Why I Am Here

Boy Near a Bosti

This kid is why I am here in Bangladesh. I took this photo six years and one month ago and his face has been stuck in my head ever since. 149 children, out of every 1,000, who are under five years of age die each year in Bangladesh (this number has since lowered to 73 out of a thousand) (source). When I think about that, I wonder, is this kid still alive? Dengue Fever and typhoid – easily (and cheaply) treatable diseases – are big killers in Bangladesh (especially in the cities, where this photo was taken). This kid lived in a slum (aka a “bosti”) surrounded by pools of stagnant water, trash and mosquitoes – all of which raises the odds of contracting such diseases.

Dr. Jeffrey Sachs, author of the book “The End of Poverty”, argues that extreme poverty like the kind faced by this kid can be eliminated in our lifetime. Dr. Sachs was the one who inspired me to put grad school on hold and come to Bangladesh to try and make a difference. But it’s this kid – who happened to walk up to me because he was curious about my camera – who taught me how I can make this difference. This isn’t about ending global poverty, making a statement, or changing the world. If I can make a significant difference in the life of just one person – that’s good enough for me.

As I move around Dhaka during this time of curfews and civil unrest – with photo ID in my pocket, hoping I don’t attract the attention of a soldier at a checkpoint – it’s this kid and others like him that remind me why I’m here.

  • Maya Bini

    Poverty is a curse. Its a way of keeping us enslaved forever. Jeffrey may have good intentions but the fact is that our stark poverty is a tool for exploitation both at home (by natives who are subservient to institutions like the World Bank and IMF and many other NGOs operating here who actually treat us and them differently.)and abroad. Bangladesh’s only solution is to cut down its population to a reasonable sustainable level. Foreign aid and meddling have actually aggravated our ails.

    Local recruits are paid poorly while foreign consultants get collossal amounts in dollars for the same work. Isn’t that discrimination?

    BRAC and GRAMEEN INC. are at the forefront of such exploiters. Both these institutions are backing the illegtimate fascist government in the country at present and are lending support to the antidemocratic fascist junta. Both are conspiring to smear the politicians so that they through their donor agencies can rip off Bangladesh.

    I don’t understand why the Clintons are trying so hard to promote these two institutions. Common people have already rejected Yunus as a alternative to major political parties because of his corrupt practices in the Grameen-Telenor deal. Since Yunus was directly involved in putting the former PMs beind bars he too may one day end up in the same manner. Peoples’ power have always prevailed over internationally superimposed solutions in Bangladesh no matter how hard dalaals like Yunus or Abed are propelled into the limelight. There’s too much of meddling in Bangladesh politics by donor agencies, the US, UK and UN and this is infuriating the people.

  • Maya Bini

    Poverty is a curse. Its a way of keeping us enslaved forever. Jeffrey may have good intentions but the fact is that our stark poverty is a tool for exploitation both at home (by natives who are subservient to institutions like the World Bank and IMF and many other NGOs operating here who actually treat us and them differently.)and abroad. Bangladesh’s only solution is to cut down its population to a reasonable sustainable level. Foreign aid and meddling have actually aggravated our ails.

    Local recruits are paid poorly while foreign consultants get collossal amounts in dollars for the same work. Isn’t that discrimination?

    BRAC and GRAMEEN INC. are at the forefront of such exploiters. Both these institutions are backing the illegtimate fascist government in the country at present and are lending support to the antidemocratic fascist junta. Both are conspiring to smear the politicians so that they through their donor agencies can rip off Bangladesh.

    I don’t understand why the Clintons are trying so hard to promote these two institutions. Common people have already rejected Yunus as a alternative to major political parties because of his corrupt practices in the Grameen-Telenor deal. Since Yunus was directly involved in putting the former PMs beind bars he too may one day end up in the same manner. Peoples’ power have always prevailed over internationally superimposed solutions in Bangladesh no matter how hard dalaals like Yunus or Abed are propelled into the limelight. There’s too much of meddling in Bangladesh politics by donor agencies, the US, UK and UN and this is infuriating the people.

  • http://uncultured.com Shawn

    Hi Maya,

    I have to say that your comments have left me a bit sad. I certainly hope that you don’t see my presence in Bangladesh as “meddling”.

    As far back as I can remember, my goal has been to devote my life to helping the world’s worst off. I have come here as an individual, but if I came here as a UN official or aid agency employee – would you welcome me any less?

    A lot of people who join the UN and aid agencies have the same motivation as me. Corruption is a problem. But there are more good people than bad. So why vilify everyone for the actions of a minority?

    The world becomes a better place when we start to realize that no one has a monopoly on caring for the plight of others.

  • http://uncultured.com Shawn

    Hi Maya,

    I have to say that your comments have left me a bit sad. I certainly hope that you don’t see my presence in Bangladesh as “meddling”.

    As far back as I can remember, my goal has been to devote my life to helping the world’s worst off. I have come here as an individual, but if I came here as a UN official or aid agency employee – would you welcome me any less?

    A lot of people who join the UN and aid agencies have the same motivation as me. Corruption is a problem. But there are more good people than bad. So why vilify everyone for the actions of a minority?

    The world becomes a better place when we start to realize that no one has a monopoly on caring for the plight of others.