At the risk of sounding too cliche, it’s very difficult to come up with the right words to close out my blog and sum up what my summer was like in Bangladesh. I’m back in New York City now, after a nice couple of weeks visiting family in Germany, back to the grad school grind and seeing good friends, falling back into the rhythm and chaos of New York life. I’m happy to be home but the past three months comprised one of the most rewarding and interesting experiences of my life. I experienced the ins and outs of a new country, culture and people. I met so many people, all of them warm and welcoming. I made friends, had the opportunity to take many photographs of a beautiful country full of beautiful people, and did what I could to lay the framework for a longer partnership between the Advocacy Project and the Subornogram Foundation. I injured my foot, writhed in pain when my appendix unknowingly burst, survived emergency surgery with the help of some awesome and caring people, and discovered that I’d definitely like to do more work in human rights advocacy and photojournalism in the future.
Bangladesh is a country that faces challenges many of us in the United States cannot fathom. Corruption is rampant, there are high levels of economic inequality, and the majority of the country survives with so much less than we have here. Women aren’t treated particularly well and religious or cultural norms are often used as the justification. This list is pretty standard for most of us who’ve worked in developing countries but for me at least, it’s never something you get used to. Even having witnessed similar problems in Mongolia and Cambodia, it’s still a struggle to witness and deal with. My limited experience has led me to believe that despite these challenges, Bangladesh has a bright future. Many people I came across were heavily involved in civil society and local politics. Even in the face of dealing with frustrating problems that appear to have no solutions, many of the people I met remained positive and didn’t allow themselves to be easily discouraged, especially Shahed. I’ve mentioned this before but being around Shahed and witnessing his ability to absorb all the frustrating and sometimes maddening things he has to deal with, and continue to remain positive and work through it…it’s just inspiring and motivating.
I’m grateful to the Advocacy Project staff and interns for giving me the opportunity to carry the title of Peace Fellow, and for connecting me with someone who I know will be a lifelong friend, Shahed Kayes. I’m grateful for the incredible hospitality, support, guidance and friendship that Shahed provided me while I stayed in Sonargaon and worked with Subornogram Foundation. I’m grateful to Adam and Frisca for keeping me humble and making me laugh, for taking care of me. I’m grateful for the input and guidance of Dr. Solomon at the U.S. embassy and to the doctors and nurses at Apollo Hospital who operated on me and took care of me afterwards. And of course I’m forever grateful to the friends and family who donated to my cause this summer, which allowed me to travel to Bangladesh in the first place. Thank you.
My Peace Fellowship in Bangladesh has come to a close but I know that I will be back eventually. While I finish my graduate studies and move forward in life, I’ll continue to do what I can to support Shahed and Subornogram Foundation. The challenges faced by the river gypsies, Dalit cobblers and Mayadip islanders are very important to me and I hope to do what I can in coming months and years to raise awareness for the challenges they face and provide them with the help they need to improve their quality of life.
To those who’ve followed my blog this summer, thank you for reading, thank you for the support and commentary and I hope you’ve enjoyed witnessing my experience through this blog, the photos and videos. What an amazing summer. Cheers.
Posted By Matthew Becker
Posted Sep 26th, 2012