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Blog editor needed

Our project needs a volunteer to edit the blog on this website. It is a perfect task for someone  to support our work in Bangladesh who is unable to travel there at this time. The task is not urgent or time-consuming and requires basic facility with WordPress and social media. We will provide training and on-going-support, plus a steady feed of news items. Our previous volunteer, Helen Trung leaves big shoes to fill, but we know someone must be out there! Please contact us info@bangladeshhealthproject.com.

We Have a New Guesthouse!

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Moving day!

The Bangladesh Health Project has a new guesthouse for volunteers and visiting faculty!  IUBAT contracted a new space at the end of February 2018, and the move occurred at the end of March.

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Bright common area

The guesthouse is in a brand new building and is a large 2 story-flat with 6 bedrooms, a kitchen, a common area/conversation nook, a rooftop garden and patio.  Each bedroom has a balcony and an attached bathroom with a shower.

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Spacious bedrooms

It is a posh space with a great view and fantastic amenities, such as hot water on tap, air conditioning, excellent Wi-Fi, a washing machine, an elevator and a backup generator. During temporary power outages, the generator can power fans and at least one light in each room. At a mere 5 minute walk from IUBAT, it is also significantly closer than the old guesthouse, which is a 15 minute walk away.  In fact, it is just across the highway from IUBAT; you can see the university from the new guesthouse!

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Large patio

We are now in a new, second phase of the program where the focus is on growing capacity for teaching locally with international faculty mentoring our local instructors.  We are definitely in need of volunteers to work on-site with our faculty.  For more information on volunteering abroad with the BHP, please visit our website or email us at: info@bangladeshhealthproject.com.

Alumnus Obtains Master’s in Sweden

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Kiron, in the front holding flowers, with his Master’s cohort

When we last heard from Kiron, he had just been rewarded a scholarship to pursue a two-year Master’s program in Uppsala, Sweden. Since then, he has come home to Bangladesh for a visit and to mentor current students, who appreciate his knowledge and wisdom from the field.  He also shares more of his current life since moving for his international studies:

I have recently finished a two-year Master’s program in International Health, Department of Women’s and Children’s Health/IMCH from Uppsala University in Sweden. My studies were funded by the Swedish Institute Study Scholarship/SISS. I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Swedish Institute; otherwise, it may would not have been possible. Teaching students to develop and build their problem-solving skills in the area of public health was the overall aim of the Master’s program. Studying in Sweden has thereby developed my critical thinking and learning skills needed for entry into health-related research and employment.

Presently, I work as a nurse assistant at the Burn Center at Uppsala University Hospital, which is the largest burn center in Sweden. Our unit provides care for any type of burn patients in both indoor and outdoor settings; therefore, I have encountered opportunities to improve my bedside nursing skills, particularly wound dressing and infection control. Moreover, I have the opportunity to closely observe the Swedish nurses’ roles in health care settings. It is important to note that not only are the Swedish nurses an integral part of healthcare settings, but they also have the freedom and the ability to lead major decisions in most cases. I am more than happy today to be a part of the Swedish healthcare system. My next goal is to work as a nurse here in Sweden and I hope I will write the national exam in the next year in order to become a registered nurse.

During my last visit in February to Bangladesh, I attended the picnic organized by IUBAT’s College of Nursing. It was a very special and highly memorable experience both for students and faculty. At the end of the picnic day, I shared some of my own thoughts and experiences to the present nursing students. It was wonderful to see that enrollment in the program is growing and increasing. I hope that the nursing students take pride in their nursing education – I believe with good reasons that our nursing students will go on to become qualified nurses, leaders, educators and so forth.

In conclusion, I would like to say that my goal is not only to work, but also to try to make a contribution to improve public health sectors, especially in the fields of sexual and reproductive health and disease. My Master’s thesis covered Bangladeshi adolescent sexual and reproductive health education. In addition, I presented my findings and my paper (entitled, “Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Education from the Perspective of Muslim Peoples in South Asia and Middle East”) at both the 13th International Knowledge Globalization Conference Dhaka 2018 and the Swedish Global Health Research Conference 2018.

