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Concern Debates group in Bangladesh
The winners of the Concern Debates competition are offered the opportunity to visit one of the countries overseas where Concern works. Last year’s winners – Largy College from Clones, Co. Monaghan – visited some of Concern’s programmes in Bangladesh.
Here’s their account of what they saw.
On July 11 2014, we set off on a trip of a lifetime. We landed in Dhaka in Bangladesh 16 hours later. We didn’t know what to expect but we weren’t disappointed. Bangladesh is a small country that used to be a part of India and then Pakistan. After fighting a liberation war, the modern Bangladesh was declared an independent nation in 1971. Poverty and inequality are large scale problems there but massive changes are taking place and we were lucky enough to see some of them.
Sundarbans coastal programme
We had a one hour flight to Jessore and then a four hour road journey to get to the Sundarbans project on the coast near the border with India.
We received a beautiful welcome from the locals in the form of a ceremony in which they gave us freshly picked flowers as gifts. A young boy also climbed up a tree and cut down coconuts for us so we could taste fresh coconut water.
We learned that this area of Bangladesh is frequently severely damaged by storms and cyclones.
We asked many questions mainly about the locals’ livelihoods such as fishing and crab farming. It was great to get a chance to interact with people.
Pavement dweller centre
Back in Dhaka we visited a pavement dweller centre in Karwan Bazar. The centre gives shelter to homeless people, providing education, food and a safe place to sleep.
When we visited there were over 20 women staying there and many children. The centre provides lockers for women to store their goods and a banking system in which they can set up a savings account to control their money.
It was inspiring to hear the women’s stories of how they used to live with their children on the streets but now how their lives have changed for the better thanks to Concern and their partners.
Mojar Khabar – tasty food
On our final day we visited an innovative project that will eventually support 700 street-dweller families across Dhaka to establish a street food business to increase their income. This will, in turn, help them escape extreme poverty.
We went to see the project in action and had a chance to taste for ourselves. Delicious! The brand name for the food carts is Mojar Khabar, which means “tasty food”. Before these mobile kitchens are provided, the people are taught about hygiene and food safety.
These lessons were certainly put into practise by the owner of the food cart, who was wearing gloves while serving us food and his cart was spotlessly clean and shiny! It was brilliant to see projects like this as we got to see how the people are helped to be independent and self-sufficient.
Our experiences in Bangladesh changed us. Looking at charity work on the television (or debating it!) and actually experiencing it are very different things. We now all think deeper about poverty and inequality. It was great to have such a wonderful experience and to see the good work Concern does abroad.
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