Volunteer Staff in Bangladesh
Volunteering in Bangladesh is an experience like no other. With the numerous cultures throughout the continent that differ greatly from one another, Asia is one of the best places in the world to see places and meet people from different walks of life. As a volunteer, you get a chance to live life like a local and create relationships that will stay with you for the rest of your life.
South and Southeast Asian countries offer the most opportunities for volunteers to make a difference. Here, while the growing economy is helping many, for others life is much more difficult. In some areas, poverty is a grim reality of life. From this, however, come the countless ways that volunteers can help impoverished communities overcome some difficulties and create a better life fro themselves.
Bangladesh is a country in south Asia that serves as a great place to help less fortunate people. The country has many areas where people live in impoverished communities, enough so that many things that we take fore granted like quality healthcare, education, and sanitation simply are unavailable to the local people. The people in these communities are who the volunteers will have daily interactions with as you help in many difference capacities in the area. However, our volunteers would be left a little bit in the dark if it weren’t for the local volunteers that help.
Getting to Know Local People
The local volunteers at project sites play a valuable role in helping our volunteers reach the people who truly need it. As volunteers live in the community, you will have daily interactions with local people. Volunteers are encouraged to go out and explore, finding new places to eat, drink coffee, or sightsee; all the while meeting new, interesting people who call that community home. Locals see volunteers differently than your average tourist. Spending more than just a few days in one place, locals begin to recognize volunteers and know that you have travelled a long way just to help out the local people.
Our local staff is there to help volunteers with whatever they need. They will help in the beginning of the day with meals and transportation to the project sites. The local volunteers are also a great place to start when searching for a new place to go see or a popular local restaurant. At the project sites themselves, local staff plays a crucial role in bridging the language barrier that can restrict communication between foreigners and locals. Volunteers must be patient with the locals as many of them do not speak English, but our staff is always great to lend a hand with translating instructions for the work needed to be done as well as getting to know the people you are helping.
Meeting new people is one of the best parts about volunteering in Bangladesh. Volunteers meet people from all sorts of backgrounds. In the communities, volunteers meet locals everyday and develop relationships with everyone from the local restaurant owner to the old woman selling fruit in the market. Not only that, you work alongside locals to help enrich their own community.
Locals aren’t the only people that volunteers interact with on a daily basis. An important part of what makes volunteering in Bangladesh so empowering is that the foreign volunteers come from vastly different cultures as well. It’s this mixing of cultures and ideas that provides an even wider view of cultures all over the world.
Learning the Language
Bangladesh’s national languages is Bengali, or Bangla. English is represented to a certain extent in law, government, and education but most people in the communities volunteers will be working in speak Bengali as well as various dialects in the more rural communities. Volunteers who work in Bangladesh are not expected to speak Bengali well but learning small phrases will help you when trying to assimilate in to the culture and give you a deeper glimpse into the culture as well.
It’s always good to start small. Local staff can help you learn the greetings quickly and it’s always fun to practice your speaking with the other volunteers. Even a simple “hello!”(assalamu alaikum) in the local language will put a smile on face of a local. Simple greetings like “how are you” (kêmon achho?) and “I’m fine” (bhalo achhi) make for a fun way to get involved in the culture.
Learning a few words of the local language is also help if you are a curious eater and would like to explore the delicious food around the area. Local staff are great at pointing you in the right direction when it comes to food. If you find something you like, learn the name so you can come back and order it again sometime. The local restaurant owners will be impressed!
Eating the Local Food
Bangladesh has still remained relatively isolated from large western food chains and influence getting into the food culture. In the capial of Dhaka, you may find some western restaurants and cafes, but in the communities volunteers work there are few if any western food options. Luckily, Bangladesh is home to some amazing cuisine.
Rice is a stable in Bangladeshi cuisine. The climate and geography have played a major role in shaping the flavor of a nation. The geography of Bangladesh is characterized by the vast amount of rivers that flow through the country. Most of the country lies in what is known as the Ganges Delta, the river delta formed when the Ganges river meets the Bay of Bengal. As one of the largest river deltas in the world, fish has always been another stable. The river also made Bangladesh a center for trade for spices, so the food here is packed full of flavor. Indian and Burmese food has had its own impact on the cuisine here so you can expect to eat rich, spicy curries, savory salads, and a variety of flat breads.
Eating the local food isn’t only necessary in some communities in Bangladesh, it is also a great way for volunteers to see an important part of Bangladeshi culture. As with anywhere in the world, the dinner table is where is you can really see the heart of a culture.