As a Global Epidemiology student at the University of Michigan, I began my search for a summer internship over 10 months ago. While I explored many different opportunities, it was not until I came across the passion that emanated from the Foundation for Charitable Activities in Bangladesh, that I knew I had found the place that I would call home for 2 months. Having never previously traveled outside of North America, Bangladesh would be a long first journey, but the excitement of serving such an inspiring organization, outweighed any trepidation that I may have had.
While I met with the Country Director, Moushumi Khan, throughout the winter and spring, I began to understand the mission and values that bred this passion throughout the organization. It was not until I was on-site in Bangladesh that I truly understood the root of this passion. Community service and a desire to understand the impacts of this service, are the foundation on which FCAB grows.
From the moment that I arrived in Bagdumur I experienced this devotion to service. At first, it was directed towards my fellow University of Michigan School of Public Health interns – Michelle and Shivani – and I. As soon as we stepped foot on FCAB property, flowered necklaces were placed around our necks, we were showered with petals, and greeted with warm smiles. Members of the community then invited us into their homes for lunch and dinner, and immediately any initial fears or doubts, were wiped away with a sense of comfort. Throughout the coming days, the FCAB team ensured that Bagdumur and the surrounding Sirajganj area, felt like home. Our free time was dominated by shopping, exploring the riverside, and meals alongside FCAB team members.
Though I have experienced a lot of service, it is FCAB commitment to serving its community that has stuck out the most. Our second day in Bagdumur, we attended FCAB’s Grass Roots Organization meeting, which provides financial inclusion to Bagdumur’s poor. It was clear that this was not simply a micro-finance group, but it was an opportunity for community members to share their concerns. Mothers were worried about hepatitis, and the group leaders responded with educational messages and discussion on safe drinking practices. In another instance, we were invited into a home that used their cows manure to make bio-fuel which then powered the home. As we drank cow’s milk that was boiled from the bio-fuel that came from the same cows manure, it was evident that FCAB had listened to its communities concerns about inconsistent access to resources. In response, they developed innovative, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions.
While FCAB’s commitment to service has been my first impression during this internship, I am excited to spend the next couple months learning more about FCAB and the ways that I can help encourage its growth. My time at FCAB will be devoted to leveraging my public health experience, to serve FCAB, its community, and its partners to the best of my ability. One specific way I will be doing this is through the evaluation an Infant and Young Child Feeding practices intervention that was developed by Dr. Khurshid Talukder at the Center for Women and Child Health. This collaborative intervention is using the Expanded Programme on Immunization to counsel mothers on breastfeeding and complementary feeding, with the goal of improving child nutrition and health outcomes. Fellow School of Public Health student, Shivani, and I are looking forward to updating you on the development, progression, and potential of this project.