Volunteer FAQ

The volunteer experience at IUBAT College of Nursing

How are faculty supported financially by their institutions to support the IUBAT program?

Faculty have used various arrangements for salary continuance: sabbaticals, vacation leave and professional development leave. Some faculty come as volunteers on their own time. Because the program is financed by donations only (without any government funding), we cannot pay stipends or airfare. However, we provide room and board for faculty in Dhaka and tax-deductible receipts for travel expenses.

What are the office arrangements?

In the guest house, each bedroom has a desk for individual work with internet access. At the university, we can usually arrange for everyone to have a desk with internet access. Occasionally if there are many visitors, you may have to share desk space. Because of differing schedules and off-site supervision duties, this is rarely a problem. The university has photocopy and fax facilities. The College of Nursing Program Assistant is available to assist you in setting up your work space, orientation to the university services, VISA extensions and etc.

Should I bring my laptop? Will it be safe?

Although we have desktop computers available, most volunteers like to bring their own laptops. Electric outlet adapters are not required. The Nursing Office is securely locked when there is no one present. The guest house is also secure, with most rooms having a locking cupboard.

Will I have access to the Internet?

There is wireless internet at the university and we can set you up with your laptop or a workstation there. (Most people like having their own laptop with them.) We have wireless internet in the guest house. Download speed is about 0.5-1 mbps.

What about phoning home?

Skype works well, especially if you use only the voice connection. There is a mobile phone available for volunteers to use. Phone cards are the cheapest way for family and friends abroad to phone you, e.g. from Bangladesh to Canada costs about 10 cents per minute. You can also bring your own phone if it will accept a SIM card, which can be bought locally.

How will I manage if I don’t speak Bangla?

This is not a problem. The university is English medium, so most staff are reasonably fluent. You will need to speak slowly in class and choose your language level carefully so the students can follow you. Outside the university, many Bangladeshis speak English, so shopping and travelling are manageable without much Bangla. There are dictionary phrase books in the guest house.

What if I need health care?

You must purchase out-of-country medical insurance before leaving Canada. We can recommend medical and hospital care in Dhaka, if you need it. Most medications can be purchased without a prescription, although it is important to choose reputable manufacturers.

How big are class sizes?

Junior classes, such as Introduction to Nursing, have about 20 to 25 students. The more senior classes are usually 15 students or less. There is very little actual drop-out, but we find that junior students need more time to acquire language and study skills to advance through the program. Therefore, many must repeat courses until they can pass on to a higher level.

What classroom teaching tools are available?

Classrooms are equipped with dry-erase white boards and digital projectors. Most lectures are delivered in PowerPoint. The Nursing Practice Lab has manikins and hospital beds. There are also anatomical models for normal delivery and anatomy.

How can I prepare for teaching and find out what students already know?

Before you leave for IUBAT, we can provide the program syllabus that includes outlines of all courses. We can also send you the curriculum guide for your specific courses. Also, you can review the textbook before going to Bangladesh since these are widely used and generally available. Once there, lectures from previous courses are available, as well as a file of all resources related to the course you will be teaching (lectures, lesson notes prepared by other faculty, teacher references, student readings, assignments and exams).

What are volunteer assignments like?

Most volunteers teach two courses, one clinical (with practicum) and one theory. All three-unit courses require three to four hours per week of classroom lectures. The clinical courses are Medical-Surgical Nursing, Community Health Nursing, Maternal-Child Health Nursing and Mental Health Nursing. The theory classes are subjects like Nutrition, Nursing Research, Advanced English, Professional Issues and Nursing Administration. The combined classroom and practicum time is about 22 hours per week, with additional volunteer time for preparation and marking.

What will I be doing for practicum supervision?

For practicum supervision, you will be responsible for supervising about six students in one of our clinical sites (i.e. Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralyzed, ICDDRB, United Hospital). You may do this for one or two days each week. The practicum usually starts at 0800h and ends at 1400h after a post-conference that you will lead. Transport to and from the university will be in an IUBAT vehicle with driver. Scope of practice in Bangladesh is quite different from nursing in Canada, but varies in each hospital. The permanent faculty at IUBAT will orient you to practicum supervision.

Personal preparation for the trip

Is there a dress code for visiting faculty?

South Asian society is more formal than you may be accustomed to. Please wear business casual dress for teaching and nursing program-related work. The Volunteer Guide has detailed information for various seasons.

Is it safe? What are the hazards?

Although Bangladesh has had sporadic outbreaks of civic unrest, none of the anger has been directed at foreigners. When there is violence, it is internally directed at various political factions within the country. We have never had the sense that foreigners are targets or that they would be prevented from leaving in the event of some serious problem. You will find that although you may be the subject of interest, the general attitude of people is very friendly. Our guest house has a security guard who will lock the main doors around 2200h. Occasional late returns are fine, but let the guard know when you expect to be in.

Although physical assaults of foreigners are uncommon, petty theft is not. As in any large city, you should be cautious with wallets, cell phones, cameras, and other personal items whenever you are out in public. Do not leave valuables unattended, even around the university campus.

The traffic situation is bad and requires special attention. Apart from the frequent gridlock, drivers speed, change lanes without warning and generally behave recklessly. It is best to avoid travel on busy roads in rickshaws. Pedestrians must be very vigilant. The IUBAT coaches are the safest and most convenient means of travel.

What is the climate like?

Bangladesh has a tropical monsoon-type climate, with a hot and rainy summer and a dry winter, with warm temperatures throughout the year, and relatively little variation from month to month. January tends to be the coolest month (13-15C at night, sometimes lower for brief periods). April and May are the warmest months. Most rains occur during the monsoon (June-September) with very little in winter (November-February). The Volunteer Guide has more details. For current local conditions see http://www.wunderground.com/global/stations/41923.html.

Can I travel while I am teaching?

Your time here is valuable; we want to use it effectively to give the students maximum benefit. If you plan to visit other places in Bangladesh or South Asia as part of your trip, please arrange your vacation either before or after your teaching duties with us. We will appreciate it if any family or friends who plan to join you, do so after you complete your stay.

I have a special dietary need. Can this be accommodated?

If you have diet restrictions, let us know and we’ll try to arrange meals to suit you. We have had several vegetarian volunteers who managed very well.

Can family and friends visit while I am in the guest-house?

If there is bedroom space, family and friends can visit by prior arrangement. We charge $15 per night for non-teaching visitors. We also expect all visitors to behave modestly, as this is a socially conservative country.

Can I bring children with me while I am in Dhaka?

We have made special arrangements for children to accompany volunteers, usually if there is another family member available for supervision. This is a serious working environment, and most volunteers are quite busy with teaching, prep and marking, so time for child care may be limited.