Change Yourself…Change The World.

June 29, 2009, 12:08 pm
Filed under: Bangladesh

Apologies for not updating for four days to the slowly increasing amount of regulars. Life is just too crazy here in Bangladesh. I feel that one day is ten days. So since I haven’t written in four days, it feels to me like I have to convey to you what the past 40 days of my life has been in a condensed blog post.

Well the past 40 days (if you haven’t gotten the joke it is actually 4 days) have been AMAZING! This weekend I went to Sylhet, a town in Northeastern Bangladesh. About 18 interns went and we took a four hour train to get there. We spent our time wandering around tea gardens, hanging with locals, swimming, picking pineapples, napping, and just enjoying a wonderful weekend in a foreign place. Highlights include my first betel nut experience- it was disgusting, but I’m glad I tried it- drinking 5 layer tea, a special blend of 5 different layers of tea in one cup- DELICIOUS- and renting bikes to peddle 7km to a watering hole, and then everyone’s bikes breaking down midway through in the middle of nowhere, and hitching a ride back. I have a scorching sun burn on my back that is so bad it hurts to move- I have cuts all over my legs from my freaking bike that had sharp peddles- I have clothes that smell so disgusting because I was sweating so profusely outside in 100+ degree weather- but, I have a huge grin on my face that will never go away, and 17 interns that I bonded with pretty hardcore this weekend.

Next- Grameen Solutions. I have this fantastic internship with Grameen Solutions that I started on Sunday- and I feel like I can actually make a difference and do changes there. I mean how freaking COOL is it that I’m working for a software developing country where it’s main focus is to alleviate poverty? Yes, they take outsourcing jobs and application development jobs, etc. but they also focus on bringing technology to rural areas. For example they are working with UNICEF to create moBES- it’s an education system for students in Bangladesh. Out of 2.2 million students, only 1 million even bother registering for their secondary school certificate (their graduation degree)- which means that 50% drop out of school before graduation. To combat this, UNICEF and Grameen Solutions (UNICEF is providing the funds, Grameen Solutions is developing the software) are creating phone applications that help students study for exams- they can take mock tests, have peer to peer tutoring, huge help index, decide on how tough they want the questions, etc.- and it’s all for free. Phone technology is proving to be a huge thing for poverty alleviation because actually 64% of cell phone owners in the world are in developing countries- 30% of Bangladeshis own their own cell phones and it is growing at an annual rate of 30% a year. And even if they don’t own their own cell phone, there are village centers that have phones. So Grameen Solutions is developing software for education and also for health (people can text health care professionals their symptoms and get advice/treatment/prescriptions instead of having to spend a lot of time and money going to a hospital that they can’t afford). So anyway, what I am learning is REALLY cool, REALLY interesting, and I am being treated like an actual employee here- I have my own computer, card ID, and they want me to do analysis reports and join in on their brainstorming sessions. They also give me free lunch. What more could I ask for?

Note: If you are reading this and interested in interning with Grameen Bank, here is my well-seasoned advice (and believe me, please take this): intern with Grameen Bank for two weeks, a maximum of three weeks. You will get all of the information you can possibly get from them, and then stand around bored because they don’t manage their interns. Make sure to set up an internship with a Sister company the DAY you arrive to Grameen Bank (or they won’t do it for you). I wholeheartedly recommend Grameen Solutions- I think they have the best internship program. For prospective people looking to hear more, feel free to email me.

I cannot even begin to describe how many things I have learned in the past week. Please imagine a year-long class squished into one week. That is what it feels like to me. And it will only get better. Next week I am going on a four day and night field trip to a two-star Grameen branch (There are five stars that a branch can get- and interns are always taken to the five star ones, so we never get to see the actual problems with Grameen Bank. We specifically requested a two star branch so we could ask questions about difficulties with loan repayments to borrowers, etc.). We are also going to visit an Area Office or a Zonal Office (part of Grameen Bank, an Area Office is controlled by a Zonal Office, and a Zonal Office is controlled by HeadQuarters), and then on the way back visit Grameen Danone and Grameen United Healthcare (Social businesses of Grameen Bank- I am SUPER excited to learn about these). Finally, I hope to meet with BRAC (another micro-finance organization that rivals Grameen Bank) for a day to learn about their training program.

Sorry for the system overload, this is all probably too much information. I have relayed to you about .01% of everything I have had to disseminate in the past week.

I’m loving every second of it.

Much love,

1 Comment so far
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My name is Rezwana and I’m a 3rd year student at UC Berkeley. I’m hoping to do a 6 week internship with Grameen Bank over this summer and I found your blog to be very informative. I see that you suggested spending at most 3 weeks at Grameen bank since they don’t facilitate their interns’ needs very well. I’m doing this internship as part of an academic minor and I’m required to spend 6 weeks for a better understanding. You seem to have taken on lots of initiatives during your stay, is there anything you can suggest to me for making this experience successful? I see you very insistent and proactive throughout your internship period, how did you manage to schedule meetings with BRAC or obtain an internship with Grameen Solutions? Were your coordinators helpful in those regards past three weeks? I would really appreciate your feedback on some of these questions. I look forward to hear from you. Thanks.

Comment by Rezwana Abed

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