By Megan Sargeant
As the advocacy intern at Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh, I often find myself overwhelmed by the incredible opportunity that this volunteer position has offered me.
In a country of over 150 million residents, Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Life in the capital city of Dhaka is hectic and action-packed with traffic jams, load sharing and the hustle and bustle of the business center of the country. At the same time, it can also be a kind and comfortable place to live, with warm and open interactions and many of the amenities of home—including pizza, coffee shops, international clubs and an air-conditioned office.
My position at Habitat currently consists of working to develop a national-level advocacy plan to assist the organization in becoming a more vocal advocate for the needs of millions of low-income Bangladeshis who are in need of safe and secure housing. In addition, I am helping the organization research and create an impact assessment plan and tools. It is hoped that an impact assessment will enable Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh to more effectively measure the broader effect that Habitat’s housing interventions has had on the lives of partner families and their communities in order to better advocate on behalf of those in need of housing assistance.
I work closely with the national director and national office program staff to coordinate my work with the organization’s needs and to receive support, assistance and direction. I find myself awed by working alongside such amazing staff and community members. The position at Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh has enabled me to get a view into the life and perspective of low-income Bangladeshis that I could have never gotten otherwise. While Bangladesh can be a challenging country, it has been an experience that is heartbreakingly beautiful at times and one that few foreigners get the chance to see.
While most of my time is spent in the HFHB national office in Dhaka, I have also had opportunities to travel to different areas around the country, including Savar, Mymensingh and Brahmanbaria. These visits enabled me to see firsthand the work that the satellite staff are doing and the local construction methods used (brick, concrete and tin sheeting). In addition, my travels have given me the incredible opportunity of being welcomed into the communities and homes of Habitat for Humanity partner families for interviews and discussions.
Megan Sargeant served with Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh as a Boston College Advocacy Intern in 2009