Congratulations on your recent accomplishments, Kiron!  The students and faculty alike love it when you come back to Bangladesh and visit IUBAT.  Please keep us posted with your progress in Sweden and we all wish you the very best of luck on your upcoming goals and projects.

Big THANK-YOU to Helen Trung

Our long-time BHP blog editor, Helen Trung, recently resigned because she is returning to university studies in September. For the past six years, Helen has been a dedicated team-member, interviewing graduates and visiting faculty to relate their personal stories about the impact of BHP and the College of Nursing. From long-winded explanations, hazy topics and partial facts, Helen has crafted concise, well-written and fascinating accounts. Our blog is an essential tool for recruiting volunteers and communicating with supporters. Thank you, Helen, for your sharing your talents with us and good luck with your studies.

Festivities at the Annual IUBAT Nursing Picnic

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Students play “pot pinata” – where the participant is blindfolded and attempts to strike an upturned clay pot on the ground ahead

On March 15th, 2018, current BSN students planned a student/faculty/alumni picnic.  Every year, students have the opportunity to organize such an event in order to have some extracurricular social time, but also to develop their leadership and organizational skills whilst learning to work as a team.  The students organize the picnics themselves, including all the transportation, food, games, sound system, venue and budget.  The location often varies, with some examples in the past being resort parks or rural areas.  This year, approximately 80 people, including faculty, alumni, students and family members, attended the picnic, hosted at a park in Gazipur, about 2 hours by bus from the university.  There was a swimming pool that was enjoyed by many and games were played.  The students cooked food for the attendees and fun was had by all.

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Students swimming in the park, an increasingly popular pastime.

Call for visiting faculty

Recent progress at IUBAT creates fresh opportunities for volunteers to support local faculty in the classroom and in clinical supervision. We heartily welcome Professor Dr Abdur Rab as the new Vice-Chancellor at IUBAT. He has expressed strong support for the College of Nursing and encouraged on-going involvement of BHP volunteers.  Under his direction, Nursing program enrollment has increased and the nursing lab improved. Also, our BSN graduates now work in various Dhaka hospitals so there are more opportunities for practice sites. For these reasons, we need visiting faculty who can strengthen IUBAT instructors’ skills in lecturing and supervising student practice. Formal teaching qualifications are desirable but not essential; many of our previous volunteers have been bedside nurses. IUBAT has arranged new guest-house facilities for visiting faculty in a modern building close to the campus; our familiar housekeeper will continue providing support. With these developments, we are ready to welcome visiting faculty for minimum four-week assignments. Please contact us for further information.

IUBAT College of Nursing Updates

We caught up with Dr. Karen Lund, Visiting Faculty Chair of the IUBAT BSN Program for the latest news from Dhaka.  She states:

“As the BSN Program at IUBAT is finding it’s own feet by hiring their own full-time faculty, it is a time of growth and transition, but also relative uncertainty for staff and students.  However, there is 100% support under the new Vice Chancellor of IUBAT, Dr. Abdur Rab.  He has been very encouraging in terms of helping to implement suggestions from the BSN faculty, particularly with regard to academic and quality assurance measures.  Admission is also increasing: in the spring semester of 2018, there were 28 freshmen, a much bigger cohort than the 3-5 members in our inaugural year!  Along with the admission spike, there are additions to the faculty as well.  We currently have five faculty, including three of our own alumni, and are happy to report that alumnus, Shuvashish Das Bala, is now the Coordinator of the College of Nursing.  We are also happy to report that former alumnus faculty, Mr. Ali Kiron, has just graduated with a Masters in Global Health from Sweden!

 From January to March of this year, a comprehensive quality assurance review was conducted by the Government of Bangladesh (funded by the World Bank Initiative and carried out by the University Grants Commission) of all universities in Bangladesh.  To complete this review, an external inspection team evaluated our self-assessment report and, over three days, meticulously examined facilities, documentation and teaching environments, and held interviews with students and faculty.  Each department at each university was inspected independently and we are proud to announce that according to the resulting detailed 200-page report, IUBAT’s BSN College of Nursing received a score of Very Good, which is rarely awarded.  The reported cited the CON’s potential as a “flagship program” for nursing education.”

