Amanda Lasik

Amanda Lasik (The Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization- BERDO): Amanda received a bachelor’s degree in International Business from Northern Arizona University. She served as an Americorps VISTA member working on educational programs for immigrants in rural Washington State. Amanda has also volunteered in Central America and worked for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, where she managed legislative advocacy related to health care and disability rights, wellness programs, and Spanish self-help groups. At the time of her fellowship, Amanda was studying international development at the University of California San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies. After her fellowship Amanda wrote: “[This] was a great learning experience for my professional development. I gained an invaluable perspective on a new part of the world. I have a much greater understanding of Islam and a culture I was unfamiliar with prior to my fellowship. I also have a new understanding of the challenges of fundraising for small NGOs in developing countries.”



BACK TO SCHOOL

15 Sep

Bangladesh has yet to make it onto most tourist itineraries because of overpopulation, environmental problems, poverty and myriad other challenges, but Bangladesh is worth visiting for one reason: the people. The Bangladeshi people are hospitable, patient and always willing to help. The people I have met and the new perspectives they have provided me with will be what I remember most as I leave Bangladesh.

Micro-finance group discussion in Tongi
Micro-finance group discussion in Tongi

When I first learned that there are approximately two million people with visual impairments in Bangladesh and then witnessed the poverty on the streets and endless hartals (strikes) over government disagreements, BERDO’s mission seemed almost insurmountable. My summer here has shown me that BERDO’s reach is small, but they somehow find a way to address Bangladesh’s challenges head-on and create an environment where people with disabilities can come for training, resources and meeting others. BERDO’s staff members taught me how to guide people who are blind and how to organize a program with incredibly limited resources. They taught me about their culture, their country and personalized international development for me in a way that complements my graduate school curriculum.

My fellowship has re-affirmed for me that people with disabilities do not want special treatment; they want an opportunity to participate fully in society. People in both the United States and Bangladesh have told me how they desire to have society focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities and how they could do this job or that job if only they were given the opportunity. I am blessed to know people in different parts of the world that are helping with job placement and educating communities about disability issues, one person at a time.

I wanted to complete my blog with a link to BERDO’s new website, but this project that I have been working on all summer is still a week or two away from completion. However, it would be remiss of me not to add one small fundraising plug for BERDO. Bangladesh is home to 23,000 NGOs, and competition is intense! I have personally learned how frustrating fundraising can be for a local NGO in a developing country, and I can assure you that a small amount of money can go a long way in Bangladesh. If you are interested in donating to BERDO, this can be done through the Advocacy Project’s partner website at http://advocacynet.org/page/berdo.

I will close with some of my favorite pictures from the summer and a quote by Margaret Mead that encapsulates BERDO’s work, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Dominoes time!
Dominoes time!
Maksuda saying goodbye
Maksuda saying goodbye
Halima Begum prepares lunch
Halima Begum prepares lunch
Practical disability awareness education
Practical disability awareness education
Amanda Lasik and Md. Saidul Huq at Lalbagh Fort
Amanda Lasik and Md. Saidul Huq at Lalbagh Fort

Posted By Amanda Lasik

Posted Sep 15th, 2011

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