Stories of Volunteers
A Journey to Bangladesh
By Emily Fajerman
My first journey to Bangladesh was in 2006 with Latrobe University on a study Tour it was during this time that I quickly discovered the great beauty in the land and the people. Throughout the study tour we were introduced to many NGOs jeoperating in Bangladesh in a variety of sectors and one of those organizations was Utsho Bangladesh. Utsho Bangladesh was presented to us by the charismatic Executive Director Leena Apa. It was during her presentation that I felt the compelling need to volunteer with this unique and amazing organization and I knew it instantly I would be back.
I arrived in Bangladesh in late August by my own means to commence my volunteer work at utsho Bangladesh for two months. Utsho Bangladesh is a non-governmental organization supporting and promoting women’s and children’s human right. It has been focusing on the critical needs of working single mothers and their children in the urban slums of Bangladesh since 1993.
My role was in Communications and Fundraising and I undertook many duties during my two months work with Utsho. This particular role consisted of developing and implementing a structured Volunteer Youth Group, assisting in the organizations of workshops for youth, developing promotional materials such as a brochure and web site, exploring fundraising options, writing funding proposals, assisting in the coordination, management and capacity building of the Utsho volunteer group and assisting Utsho in activities to gain and attract donor support.
My colleagues and workmates at utsho quickly became an extended family and the support, patience and friendship I received from them was overwhelming. I learnt so much from working with the staff at Utsho and I will be forever grateful for all they did for me. This particular organization focusing on the critical needs of marginalized children and women in Bangladesh is amazing and exceptional grass root NGO that continues to fight for the women’s and children’s rights. Their dedication and commitment is imperative to the change they can help bring to Bangladesh and I believe they make a great difference to the lives of the children they continue to work with everyday.
From Australia to Bangladesh, narrowing the gap of social inequality
By Suzanne Jamieson
In November 2006, I was part of a study tour to Bangladesh. It was at this time; I met Mahbooba Mahmood Leena and introduced to Utsho. Two years later I have returned from Australia to Bangladesh to assist for two months as a volunteer with the organization. I am here purely through my own undertaking and initiatives, so I am not bound by contracts governed by external organizations that may have a strong influence in the work I do, instead I work closely with Utsho.
On a professional level I work in the public health sector, so why work with Utsho you may ask. In order for people to achieve optimum health it is important that regardless of their class, gender, religion or age they have the ability to reach their full potential. The only way it can be achieved is to ensure people have a safe environment to live, work, grow, and gain an education. I feel that we all have a social responsibility to narrow the glaringly obvious gap in social equality, it is only then that people have the ability to reach their full potential and achieve optimum health. So I really could not think of a better place to start than with Utsho, who also strongly believe in the importance of allowing people the opportunity to reach their full potential. When I arrived I have no idea what I was going to do and soon found out that there is a tremendous amount of work to be done. The Utsho staff has kept me extremely busy preparing flyers, writing letters, working on project proposals and teaching the children about healthy eating as well as teaching them songs about Australia.
On a personal note one might ask why I would want to travel half way around the world to Bangladesh and work as an unpaid volunteer with an organization which outside Dhaka is relatively unknown. There are a couple of reasons; the first is that when I tell people about Utsho, they are interested to know about the organization and the work they do. Whereas if I worked with a large well known organization people are aware of their work are really not interested in knowing much else. So in a way it is a tactical ploy, another way of bringing the rights of underprivileged and marginalized children to the foreground. The second reason is to expand the current international relationship and hopefully build an international network where people can unite and address the global human rights issues. But of course the main reason for my return is simple; I wanted to give something back to others.
When you steps thorough the main gate the sound of car horns and bicycle bells is replaced with the laughter of children at play. If it were not for Utsho Bidyaniketon two schools the students and the women who work in the organization’s restaurant and boutique would have been denied basic rights. However for these projects to be fully sustainable they rely on volunteers. That is where you and I can help. It really does not take much to know that I have made a positive change. I know that I have made a positive contribution to a very worthy cause.