Caitlin Burnett

Caitlin Burnett (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization – BERDO): Caitlin is a native of Williamsburg, Massachusetts. She received her BA in psychology and politics from Ithaca university in 2005. At the time of her fellowship, Caitlin was studying for a Master’s degree in ethics, peace and global affairs at the School of International Service at American University.

saying goodbye

14 Aug

As the summer draw to a close, I find that I’m at something of a loss for words. The past eleven weeks have been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I dove into the summer not knowing what to expect and, while I figured out what was required of me, I feel like I have yet to come up for air.

In some ways, these last few days have been spent looking back on the summer. After all this time, what did I accomplish that has made my time worthwhile? That’s a relatively easy question as I evaluate all I’ve seen and learned, as well as all that BERDO and I have accomplished – from a website to a news bulletin, or a newsletter to presenting a paper at the first ever conference on ICT for Disability in Bangladesh, it has been a productive summer.

The larger part of my attention has been focused on looking forward. On the one hand, I want to know – how can we ensure that the progress made this summer will continue? As a practical question, there are plenty of practical answers. We can make sure that news from BERDO continues to reach AP and that AP continues to help BERDO reach the wider international community, along with many more mundane details like website maintenance and updating databases.

But, as the hour of my departure draws closer, so too do all of my worries about transitioning back into life in the U.S. – from the simple things like running water and driving my own car again, to the more intimidating prospect of returning to work and school, there’s a lot to think about. The more complicated question that I’ve been asking myself lately seems like a bit of a cliché – will I ever view the world in the same way again?

Putting it in writing, the question seems pretty childish. But, in all sincerity it is one that’s really got me concerned.

Next week, will I stop to be grateful that clean water comes out of the faucets every time I turn it on? Will I say a silent “thank you” to the water authority when I rinse my toothbrush with tap water without thinking about the consequences?

By Thanksgiving, at a stop light in Georgetown during my commute home will I remember all the frantic tapping on the windows that was the norm only a few months before as beggars tried to make a living out of commuters stuck in the traffic jams of Dhaka?

A year from now, when I put the recycling bin on the curb to be picked up will I bother trying to calculate the number of meals that my trash represents to a Bangladeshi child whose childhood is lost to picking through garbage for recyclables to redeem for food?

A decade from now, as I go through yet another job interview, will I remember Monju and wonder how many more times she had to listen to employers who simply say “we have no jobs for persons with disability”?

I don’t know if this is culture shock in advance of my return or if the emotional goodbyes are just going to my head. I guess if nothing else, on a personal level, this summer has made me think about my life and work in an entirely new way. Sitting back and accepting that discrimination, poverty, and humiliation are the norm for persons with disability in Bangladesh, or other marginalized people across the globe, is simply not an option. There’s just too much that can and must be done to prevent it.

Posted By Caitlin Burnett

Posted Aug 14th, 2007


  • Nazrul Islam

    August 17, 2007


    Hi Caitlin, This is Nazrul fromm Relief International. I suddenly came across your blogs when I was searching for news about the ICT and Disability Conference publihshed in newspapers online. Your blog seems interesting.

    Thanks for joining the ICT and Disability conference at BRAC Inn and presenting the paper.I appreciate your interest in the topic.

    I also must appreiciate for your help to BERDO. I hope BERDO will soon be able to get the Internet Learning Center up and running again and it will tunr to be a facility/access point for visually impaired youth to learn some marketable skills and find decent jobs. As you have seen, life of a person with disability is so difficult in Bangladesh like many other places in the world. Making a living is even harder for them than one can imagine.

    Keep up your good works and all the best with your efforts to make a difference in lives of people with disabilities.

    Nazrul Islam
    Director, ICT for Development
    Relief International-Schools Online, Bangladesh

  • Devin Greenleaf

    August 24, 2007


    This is awesome Caitlin. Thanks for articulating this transition so beautifully. See you in Washington.

  • Jennifer

    December 3, 2007


    No, you will never look at the world the same way again. Yes, you remember all those things. Not every moment but at least every day. I am a teacher for people with disabilties. I will never forget what I saw in Bangladesh. I have a photo of a school built for children of women in a microcredit program. It sits on my desk and reminds me of what life is like for some people. It keeps me grounded when I am fed up with the American education system. And I remember those people when I eat, when I go shopping, when I miss hearing the call to prayer. Even when I sit down I remember the scramble in the villages to find enough rickity chairs for a couple of guests to sit in. Don’t ever forget!

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