“Hey Nathan. Let’s have a life-changing experience together.”
I am not sure that my son quite understood what I meant when I said this to him earlier this year. As a not-quite-9-year old at the time, the idea of he and I going on a holiday together must have sounded fun. The reality that we were going to Bangladesh was lost on him.
How do you explain that we would be going to one of the most densely populated countries in the world where more than one in every four people lives below the poverty line? Where one in every two children is malnourished? Where cricket mad boys play with a stick and a ball made from bound up rags? Where there is horrendous flooding for half of the year and yet 60% of the population don’t have access to clean drinking water?
I discovered that the answer to this is actually another question. Why? Why go to Bangladesh, and why take my young son with me?
I love travel (as any of you who have read this blog know) and I thrive on experiencing the world. Yes, I love luxurious accommodation and being pampered as much as the next person, but for me the best travel experiences are genuine and engaging. I also think as a middle class Australian family we can do something small to raise awareness and support others who do not have as privileged a life as us.
We are travelling with a wonderful (although highly undervalued and largely unrecognised) charity called Symbiosis International. They work in central Bangladesh and their ethos is all about breaking the cycle of poverty. They don’t throw a heap of money at villages or bring in permanent foreign workers to run everything. They believe in education and vocational training, strongly advocating the Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. From vocational training such as sewing and hair dressing schools, animal husbandry and fish farms that create income generation; to health and medical programs including eye camps, dental care and midwifery programs; to women’s literacy groups, savings programs and preschools for underprivileged children – Symbiosis have touched so many impoverished rural Bangladeshis over the last twenty years. It is so exciting to be able to witness some of these projects first-hand and to show my son another way of life and a vastly different culture.
So, what do you have to do to get ready to go to on a trip to Bangladesh? Especially when you’re travelling with a young child? We leave in just over three weeks and so I am trying to go through my lists and work out exactly what we still need to do. I’ll put together a “To Do” list and share it here next blog entry.
Meanwhile, if you have travelled to Bangladesh (especially Dhaka and Mymensingh) and have any tips I would love to hear from you!
x Sonia x