I could write many more pages about Bangladesh, but perhaps you have seen enough to understand why I included the pictures and comments on a site about science toys. The Creator of our world put 96% of the human population in countries other than the one I was born in. I was lucky enough to have stepped completely out of my culture for awhile. Having my base assumptions about how things ought to be done stripped away was jarring, but revealed the world in a new light. Living in Bangladesh was pivotal to my education.
I do have to ‘fess up about one thing. I was supposed to research a needed technology, then develop and adapt it to the conditions that exist in Bangladesh. The idea worked before. Other people in my organization developed a reliable water pump for wells that was so inexpensive that even poor people could afford it. It became very popular in Bangladesh and even spread to other countries, providing clean water for millions of people as well as jobs for the people who made them.
So I was off! I was going to save the world—or at least Bangladesh—single-handedly in the three years of my term. There was the project to make paper out of weeds. There was the project to provide a mechanism to wind up twine as it was spun, for a women’s cooperative so they could work inside during the rainy season. There was the project to determine the most effective way to dry everything from spices to grated coconut, so farmer’s cooperatives could sell to the international market, and so on.
After a year in Bangladesh I was stricken with some severe health problems that were not necessarily related to being in Bangladesh. But I had to return home to get more specialized medical care. I never finished my work. Another person picked up the torch and carried on in my place.
I’ve harbored the wish that I could give something back to the people of Bangladesh for the education I got. Perhaps the preceding pages are my chance, even if it’s only to dispel some of the ignorance about them and pique some admiration for their resourcefulness.
I’d like to say a little more about the organization that sponsored me to go there, too. Although I had to leave before accomplishing my mission, there have been thousands of people who dedicated years of their lives to relief and development work throughout the world with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).
MCC is a productive and cost-effective charity because most of its workers are volunteers who commit to at least a three-year term. Some are just out of college with up to date skills and the energy of youth. Others have years of solid experience. Peace and social justice issues are very much on their radar, and they help people help themselves in practical ways.
I am not a card carrying Mennonite. Nevertheless, I have spent many hours trying to succinctly convey the respect I have for that organization of people who shared their vision with me. But there is just too much to say. For now, here’s the link to their home page. Poke around some. Their photo galleries are especially good. If you have gained something from this free science toymaker site, consider giving back by making a contribution to MCC.
I had to leave Bangladesh before I got all the pictures I wanted. Many thanks to the Dirks, Brubaker, Bergan and Wilce families, as well as to Dan Belgum, George Horlings, Kurt Wenger, Amos Showalter and Roger Waley who sent me slides for my collection. Umm, they got a little mixed up guys...contact me if there's a problem.
Mr. Sharifus Salekin has kindly provided some links that provide an updated look at Bangladesh (I haven't been there for almost two decades). He is a small business owner who exports garments to the European Union. His wife--now a homemaker with their twin sons-- used to work for a British non-government organization. He also provided the following interesting bits of information:
- Population stands at 140 million
- Nobody dies from hunger
- number 1 position holder for 3 consequetive years as the most corrupted country ( and it seems no country could take this position from us !! ).
- Cellular phone reached almost allover the country and total number of cell phones are 3 million + now and will be 6 million + by 2006.
- literacy rate reached at 51%
- immunization rate is almost the best in the world ( even better than USA !)
-Food production already 2.5 times more than in 1975
- very good road network throughout the country
- everyday 5 villages has come under rural electrification program
- the rulling and opposition parties are head to head ( the leaders don't even talk to each other during the festivals !! ).
- Bangladesh became the 8th largest Apparel producer and exporter in the world ( the industry grown at 236% per year ).
- Fish, vegetables, chicken etc being exported to Middle east , UK , USA etc.
- Bangladeshi Medicine is being exported to EU !
Thank you Mr. Salekin! links