We spent the first 11 days of our trip to Bangladesh in the capital city of Dhaka which, though dusty and busy, is full of wonderful bright colours. After a day of rest at the guesthouse and a long journey in a hectic traffic jam (they really are as severe as everyone had warned), we eventually made it to our first stop: the Liberation Museum. Here we learnt about Bangladesh's War of Independence and its struggle against West Pakistan.
After a little more sightseeing and some interesting visits to local development projects, we began our training from Dhaka University's Centre for Disaster and Vulnerability Studies. There are eight UK volunteers in the Bangladesh team and we are divided into three areas to co-ordinate with VSO Bangladesh's 'model village' concept. This work plan seeks to establish good practice in each of the villages and to then be able to apply these to other rural areas of Bangladesh. During the training we learnt about the practical development tools we could use to map good practice and assist us in designing our projects. We also heard about the activities of previous ICS volunteers in the villages so that we could decide how best to continue.
Joining us on our placements are students from Dhaka University and local youth volunteers from each village, which makes for a great combination of backgrounds and perspectives. The focus of each of the projects varies, but I am in the north-west and working closely with the youth club to establish a successful dairy farming co-operative.
We received a very warm welcome from the whole village on arrival and were presented with flowers and led to our host home. After only a few days we have already made our day-to-day work plan and visited service-providing agencies, such as the local agriculture department.
We are currently conducting a baseline survey of the co-operative members and also have a Community Action Day coming up that we need to organise and prepare for - so the team are being kept very busy. Having said that, life has a very gentle pace here, with people slowly passing by on their bicycles and we are still managing to find the time to play some essential games of cricket!