities to become resilient to disaster. The main threats are cyclones, floods and increased salinity in the water. The local partner are collecting data from the communities in the form of community risk assessments, which are then used in a Ward Disaster Management Committee (WDMC) so that community can work out an action plan to prepare for the next cyclone or flood. Its a fascinating yet slow process – main needs here consist of water tanks and cyclone shelters. As UK volunteers we just don’t have the budget for that just yet! Its become apparent that the low-budget skills we can offer the community people are English lessons, first aid training, manual labour and Child Development Centre (CDC) sessions with primary school children on hand washing and some basic principles on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
The people I meet here daily are so hospitable. They literally have nothing, yet they share everything with us. Its taken me a while to be okay with this bizarre ‘white people’ tension. Some communities we meet purely ask for money, and everyone asks for a photo. Most of you will know I came out here to find some perspective and flipping hell have I got it. I don’t think I have an answer but its an interesting tension which I think will always be apparent when working in development. Plans here change daily and you just have to go with it. It makes me realise how busy my life is in England, and also that English people worry way too much. Having too much choice really makes you question your decisions sometimes, but here people really are happy. They eat, they sleep, they dig the land!
The landscape is beautiful. It like the books from Geography. Ponds everywhere with small mud roads that separates the water from the house. Most of the ponds are rice paddy fields, but workers here also cultivate fish and shrimp. The water is mostly saline though so there is also continuous development to source crops that can withstand the environment. The villages are remote and quiet, and often the people will nip up a tree to grab some coconuts to give to us whilst we play with the children.
Its been difficult to put our field experiences in our project context, purely because its mostly project set up. Games, bicycles, singing and balls really are all you need to connect with a community here so we continue to do this as we build relationships with the people here in Mongla. I hope the budget will come soon enough, but for the mean time i’m here to serve as many people as possible.
Some things I have learnt after spending nearly a month in Bangladesh:
1. You can never have too much rice.
2. Jokes can last for EVER. I said one thing 2 weeks ago and we are STILL talking about it. Lol.
3. I miss correct waste disposal.
4. All the Ps and Qs you learn growing up in England are just not valid here.
5. I am sweating in places I didn’t know were possible.
6. I am very indecisive when choosing fabric.
7. I do not want to think about leaving this beautiful country.
8. I miss everyone more than I thought I would! Family is so important here as well so it sure does make you think about your own.
If you pray, please pray for direction for our project, else just send me a message on Facebook. X