Stories from the Heart of the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

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Firoza, pictured here, with a patient from the camp.

We always love getting updates from previous graduates, especially from those working with unique populations and can give us insight into current world events and international aid efforts. One such graduate is Firoza (featured in this blog post), who had the opportunity to support and provide aid to Rohingya refugees amidst the refugee crisis in Bangladesh. Firoza works with Sajida Foundation, a non-profit social organization focused on providing quality healthcare and social development programs to disenfranchised and marginalized populations and communities. From October 4th, 2017 to December 31st, 2017, the Sajida Foundation sent a team of 22 staff (comprising of 4 doctors, 4 nurses – including Firoza, 10 volunteers in varying capacities, 1 pharmacy assistant and 3 administrative staff) to the Ukhia Rohingya Refugee Camp in order to reach the ultimate goal of, “…ensuring accesses to basic health and nutrition services among Rohingya refugees, including lactating mothers, newborns and children, to help them survive, recover and gain control on their healthy futures.” Firoza has very kindly recounted this experience for our readers (warning, please note that this passage includes details that some may find disturbing). She writes:

Our team operated at a health camp with a fixed location, where we offered primary healthcare with antenatal care, perinatal care, and emergency management. We also have ‘kid’s corners’ with extracurricular activities and drawing materials so that children can play, and consequently reduce their own stress levels. We provide them with healthcare and engaging activities to reduce the chance that they become involved with criminal activity.

We also have the volunteers provide field visits to offer assistance to those who are unable to visit our health camp. These volunteers visit each and every household, looking to help those who need it most, especially pregnant women, sick children and the elderly.

My responsibility in this team is to supervise the volunteers and nursing staff in our provision of healthcare to the residents of the refugee camp. We have encountered many barriers to care and hardships, for example, an unexpected crisis was when a Diphtheria outbreak occurred in the camp at the beginning of December.

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Firoza, consulting with a group of patients.

The conditions in the camps are very difficult. When we first arrived, more than 5000 Rohingya refugees were arriving per day. They did not have food, clothes or shelter, many Rohingyans made use of a nearby tree for a makeshift shelter. There are often cries for food from children and the elderly, but because they are so dehydrated, there are no tears. These memories are painful to recall. The lack of shelter rendered the refugees defenseless from the forces of nature, contagious disease and other animals. For example, an eight-month old child was bitten several times by a fox overnight due to a shortage of indoor accommodations. There were also a variety of other complaints, ranging from skin disease, such as scabies and ringworm, to post traumatic stress disorder. Most of the Rohingya people had lost one or two family members, with some losing more than five. Equally distressing, there were many pregnant women who had lost their husbands at the hands of the Myanmar military and consequently had been sexually assaulted.

One patient’s ordeal that stands out in my memory is one of a woman presenting with complaints of vaginal bleeding. She tearfully expressed that two months prior, she was in Myanmar and was three months pregnant at the time. One day, three Myanmese military members arrived unannounced at their house and killed her 13-year old son. As she tried to stop them, one of them raped her and caused her to spontaneously abort her unborn child. I could feel that woman’s pain, and it stays with me until this day.

Another story that stuck with me was of a child who was playing in our ‘kid’s corner’, where more than 20 children could safely play and interact with one another. We had instructed the children to draw and write what was currently in their minds and hearts and one child, a five-year old, wrote, “ I want to go back home.” That statement touched me because it represented despair, but also hope for a future, in a place that was home for the Rohingya people, where they would be accepted and belong.

Much gratitude to Firoza for sharing her story, despite the sensitive nature of her work. Thank you for bringing light to the atrocities and difficulties being faced by the Rohingyan people and thank you so much for your contributions – extending a helping hand to a population who so urgently need our help. For more information on the Sajida Foundation or to donate, please click here. For more information on how you can help the Rohingya refugee crisis, please click here.

Dhaka Faced with Problems of Growth

The Guardian article features the overpopulation problem in Dhaka.

The Guardian article features the overpopulation problem in Dhaka.

