Connect : Connect Magazine November 2012
29 I knew it wasn't going to be an easy day when I poured Corn Flakes out of the box and a cockroach came tumbling out into my bowl. I had to settle for toast, but the Bangladeshi western style bread is made with lots of sugar and doesn't taste like the bread I’m used to. All in all, not a great start to the day. Still, many people in Bangladesh would have to go hungry so I considered myself lucky. I was in Bangladesh to work for Symbiosis, a non-government organization, as the External Relations Development Trainer. My role included teaching English and basic video production, as well as editing reports with the staff. I was several months into an 18 month assignment. After cleaning my teeth I began the fve-minute walk to the Symbiosis training centre dodging chickens and the odd cow along the way. Men greeted me from the doors of shops and cha (tea) stands, "Bhalo Achen (How are you)?” and women stared at me through tiny slits in their burkas. I rounded the corner and braced myself against the dust kicked up by buses as they hurtled along the narrow road inches from the footpath I was walking on, horns blaring as they passed. I carefully stepped over the gaping holes in the pavement as I made my way along the footpath. A fall into one of them would mean wallowing through shin deep sewage. Many streets in Mymensingh have open drains on each side of the road. When I fnally made it to the training centre I set up my laptop and began to fnalise my lesson plan for the day’s English class. My students for the day were the Symbiosis report writing team. They are responsible for translating reports from English to Bangla before editing and sending them to donors in Australia and other countries. The reports are important to Symbiosis as they outline the goals, objectives and outcomes of each project so that donors can see where their money is going. Success stories feature benefciaries, explaining what their lives were like before getting involved in Symbiosis activities and how their lives have changed and benefted from their participation. Besides my classes for the report writing team, I also taught English conversation classes open to all staff and some basic video production workshops. In addition, I travelled to a rural town about an hour north of Mymensingh every Tuesday to teach English to the frst and second year nursing students at a hospital nursing institute. I reminded the report writing team that the class would start at 11:30am as usual. They were not enthusiastic about enduring another English class. The seven- member team had slowly been reduced to three during my assignment because two members resigned and left, one had an operation on his leg, and another was no longer able to travel the considerable distance from his project offce. I was set up ready for the class to begin in the offce library at 11:30 but none of the students turned up. A common occurrence. I went to the offce to round up the three students to discover one had gone to an unscheduled meeting upstairs. I managed to drag the other two away from their computers and they reluctantly sat through my class. At least I managed to teach a class that day. Some days I only had one student from the report writing team attend and other days had to cancel class altogether. This was not my expectation of teaching in Bangladesh when I frst accepted the assignment. Given the frustrations, disappointments, and cultural misunderstandings I often wondered if I was achieving anything while I was in Bangladesh. However, the success stories my students wrote and edited for their reports are proof that Symbiosis is making a difference to the lives of benefciaries. And donors have told me that the reports have improved. This improvement is not only due to my work, but also the efforts of other English teachers who preceded me. Change, particularly in a country like Bangladesh, happens when many people contribute; not just one. Furthermore, despite the diffculties of teaching English, I believe my video production workshops were a success. Looking back I achieved more than I realised. In spite of the diffculties I faced in Bangladesh I am confdent that I made a contribution after all; albeit a small one. My time in Bangladesh also achieved another positive outcome -- in the area of personal development. The experience has helped me to grow and I have gained self-confdence. I hope to return to Bangladesh one day to visit (on a short term basis), and perhaps contribute to Symbiosis again. To learn more about Symbiosis Bangladesh, take a look at the website: www.symbiosis-int.org Success story of Kohinoor Kohinoor is a housewife who didn’t how to know read and write. Her husband was a good farmer, but the Jamuna River devoured his land in the 1995 food. At that time, they were suffering because he could not provide for his wife, two sons and a daughter. In 1995, Kohinoor joined the Vorasha Women’s Savings Group. Vorasha means hope. Kohinoor had been contributing Tk. 10 per week to their group fund. She received various training and awareness lessons from the Symbiosis project such as income generation activities, leadership, women's rights, children's rights, arsenic awareness, personal hygiene, environmental and social issues. One day Kohinoor received a Tk. 3000 loan from the group fund to start a general shop with her husband's help. They also invested Tk. 2000 of their own money. After she repaid the loan, she took another Tk.10000 from the savings fund to expand their business. Now, Kohinoor and her husband are working together in their shop. Their daily income is Tk. 400 and she is paying instalments to the group fund from this income. Their eldest son is working for a company in Dhaka. Now Kohinoor and her family are very happy. Their youngest son and daughter are going to school. She is popular with the community and they respect her. Sometimes neighbours come to their house for suggestions and advice. They are very happy to be able to give guidance to their neighbours and friends. Now Kohinoor is a successful woman.
Connect Magazine July 2012 Edition
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