Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jaago School

A few weeks ago, some EFMs (State talk for Eligible Family Members) had a 2 hour talk on volunteer work. There were only 2 groups represented, but it was a great chance to learn about their organizations.

Before we even arrived in Dhaka, I had planned to volunteer time in Bangladesh. I didn't know where I'd volunteer or what exactly I'd offer as a volunteer, but thought it'd be in the orphanage or woman shelter areas. Being pregnant wasn't really in my mind at the time, so when we landed in Dhaka and found out there was a bun in the oven, the agenda kinda went on the shelf. We've been here over a year now.  Said bun (sweet Miss Avocet) is now out of the oven and well adjusted into life in Bangladesh, so Mama can spread her wings a little more freely now.

After the meeting, my friend Meghan and I decided to go to see the school and spend a few hours with the kids. We drove to the slum (about 200,000 people) outside of Banani neighborhood, hopped a boat across the green/grey lake and joined 80ish beautiful little smiling children for the morning.
A man from the school (Jaago Foundation, www.jaago.com.bd) met us under a busy viaduct to escort us across the lake. We paid the boat driver 20 taka (about $0.30) as we bumped up against the polluted lake shore. It was a steep walk up the embankment. Jaago's administrator Nody met us with a smile and thanked us for coming. We zigzagged through the labyrinth of the slum to the school, knowing a wrong turn could get us lost for hours. She admitted that she too has gotten lost on more than one occasion.
Most of the slum housing consists of tin single room shacks, no running water inside, no electricity. Building here is technically illegal, and houses can be knocked down at any time by the government. Busy life carried out in the shacks we passed. When we came upon the school, it was a happier looking place than I had expected. The buildings were brightly colored and very clean. Most of the bamboo construction was less than 5 months old, as this branch of Jaago was only recently opened. They had a small computer lab and library for the children, both very functional and nice. We entered the preschool classroom first. Forty little faces peered up at us as we took off our shoes and stepped inside.
"Good morning!" they all shouted with smiles in unison.

I felt me eyes well up, but returned "good morning" with a smile. There was nothing negative to cause my rush of emotion, but to the contrary. The environment, the enthusiasm to learn and the smiles on their faces were so positive, especially given the dire conditions in which all of their lives consist. These are the slums of Bangladesh, a land of over 160 million people, the world's most populated country. These slums are not a nice place. Jaago and many other organizations are working hard to make a difference in Bangladesh.

While there, we each took a small group of children to spend time. We sang songs, worked on puzzles, played and made holiday cards. The kids rushed to sit near us and hold our hands. Doesn't every child wish for this? We were lavished with drawings before we left, and we were hugged and smiled at a million times over.  

I am not yet educated enough to tell you too much about Jaago, please visit their website above if you are interested in the facts of their organization. I commented that the first organization I really met here would probably pull me in, and they have. While I cannot financially offer a lot, I can offer a few hours a week of my time. And I can share their story and their mission to the handful of people that read my blog and hope the word keeps spreading. Maybe we can do a project with a US school class, maybe someone will want to send money (1000 taka/ about $12 a month sponsors one child for one month) or maybe more people can volunteer time. A little can go a long way :) Each little face made a big impact on me.

Their mission and vision are:
JAAGO aims to bring about substantial improvement in the lives of disadvantaged people with special emphasis on their literacy and nourishment.
JAAGO works to provide international standard education to the impoverished children from families that have an average daily income below the International Indicator of Poverty (an income below 2 USD per day). This is done through a Free-of-Cost School with an international standard education curriculum.
JAAGO realizes that it is not possible to expect sustainable growth and self-reliance, without taking care of the emotional and physical development of all the stakeholders. As a result, various other programs have been established gradually to ensure the continuous growth of the community physically and mentally. 'Healthy Living', 'First Aid Center' and 'Call for Hygiene' are just some of the examples of such programs.

JAAGO looks to create a better society for the next generation, which is free of exploitation, discrimination and violence, and supports the achievement of its highest potential.
No organization can succeed without focusing on its future existence. JAAGO is similarly focused not only on its current success but also on maintaining long-term sustainability. In doing so, the foundation concentrates on expanding its operations, not only in physical presence but also in program variation. JAAGO increases its family, by adding one new class each year.
In the long-run, JAAGO Foundation intends to have a fully operational branch in every district of Bangladesh. JAAGO wishes to give as many children as possible the opportunity to break free of the cycle of poverty.


  1. Before, I read your blog because it was useful, but now, I'm reading because you have moved me. Good job on the photos and layout as well!

  2. Before, I read because your blog was useful, but now, I'm reading because I'm moved. Good job!