Bangladesh With World Vision

Note: I am not commissioned to write this.

My boss asked me if I wanted to go to Bangladesh on a business trip. Without a second thought, I said yes, when nobody wanted to go.

Just a week or so before my business trip, a terrorist attack happened in Dhaka. My business trip was cancelled.

Then I ran into a World Vision trip announcement taking donors to Bangladesh. I had the visa to the country anyway (we shouldn’t waste anything, right? :P) so I signed up. The reason why World Vision organised this kind of trip was to raise more funds. They charged us some money to pay for our accommodation, our meals and transportation (excluding flights). If there was any money left, they’d take that as donations. World Vision Singapore had been working on the project in Bangladesh for a long time. After ~20 years of effort, the local people could finally independently continue with the work. So, we went there to see the fruit of their work and attend their ‘end of project’ ceremony. I donated to World Vision Hong Kong. I thought they worked on the same project but was told it didn’t work that way. Each local World Vision office worked on different projects and in different regions so I couldn’t visit my sponsored child.

There was another issue – after the terrorist attack, my company announced that no staff was allowed to go to Bangladesh.

Having assessed the situation and asked the staff from World Vision, I explained to my boss and got the permission from my boss and my boss’s boss to go.


A year after that, I lost my job. It wasn’t because of this incident. There was a restructure in the entire company.

I was glad that I went to Bangladesh despite my company’s announcement.

This trip became part of my memory. It became part of me. I am still keeping in touch with the people who went on this trip with me.

Speaking of this, I had an opportunity to act in an international short film several months after I acted in my debut film. But this opportunity came after I joined a company. Taking any annual leave not long after I joined a new company would not be that ‘right’ so I declined. In retrospect, I should have taken that acting opportunity. The workload in that company wasn’t that heavy. Acting in a short film with an international film director was a rare opportunity and I would probably be just taking one or two days off during the weekday from work. Oh, well. Choices. That was probably the best option I chose at that very moment. I am sure I had weighed the pros and cons before I made that decision. I wonder what would happen if I had taken that role. I could still be writing my blogs now 😀 or maybe I’d decide to start my career in the entertainment industry. Who knows?

Coming back to this Bangladesh trip, before I went, I had to tell my boss and my boss’s boss where I was going and why. When I had lunch with my colleagues and my boss’s boss, my boss’s boss said, ‘I’d love to take my kids on such a trip too so that I can tell them, “look at them and look at yourself, see how much you have and you are still demanding more.”‘ I didn’t say a word when I heard that. I totally disagreed. I wouldn’t say that to my kids (if I had any). Doing a comparison like that is not right and not appropriate. I’d just ask them what they thought about the entire trip. You’d be surprised by the kids’ answers.

We were not allowed to ‘check in’ a place on any social media and publish any photos of their children. Fair enough.

We took a domestic flight from Dhaka to Khulna.

The flight we took
Baggage claim area. Yes, it’s manual.
The street we went past.
The British flag. I sent it to my friend that I met in Tibet to see his reaction. I think he just laughed.
Why do developing countries have so much rubbish in the streets? This has to do with education. I am not talking about the education in school, I am talking about education in general – how the governments and the parents teach the next generations.
We were accompanied by the police wherever we went.

We had a chat with the sponsored children and the child forum leaders. Those kids were so keen to express their opinions. They learnt so much from the programmes offered by World Vision. Then we visited other beneficiaries who showed us what they learnt from the WASH programme.

The women showed us what they learnt from the WASH programme. The aluminium tins you see in this photo were produced by the World Vision beneficiaries.
A rainbow! What a beautiful day!
It was very common to see this kind of stalls along the streets in Khulna.
We tried some tea at the stall. This guy was taking a photo of me while I took a photo of him. 😀
The city of Khulna
We brought some presents with us for the kids. At night, in our hotel, we took out all the things we bought, put them together, classified them and wrapped them into little bags.

Other than visiting the children, we were also taken to visit some ‘touristy’ places. We took a ferry to Sundarbans Mangrove Forest and then visited the 60 Tombs Mosque.

Along the river
These chocolate filled cookies were delicious. I later bought some and took them back to Singapore (I was working in Singapore back then). Even my Singaporean friends couldn’t tell and believe these cookies were from Bangladesh.
The world heritage – Sundarbans. The sign mentions all the endangered species. Bengal tiger must be the most famous one. It reminds me of The Life of Pi.
We were walking around the forest.
The police really did load their guns.
These are like the houses in Cambodia and all the other Asian countries. I guess this is common sense to build houses like that.
I guess the bridge wasn’t supposed to be like that…
We then visited the 60 Tombs Mosque – a famous tourist spot.
Beautiful architecture
Another universal thing – putting goods on the head.
Inside the mosque
Another photo of the interior of the mosque
The entrance / exit of the mosque
Another mosque
We wanted to do some shopping. Poor the police. They had to make sure we were all safe but the thing is when women do shopping, they go around. So, the police had to scatter around the mall and followed us around. Every time when we said we wanted to do shopping, I am sure the police frowned. I didn’t see that but I would if I were the police.
Local bakery
Local desserts
Some more local desserts
The roads in Khulna was so busy. Khulna is the second largest city in Bangladesh after Dhaka.
We attended the ‘close out and thanksgiving’ ceremony. The beneficiaries performed singing and dancing.
We had lunch with the World Vision staff and the beneficiaries. One of us was so emotional that she cried when she saw her sponsored child.
We had a meeting with the World Vision staff. These ones were going to start another new project in another location in Bangladesh. As for the staff who had worked for ~20 years in developing the other area? After the project was finished, they lost their job. They needed to find another job. Yes, I was shocked to hear that. Oh well, I hope they had found another one with another NGO and continued to contribute to their own country.

One of the senior management from the World Vision headquarters came and met up with us. He came to attend the ‘close of project’ ceremony and the meeting to plan the start of the new project.

During one of the dinners with the Bangladesh World Vision staff, they mentioned a disaster that happened several years ago in Bangladesh. He said, ‘One day when I was working in the office, one of the World Vision staff from another office came with a stack of money saying “this is the donation from Hong Kong World Vision for the relief project of the disaster”. Hong Kong people are so generous. They had donated so much to us for our work. We are so thankful.’ I felt proud of the Hong Kong people. Yes, we are always among the first to support relief projects regardless of where those projects are. We donated millions to Japan after the devastating tsunami in 2011. We also donated millions to Mainland China when the serious floods happened and to many other countries that suffered from natural disasters and famine. It isn’t because we are rich. You don’t need to be rich to be generous. It’s because this is how we are raised and it is the right thing to do. Our previous generations escaped from different provinces in China to Hong Kong during the Second World War and the cultural revolution after WWII. They had gone through a lot – famine, death of their relatives, etc. They taught their next generations to be generous. I hope this virtue continues. I know some of the younger generations have forgotten about this. They need to learn about our past and the virtue passed from the previous generations and most importantly learn to be thankful.

On our last day, we visited the day care centre and the street kids. With the help of World Vision, these kids had a safe place to go. We talked to them. They told us what they had learnt. I am glad they had learnt so many things. Ignorance is like a crime. I remember one of the staff talked about birth control issue in Bangladesh. She said, ‘once women are educated, they’ll choose not to have so many children.’

These were the gifts each of us got from the beneficiaries and the staff from World Vision Bangladesh.

After I lost my job in Singapore, I attended my friend’s wedding in Vietnam. You can find it in my blog here. After that, I went to a neighbouring country. Guess where it was? 😛

Stay tuned. 🙂

August 2016

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