The months of May and June have brought us much to reflect on and think about as we move forward with our new roles within MCC, settle into our new home in the city of Mymensingh, and adjust to new daily routines. We have now fully transitioned from fulltime language study in Dhaka to fulltime work based in MCC’s Mymensingh office. Nishant’s official role is as the ‘Market Development Advisor’ and mine is the ‘Health, Education and Social Services (HESS) Project Assistant’.
In May we finished fulltime intensive language study in Dhaka. This was comprised of grammar lessons in the morning, conversation classes in the afternoon, and homework in the evenings. Although it was quite challenging, we feel that this time of intensively studying the language has helped set us up for a smooth transition to living and working in Bangladesh. Nevertheless, we still need to work hard at acquiring more language skills, but we are so thankful for the last three months in which we could devote our full attention to learning. We now plan to continue studying Banlga for 1-2 hours a week in Mymensingh with a private tutor.
Our time in Dhaka was also beneficial for culturally adjusting to Bangladesh as it gave us time to develop a support network. Through meeting new friends and professionally networking, we now feel a sense of familiarity in Dhaka as we frequently travel back and forth between Mymensingh and Dhaka.
The final aspect of our orientation to MCC Bangladesh was to visit MCC’s third office in Bogra, a city which is over 200 km / 125 miles from Dhaka. During this exposure visit, we spent our time visiting different projects and partners that MCC works. Here we were able to learn about the different areas that the MCC Bogra office focuses on, which include agriculture, and health and peace training.
On one of the days in Bogra, we had the opportunity to visit a local school where students are selected each year to participate in a three year capacity building project. Each student initially receives a young goat and they are then provided with after school training sessions to learn about rearing livestock and practical farming techniques. The students in turn put what they have learned into practice on their local family farms where they are able to share their new knowledge with their family. Initiatives like this are scaled across the region by MCC and some of the specific projects include vermicomposting, introducing pheromone traps (to replace pesticide use) and crop diversification. As MCC provides agriculture technical assistance, additional trainings are also integrated to engage and support the local community, including HIV and sexual health awareness, and peace training on conflict management. We had the opportunity to meet many of the people that had participated in these training sessions and were really encouraged by the stories that they shared on how they were able to practically apply their new knowledge to resolve family conflicts or financially support their families. One of these was a girl in high school who received a goat two years ago and has now grown to own a small successful vermicomposting business that provides the community with an organic alternative to chemical fertilizers. With the money she has made, she was able to build a better house for her family and is now able to afford to go to university.
At the beginning of June, Nishant and I moved to Mymensingh and into an apartment that MCC found and set-up for us. We feel very blessed to finally feel at home in this apartment as we have been able to set up many of the things we brought after being in transition for almost six months. Our new home is very close to the office, just a short 10 minute walk. MCC also has several bicycles which we can use to get around the town. For our first few weekends in Mymensingh, we explored different areas including the local river and walk way and the local markets. We have also had the chance to visit a community started by the Taizé Brothers. We are hoping that as we get more familiar with those living in this community it will be a place for spiritual renewal and friendship. For more information about the Taizé Brothers’ work in Bangladesh, check out: The brothers in Bangladesh
On another weekend we had the chance to visit a village outside Mymensingh to meet and learn about a man with a truly inspirational life. Joynal Abedin tragically witnessed his father die of a primary health illness due to the fact that the closest clinic was over 20 km away, making it too far to go to with the poor road infrastructure. This event deeply impacted Mr. Abedin’s life and he dreamed of opening a health clinic to service those in his rural community. Shortly after, he moved with his family to Dhaka where he worked as a rickshaw puller for 20 years, secretly saving 2/3 of his monthly income until he finally had enough to move back to his village near Mymensingh and buy a plot of land to build a clinic.
As we sat and drank tea with Mr. Adedin, his commitment to his community and helping the vulnerable was very evident as he explained the work he is doing with his family. The clinic now has a doctor that visits frequently and assistants that see about 150 people per day. Medications are given to those who are unable to afford the cost and primary health care treatments are provided. Being illiterate, Mr. Abedin also realized the importance of education, so he also started a small school for children in grade 1-5, as well as job skills training for women learning how to sew. Mr. Abedin now dreams of opening an old age home to care for the vulnerable aging community. For more about Mr. Abedin’s story, check out the following article written by the BBC: Bangladesh rickshaw puller starts clinic for the poor
As we learn more and more about the Bangladeshi people, we are truly being inspired. We are encouraged to continue to work hard at the tasks set before us each day and in the relationships that we are able to develop. In the months ahead, we will require perseverance as we miss friends and family back home, but we know that we are in the right place at the right time.
PLEASE BE PRAYING THAT:
1. We stay healthy as we enter into the Monsoon season with lots of rain, high humidity and heat
2. We foster positive relationships with our colleagues and develop trust with those that we work with
3. We stay safe as we frequently travel back and forth between Dhaka and Mymensingh
4. MCC Bangladesh continues to work well through a transition time of strategic changes
Erin (and Nishant)
Check out the full May album at: May 2014
Check out the full June album at: June 2014