An American's Impression of Bangladesh

Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.
Men muscle 3-wheeled rickshaws through the streets of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The average income for a Bangladeshi: $1,500 a year.

I arrived in Dhaka at the peak of the summertime, where my sweat-drenched shirt never dries in the near 100 degree heat, and the power seems to go out every few hours (like it did as I typed this  sentence).

During my first five minutes in Bangladesh, beggars approached us as we walked to our vehicle at the airport, then more beggars asked for our help as we drove on the streets. Crammed among the cars are 3-wheeled rickshaws driven by thin chauffeurs. If they’re not waiting for a customer, they’re standing on the pedals, straining against a load.

Other countries where I have documented World Concern’s humanitarian work face more significant problems with infrastructure. In Haiti, some roads in the city are in such disrepair, it is like they had never been leveled or paved. In fact, it was simply years of neglect – coupled with some storms.  Dhaka generally has nicely paved streets, and many homes and businesses have power, outside of the frequent blackouts. In Kenya, access to clean water seemed like a greater need than here, though I have not yet seen conditions in the poorest homes made of scrap wood and sheet metal.

This is not to say Bangladesh does not have great need. I can see it in the man without legs who instead walks with his hands. I see it in the older gentlemen crouched on the hot sidewalk, without eyes, who was hoping that somewhere in the blackness, people would provide him with coins for a bowl of rice. The average income here: $4 a day.

Outside the wall of a World Concern-sponsored school that was in session, I see the need in the children without shoes or uniforms, who play marbles in the dirt instead of learning how to read in a classroom. Like in many places where we work, schooling here is not guaranteed. It is usually only a privilege for the wealthy, or for those benefiting from an organization like ours. We give 5,000 children an opportunity they may not have otherwise had.

I was not able to find a guidebook about Bangladesh prior to my trip here to document programs. It is the least Western country I have visited, with no familiar stores or advertisements, and very little English on signs outside of on the primary thoroughfares. From what I’ve seen so far, I suspect there are very few people from the West who visit Dhaka, which means less foreign investment, both financially, and in awareness of the country. Did you know Bangladesh is more populated than Mexico or Russia?

So far I have visited a medical clinic and a school, both packed with people and highly regarded in the community. Once again I am pleased to see World Concern working in areas of intense poverty. Though Christians amount to about one half of one percent of the population, I see the hands of Christ working through our humanitarians, both employees and volunteers. They touch the lives of those in desperate need of compassion.

Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.
Beautiful children outside a World Concern school in Dhaka, Bangladesh. We have a special interest in seeing girls have an availabilty to education.

14 thoughts on “An American's Impression of Bangladesh”

  1. Dear American visitor,
    Welcome to the “real world” as this is how the vast majority of the world’s population lives.

    A good guidebook is published by “Lonely Planet” and is readily available all over the world. http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/Primary/Region/ASIA/Indian_Sub_Continent/Bangladesh/PRD_PRD_1948/Bangladesh+Travel+Guide.jsp?bmUID=1240467638531

    Also if you do your currency conversions correctly you will find that the average wage if 100 Taka is closer to USD$1.50

    Enjoy the rice and curry
    John

  2. Thank you for your thoughts on Bangladesh – it brought tears to my eyes simply to them. I will be traveling to BD in November… hoping to bring more American education to the country.

  3. Good to see Bangladesh is doing great with its huge population (more than 150 million) in a small land. I live in Ireland, only 5 million people, got the land half of the size of Bangladesh. However, finding difficulty with the recession (same as other EU countries), where a large amount of workforce have no jobs.

  4. Dear Derek, its very nice to see .. at least you have made some good observations on Bangladesh.( only few do it). Anyway I am an Irish Bangladeshi. And a proud son of Bangladeshi soil. I know thousands of people will read this article before visiting Bangladesh.

    i would like to say, Bangladesh is approaching very very fast. The life standard is growing. Literacy rate, health facility, infrastructures, Industries, foreign investment increasing incredibly.
    Now “Bangladesh is a Great place for Business”…. Bangladesh welcomes you… for business, tourism, leisure, job, volunteering, research, education, and for living too.

