Danita Topcagic

Danita Topcagic (Blind Education and Rehabilitation Development Organization - BERDO): Danita was raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but moved to the United States with her family at the age of fourteen as a refugee. She is passionate about humanitarian work and earned her BA in international relations from University of Missouri – Columbia. Danita received her MA in global finance, trade and economic integration with a focus in international development from University of Denver.

TRIP: Washington to meet Dhaka

14 Aug

This entry is a part of series summarizing a trip to rural and remote villages in Bangladesh to observe the impact of micro-credit program. Iain Guest, the Executive Director of Advocacy Project, joins us. To read the whole story, start with this blog and work your way up.

Iain Guest, the Executive Director of Advocacy Project (AP), accepted the invitation to visit BERDO and meet Saidul Huq for the first time. I was also excited and anxious to meet Iain because he is the co-founder of AP and my boss, a professor on human rights at Georgetown University, and an expert on the Balkans having worked there as a journalist during the conflict. Before reaching Bangladesh, Iain traveled to Bosnia and India to meet the AP Peace Fellows working there.

Saidul Huq, the Executive Director of BERDO, invited Iain to visit BERDO because he is thankful to AP for their continuous support and he wants to continue this partnership because it helps BERDO advocate for persons with disabilities. Saidul and I planned every hour of Iain’s stay in Bangladesh, from the moment the plane lands up to the last minute it leaves. However, we left it up to Iain to deal with information overload, lack of sleep and over exhaustion on his way to meet other fellows and partners in Nepal, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.

Working in the non-profit sector in Washington DC, Iain informed us of the buzz generated by micro-credit as an approach to development and empowerment. Therefore he was eager to evaluate BERDO’s community-based rehabilitation program that uses micro-credit to integrate the disabled and non-disabled members of the community, while at the same time providing them with access to credit. In addition, Iain wanted to meet the beneficiaries of micro-credit program who were affected by cyclone last year and who received small donations form individual donors collected by AP during Christmas in 2007.

BERDO staff and I felt quite lucky to have an expert like Iain evaluate our work and provide us with suggestions. Iain’s expertise lies in the information production and working with civil societies, so I was ready to take notes. I felt that I really needed some advice how to make an impact and train BERDO’s staff to use internet as a tool for information sharing so that they can expand their reach in promoting awareness of people with disabilities. I am finding many difficulties in training BERDO’s staff to advocate because of the language barrier, all except Saidul have minimal English knowledge. This makes it close to impossible to advocate on international level, and I wonder will anyone be able to carry on with this work after I leave.

Maybe I need to shift gears and take different approach in working with BERDO? Maybe, and probably, I should extend the duration of my stay with BERDO because three months just isn’t enough time to leave a solid footprint. Having Iain here to share my thoughts and frustrations will help clarify some issues.

The following four blogs will summarize our trip to Barisal and the stories of people we met.

Posted By Danita Topcagic

Posted Aug 14th, 2008

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