Having flown into Dhaka, Bangladesh a little earlier than the team, I greeted them on Day 2 of the Elective Aid trip as they arrived into Victory Hotel. I had met some members of the team at the initial launch day in February, however they were brief encounters. So I was nervous as I had no idea of the people I’d be spending my days and nights with throughout the next four weeks. But I soon found out that barriers were made to be broken as the daily updates on our “funny tummy” soon became the norm.
Day 3: We spent four full days in Dhaka in total. On the first day we met with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) for an introduction into their maternal health care initiative. We also had a chance to meet Sabina Yasmin, founder of the MEJNIN project, another BRAC initiative. Sabina had worked very hard to set up the MEJNIN project in 2012 amongst a community where child marriage and gender inequality is highly prevalent. MEJNIN works with student groups in schools to raise awareness and empower young girls in education. The students of the watch groups, which span across the city of Dhaka, give up their free time in school to campaign and encourage girls to speak out against child marriage and gender issues, with the aim of promoting gender equality in Bangladesh. As a British-Bangladeshi, to visit Bangladesh and witness the gender inequality was shocking and very painful to see. But meeting young girls with such motivation gives me hope that one day gender inequality can be eliminated in Bangladesh.
Day 4&5: Over the next couple of days, Asif (our friend and personal tour guide) showed us the gems of Dhaka city. We visited Dhaka University, North South University, The Shaheed Minaar and Lal Bagh Fort. The monsoon rain showed us no mercy as we trudged along from site to site in downpour. However the refresher on the history and birth of Bangladesh was certainly necessary. During the evenings, we did some shopping in Dhaka’s biggest shopping centres – Bashundhara City and Jamuna Shopping Mall where I bought my first pair of Bata sandals! It was also on this day that we had the first of many KFC evening meals.
Day 6: The last day in Dhaka was spent in The National Institute of Burns and Plastic Surgery. It was one of the most inspiring yet uncomfortable experience I’d had so far. I met many patients including young children who had suffered severe electrical/chemical burns. Although I knew I was visiting a Burns Unit, my expectation of the visit was somewhat naive as I hadn’t anticipated witnessing some of the most horrific injuries. It was overwhelming to see children who were the same age as my younger brother in agonising pain, crying and begging to go home. Dr Papun, a wonderful man, kindly gave up his time to show us around. He gave us all a reminder on the importance of our intentions when serving our patients.
To end the day we visited DFID Bangladesh and had our second KFC meal of the trip.