    If anyone need any information about current Bangladesh .. please don’t worry to ask me … rhgalib@gmail.com

  5. I have got a little experience about Bangladesh. I appreciate Galib being so optimistic and pleasantly optimistic. My humble observation is Bangladeshis tend to see themselves fastest progressing country. They regard themselves as a highly peaceful country with a population of high morale and morality. Only flaw to these thoughts is they tend not to think relatively. If only the whole world remained constant, western peace and morality situations were not considered, only and only then progress and position of Bangladesh would get to count. It’s shocking that Bangladeshis are self satisfying in their thoughts and self serving in bolstering their progress and achievement.s. Their underdeveloped education system and politico- religious shallowness may be to blame partly for this. Sorry for my skepticism!! Long live Bangladesh.

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  7. As a Bangladeshi, i think it’s my duty to glorify my country even if it’s nothing compared to those like the USA,Canada etc.

    Before going to this let me remind you about the cursed pakistan! At first there was no Bangladesh, only east(Now,Bangladesh) pakistan and west pakistan. No need to say, west pakistan was overwhelmingly superior and from 1947 to 1971,like a scourge, they ravished the fertile lands of the east until they started to end it once and for all at 1971. From March to October 1971, they killed,raped and destroyed everything they saw. Now, what can a noob country which was ravished for over 20 years do but put some futile resistance and on top of that the mighty shitty china helped pakistan directly. Until November when India who was at hostile with pakistan joined the war, things reversed and Bangladesh became a country, victorious at December. But the final stake that this cursed nation delivered, was killings and kidnappings of the few scientist,philosophers,singers,poets and other creators that lived in this country just two days before their shameless surrender.

    We gained independence we got our land and lived happily ever after!! Right as if! As usual the new country was unstable even to the point that the father of the nation who was the center of Bangladesh, was assassinated in his own house. More died by assassination till the 90’s when the country became stable.

    All those talk only to give one statement, If you come to Bangladesh expecting to see some high class American stuff go home it’s a waste of time. Unlike those highly developed American or European or far east countries, we didn’t have the initial resources or the long heritage or time. A war torn country stood up with his own legs. At first except India, no other countries worth mentioning came to help. Countries like Japan, America came later obviously for high profit. But it has only been 20-30 years! From a noob to a medium quality counry, i wonder whether Americans were that fast!!

    We’ve electricity shortage, we’ve corruption, we’ve poor people that’s only because we’re moving forward too fast!! I can proudly say that we’re more better country than china where half of the countrymen are neglected and other half lives in ac, we’re more human than those middle east countries who lives with their god given heritage and whose dustbin’s food is worth enough to manage an African country, we move forward and build the country with our own pocket money even if the world bank rejects us and we’re certainly better than that degenerated so called overwhelmingly superior pakistan where people are uncertain whether they’ll live to see another day.

    Now, certain things should be mentioned where i’ve no clue whether we’re progressing or not. Like our education system, where the stats says we’ve better percentage of educated young generation and uni graduates than America or England!! Seriously! lol. What’s the most saddest thing is that there are still some people who proudly says that they’re pakistani and we can’t do a single thing about because they’re associated with a major political party.
    You mentioned the beggars! Now, let me tell you about some interesting things about this ‘things’!! It seems our country doesn’t mind beggars! As you said our average income is 4$,i.e, 320 taka almost, which is enough to eat 3 times a day and save. Now, i wonder what will be your reaction when you’ll see that there are some beggars whose daily income is 1000 taka, some 2000 taka and some even 5000! That’s over 50$ per day. You get my point. Among the beggars about 20-30 percent are disabled which are true beggars,about 40 percent are beggars by blood and rest do for fun!! Begging for fun i say!! In our country we’ve job shortage! true! But that’s only true for Educated people. We always have enough options for hotel boys,service people like 3wheeler’s driver or day laborer! Now, they earn about 300 to 400 taka per day. Now, why do i have to work so hard only to earn that much when i can earn more just by raising my hand. Beggars aren’t the symbol of poverty cause most of them are frauds.
    I wrote long!!oh boy! So, i hope you get my points and we aren’t as trivial as you think we are.

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