Here’s a checklist things I’ve had to (or haven’t yet) had to endure during this project:
Donors Have Responsibilities Too
Recently, a donor raised concerns about the quality of the construction work being done on a new school I'm helping locals build. His concerns were all raised by a single instagram. From this single photo, the donor concluded that the rods were not joined properly. Therefore, this building is being built improperly. Therefore, this school won't last. Etc etc etc.,. I'd like to address this and I'd like to start by sharing a classification system I've developed as an educational tool to explain to others how various charities build schools.
A Muslim’s Thoughts on 9/11
As a Muslim, I feel personally ashamed at what happened on September 11th, 2001. I know I shouldn’t be – I wasn’t (nor any Muslim I could possibly personally know) involved in that heinous act. But Islam emphasizes unity. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Canadian Muslim, Arab Muslim, or a Bangladeshi Muslim. It makes me think: the 9/11 hijackers probably prayed in the direction of Mecca and fasted for Ramadan just like me. Yet, the first thing that most Muslims around the world did was point out that the perpetrators of 9/11 don’t represent them or Islam. As if distancing ourselves ...
Have To Be Poor To Help The Poor?
If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I'm back in Bangladesh. When I'm Dhaka, I live with my maternal uncle and aunt. Lately, I've been noticing a trend. Just a few days ago, when I came back home carrying a bunch of groceries, my uncle chastised me saying "you better not have used any donations to pay for those groceries!". In his mind, using donations - however small - for my own food, clothing, or anything that benefits me would be tantamount to stealing. [caption id="attachment_3748" align="aligncenter" width="499" caption="Toilet paper, antibiotics, soap, and pajamas - not taking a salary from ...
Tag Archive for 'Curfew'
It’s hard to tell the sense of scale when it comes to curfews. All you really worry about is that you need to get home before it’s too late. I had done my best to collect as much information and ask around before I rushed home last night. I even wrote an article about it on NowPublic.com. Shortly after, I took the article down from NowPublic because I didn’t want to post anything without confirmation. At the time, I wasn’t sure if this was a few streets and nothing more than traffic control – or something larger.
It turns out, that approximately 6,000 law enforcement officials (cops? troops? what do you call it when military backs police?) to enforce this curfew. This was reported by The Daily Star. As they reported: “Around 6,000 law enforcers will be deployed in the city including the diplomatic zone and the posh areas of Gulshan, Banani, Baridhara, Dhanmondi, Uttara and on the Dhaka University Campus.“. That’s more than just a few roadblocks.
For those used to life in Dhaka City, the only breaking aspect of this story might be that the curfew has been imposed a few hours early this year. Police and military imposed curfews happen with such regularity here, they really need a more efficient system of announcing them. I, like many people here, found out by getting a call from a relative. This relative, in turn, found out from her children as they were returning home. Thank God for cellphones – I made it back with but minutes to spare.
Curfews are not at all uncommon here in Bangladesh. My very first blog post here was regarding the post-riot curfews that were imposed across the country. This curfew is a lot more limited. It’s restricted to the parts of the city where foreigners tend to live, shop, and hang out. These areas are also the few places in the country where you can get alcohol. I guess the official government/police/military explanation (it’s really hard to tell them apart now seeing how democratic rule is currently suspended) is that they want to avoid drunk and disorderly behavior.
But some people aren’t buying that story. I’ve written up an article for NowPublic talking about some of the speculation that I’ve been hearing. I guess, when you live in a place where curfews can be imposed on short notice, it’s easy to start speculating.
A copy of the NowPublic article is available after the jump. You can also read it at this link.
When I first started this blog, I didn’t have much to show for this project. In fact, the day I wrote my first blog post I was stuck in a relatives’ home because all of Bangladesh was under military curfew.
