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Building a better future for my country

Giving a talk at a community event in Bangladesh

Giving a talk at a community event in Bangladesh

Graduation and finding a decent full time job were Bangladeshi Farah Moriam's expectations of 2015. But her life changed course when she became a national volunteer team leader on VSO’s International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, traded the capital for a rural village, and saw a new side to her home country.

Leaving the familiar behind

The chance to explore a new region of my country was what influenced me to volunteer in an unknown area of northwest Bangladesh.

My family raised me quite liberally, which means I grew up enjoying the freedom to do what I want with my life, study wherever and whatever I want, choose whatever career I like. Having been born and brought up in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, I barely knew how lives in villages are.

Farah and the rest of her ICS team in Bangladesh

The ICS team in Bangladesh

Showing what girls can be

Right after my team finished a courtyard session on preventing child marriage, an old lady of the village asked me, “How many children have you got, dear?” 

I wasn’t surprised because that’s what a 23 years old woman in the village is supposed to be - the mother of several children. That’s what we were there for: to change people’s perception.

Volunteering by numbers

Together with UK Team Leader Shamil Makhecha, I led a team of ten volunteers from the UK and eight Bangladeshi volunteers. We worked together, reaching out to:

  • 500 people, increasing knowledge and awareness of child marriage, sexual reproductive health, civic rights, and the rights they are entitled with from the local government
  • 200 people who were able to get free medical checkups at our health camps
  • 1,000+ villagers at an active citizenship day focussing on women’s rights.

These are numbers that show the reach we achieved on our project, but my personal achievements are harder to measure...

Farah and ICS colleagues at a demostration in Bangladesh

Farah and ICS colleagues at a demostration in Bangladesh

A whole new world

The location of our placement was just as new to the other Bangladeshi volunteers as it was for me. Staying with our host families we learned what a simple life the villagers lead! We realised the bliss of commuting without facing any traffic jams. To me, the beauty of the project was living and working with people from the other side of the world. Three months is a very short time to adjust to a roommate from a different country and culture, let alone learn cross-cultural working.

However we had a common factor that tied us all together: the greater cause of bringing positive changes in the community, and built an everlasting friendship in the process. I learned that when a group of people having the same goal and knowing the same language of friendship come together, growth becomes inevitable.

What next?

Every kind of community has its own problems, which can be solved with the change of people’s perceptions. We did it through different awareness raising sessions in the community, that didn’t require a lot of resources or any authorization. The sessions might not resolve the issue at once, but it’s definitely the first step towards the change.

I went back to my university and shared this knowledge with my juniors, so that they too know how they can bring positive changes in their community. Volunteering with ICS made me confident about working in the development sector and choosing a job that helps individuals in bringing out their potentials. I believe each individual has the potential to be a change maker; they just have to “challenge themselves, to change their world!”

Faara volunteered as part of youth programme ICS, find out more about becomming a youth volunteer

Find out more about volunteering