Saturday, July 5, 2008


Arriving in Bangladesh was quite the clichéd “culture shock”. Having been to parts of Africa and Asia I thought I had a rough idea of what I was in for, but Bangladesh is in a league of its own. If you ever want to feel like a celebrity, come to Bangladesh! The area in which the project is based is generally untouched by tourism and seeing a “bedeshi” or foreigner hanging onto a rickshaw like their life depends on it must be very amusing for the locals.
My first impression of the Dhaka Project was walking down the dirt road to the school and office being followed by kids asking in perfect English, “how are you, what is your name?” quite a remarkable thing for a place with minimal Western influence. I am spending just under a month with the Dhaka Project, aiming to develop criteria for the giving of rent money to the community.

Previously, rent assistance has been handed out in an ad hoc manner based on need, and this is beginning to cause problems within the community; the Dhaka Project counselor becoming increasingly swamped with requests for rent payments. So far, I have visited families in the community to see the conditions in which they live, talk to families about their problems and talk directly to the school children about their family situations. Visiting Bangladesh in the monsoon period is generally difficult, but for families living in already substandard conditions, floods and heavy rain can be devastating; making homes unlivable and promoting the spread of water borne disease.

After visiting some community houses, determining criteria for rent assistance becomes problematic as it is difficult not to think that all families need help! However, the motive of the Dhaka Project is foremost to educate the children of Dhaka; any further assistance given to the community being sustainable for the project and the families. It will be a challenging task, but one that will hopefully make the job of the counselor easier and provide certainty for the community.

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