Since then I have a lot to show: I’ve given away two cases of water during the summer flooding season. I’ve given over fifty mosquito nets (including one long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito net called PermaNet) to rural villagers. I’ve given wind-up flashlights to low-income students trying to study without electricity as well as one to a low-income disaster relief volunteer. I’ve helped to pay for a large group of poor children to have a balanced and healthy meal. And, recently, I’ve distributed 70 blankets (30 of which I did with Save the Children, another 30 with Muslim Aid UK, and 10 I gave out one-on-one) to victims of a Cyclone Sidr.
So it’s about time I tweak the look of the site a bit. Gone is the static photo of my Notre Dame hat and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ book. I’m still using that photo – but the main picture on my site now changes randomly every few minutes (you’ll have to reload manually) to shows some of the things I’ve done and interesting people I’ve met. This change also reflects a decision I’ve made.
When I first came to Bangladesh, I thought I would stay here for a couple of months and then go. But since coming here, I’ve kept changing my departure date. September departures became October departures – and so on. I don’t know when exactly I am going to fly home – but I know I will be here in Bangladesh Christmas and the New Year. For the first time in my life – I’ll be spending Christmas and New Years away from both my Mom and Dad.
It’s not easy staying here. There are bugs, germs, and it’s easy to get sick. I’m far from my friends and I am kind of getting homesick. This has also had a cost on my family (in particular my mother who had contracted Dengue Fever during the time she was accompanying me on this project). But, despite all this difficulty, I have a unique opportunity. I’m doing something no one has ever done before (at least in terms of how I’m sharing my experience and work online with others through Flickr, YouTube, and blogging). And I’m helping others while I do it. How many people can say that?
I also want to share a message and inspire others. It’s hard to do that if I’m just uploading old footage and photos from my home in Canada. Hopefully by staying this project can grow and perhaps inspire others.
I actually started my first blog over eight years ago. I had stopped when I came to a realization: I’m boring. Writing about my life isn’t at all interesting. So, when it came to making a blog for this project – I tried my best to avoid blogging about personal issues. In hindsight, that was a bad idea. There are a lot of good stories that I haven’t talked about simply because they didn’t connect with any issues directly relating to the project.
For example, there was this time when I had to fight with Arab security at an airport in the Middle East. They had confiscated my Notre Dame branded Nalgene bottle because they said it was too big of a water bottle to take onto the plane (even though I had been permitted to bring it on board my connecting flight by airport security in North America). I refused to leave the security checkpoint without it. This was admittedly a very bad move – my passport was confiscated and I was surrounded by security forces. A female family member who had traveled along with me tried to plea with them. This only angered them because apparently, in that country, women are forbidden to talk to men who aren’t family. How we were able to leave in one piece – with my Notre Dame bottle returned to me no less – is quite the story.
Unfortunately, not every story has had a happy ending…. Continue reading ‘What Do I Have To Show For All This?’
“We can’t discuss this over the phone” is something I’ve been hearing a lot lately while in Bangladesh. Whether it’s openly talking about the military government, the curfew they have imposed, or the riots that instigated the curfew – people are scared to even talk. I’ve been to Bangladesh many times before – but I’ve never seen people this scared before.
There have been riots, strikes, and curfews in the country before – but there are a few things which make this time different. First, there is no longer a democratically elected government. In the past, one political party topples another (either by force or political pressure) – elections usually follow. But what happens when you topple a military government? No one is really sure.
This time is also different because journalists and foreigners are being targeted. Typically, democratic political parties would want cameras rolling – hoping that the media will sympathize with them and vilify the enemy instead. But, now even the BBC isn’t even safe from being caught by the army. Local journalists haven’t been as lucky – with many being detained and reporting beatings (source).
No one seems to be safe from the government’s eye here. The government’s have accused democratic politicians, foreigners, NGOs, or simply “evil forces” as being responsible for the riots and as justification for continued curfews.
It’s times like this that I’d rather be in South Bend. Aren’t we playing against Georgia Tech this weekend?
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.