In a special series on overstretched cities running in ‘The Guardian’, an article looks at the rapid urbanization and growth of Dhaka, Bangladesh.  Due to this growth, problems such as insufficient monsoon rain drainage in the sewer infrastructure have emerged, partially due to the administrative problems of Dhaka.  Beyond the difficulties faced by the sanitation workers lies the problem of a country of 160 million with no effective political decentralization of authority to regions and urban government.

According to UN Habitat, Dhaka is the world’s most crowded city and the fastest growing in terms of population.  This overpopulation means that Dhaka has grown faster than infrastructure development and that the management of the city is lagging.  In Dhaka, governance of the city systems are the responsibility of, “a chaotic mix of competing bodies”, which leads to a lack of coordination and many hands passing the blame.

The city sewer cleaners, dubbed as having the ‘worst job in the world’ by international media, face stigma and dangerous work conditions.  Many in the profession are Hindu dalits, significant because the majority of Bangladeshis are Muslim, and Hindus were singled out for persecution during Bangladesh’s war for independence from Pakistan.  Furthermore, dalits belong to the lowest caste level, known as ‘untouchables’, and often are given low-paying, lowly jobs in society.

Despite these serious issues of urbanization, there is hope: Bangladesh has won praise for it’s progressive responses in other arenas, such as climate-change, and experts deem that social movements borne from the confines of urban spaces can have the power to change and discipline governments.  According to Population Sciences Professor Nurun Nabi, “Many stories will be written by the people of this nation – forget about the political parties.  Someday they will wake up and be forced to comply with their speech.”

For more information and a fascination depiction of the strain experienced by this megacity, please click here.

 

Long-time Volunteer Examines the Progress in Bangladesh

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In our last post, Sara Jackson, a long-time volunteer with the BHP, described her first visit to Bangladesh.  It serves as juxtaposition to her most recent visit, in 2017.  She recounts her most recent trip:

“I recently returned to Vancouver after three months in Bangladesh.  The IUBAT nursing program has their own Bangladeshi faculty these days; therefore, instead of teaching, I spent my time supporting the instructors by writing exam questions, filling in some knowledge gaps and accompanying them to hospital clinical practice sites with the students.  The faculty are all young, bright, passionate, and well-versed professionals.  I found the students to be open and willing to learn and succeed in this not so easy country.  I was able to offer some language instruction and was pleased to edit research papers and assist with academic writing.  I basically jumped in to help as needed.

Apart from work at IUBAT, I prepared a two-day workshop on hygiene and infection control for the Sajida Organization’s (an NGO-health organization) new homecare aid hires.  This was a very positive experience.  The Organization invited me to attend a three-day workshop on High Risk Labour and Delivery, facilitated by Team Broken Earth from Newfoundland.  The target audience was a large group of OBGYNs that the Sajida Organization employs at their progressive hospitals.

Another one of the highlights was a social event on a Saturday. We spent the day on a hired boat with large speakers and a DJ. One of the students prepared chicken biryani and snacks for the cruise. Bangladesh has a six-day work and study week, so this was a great opportunity to have some much needed leisure time. I was enjoying myself so much, I decided to extend my time in Bangladesh by an extra month. The work was so interesting and varied. Bangladeshis are warm, welcoming, kind, and not to mention, have a great sense of humour!

IUBAT is now fully staffed with Bangladeshi nursing faculty.  I was fortunate to connect with IUBAT Nursing graduates employed in research, with international NGOs, as nurse managers, coordinators and in other high functioning and demanding positions in healthcare.  These students have a bright future to pursue.  In and around Dhaka, growth and change is highly visible.  Many of the construction and mega projects are mind- boggling to see and strangely futuristic.

One week before returning to Vancouver, two volunteers from Alberta, Nancy and Eve, arrived.  This was Nancy’s second visit.  The time we spend as volunteers in Bangladesh is so appreciated.  Volunteers leave this country with more knowledge, indelible memories, but mostly an open heart.”

Sara, we appreciate your insight, expertise and your immense contributions to the success of the Bangladesh Health Project, both in North America and in Bangladesh.  This longitudinal description is helpful for our readers who are interested in the progress of the Program and the country, or are curious as to how things are currently, as compared to when they themselves last visited IUBAT!  We look forward to more of these types of stories from people who have been with the Program over the years as it grew.