Resting north of the Bay of Bengal along the Tropic of Cancer, Bangladesh has nothing to do with Henry Miller’s novel of the same name. With lush landscapes and abundant waterways, no one can claim it didn’t earn the nickname “The Land of Rivers” honestly. While Bangladesh is known for miles and miles of fertile farmland, the occasional Bengal Tiger, and healthy harvests, it’s equally, and unfortunately, known for its poverty rate and prevalent workers’ rights violations, specifically in clothing manufacturing. So, what’s around the riverbend? Your next volunteer adventure. Lend a helping hand to the Bangladeshis and volunteer abroad in Bangladesh!
Although Bangladesh is predominantly fertile land, there are many populous cities and villages throughout the country. Whether you volunteer abroad in Bangladesh in a more rural area or in a booming metropolis, you have plenty of project prospects.
Dhaka. The capital of Bangladesh and the 10th largest city in the world, Dhaka rests alongside the Buriganga River. This city contains both structural and natural beauty; however, it experiences congestion due to its intense population density. Sadly, a large percent of that population lives below the poverty line. Although Bangladesh has improved the livelihood of their people in many facets, there is still much to be done, due to poor infrastructure, water management, and other problems. As a volunteer in Dhaka, you can help rebuild stronger infrastructure, among other things.
Bogra. Known as the transport hub for travelers to visit farther flung areas of Bangladesh, Bogra is a city that opens the gate for volunteerism in Bangladesh. Bogra is one of the oldest cities in Bangladesh and is known for its trade and commerce. Bogra, like the majority of cities in Bangladesh, rests along a river and has very rich soils, which makes it an ideal location for yielding crops. For those who are interested in the lives of people who live in chars, or floating villages, Bogra offers the opportunity to volunteer a place to volunteer that is in close proximity to these villages.
Chittagong. The second largest city in Bangladesh and the biggest port city, Chittagong is just as hectic as Dhaka, despite its size. Chittagong is an enthralling place, but is in severe need of health improvements; with problems like pollution and non-potable water, Chittagong does not meet health standards that exist in other parts of the world. Another center for trade and commerce, Chittagong is vital to the economy of Bangladesh, but continues to have its own socioeconomic problems.
Rural Areas. Bangladesh is a country where even rural areas are extremely overpopulated, which directly impacts the health and sustainability of people within the country. By volunteering in Bangladesh’s rural areas, you can help improve the standard of living for those who experience the most severe poverty in the country. Working to support ongoing health initiatives in rural villages will contribute to necessary improvements in the lives of pastoral Bangladeshis.
Volunteer Programs in Bangladesh
There are many opportunities to get involved with different volunteer projects in Bangladesh, so you’ll have the freedom to choose to work in areas that interest you! Volunteer opportunities in Bangladesh entail working with people as well as wildlife, allowing volunteers of all interests and skill sets to make a considerable, positive impact on the country.
Community Development volunteer work in Bangladesh often focuses on sustainable development projects and education programs in underprivileged communities. Volunteers will have the chance to create real solutions to real problems, such as providing basic health and hygiene classes to promote increased health and living conditions or teaching locals about important environmental issues, such as the impact of climate change on their community. With natural disasters being a regular part of life in Bangladesh, there are many volunteer opportunities to help rebuild communities and supply food and shelter to those experiencing displacement too.
Health Care. Volunteers with a background in health science can help improve the quality of healthcare in Bangladesh by providing healthcare services to locals. Many volunteer programs in Bangladesh focus on providing healthcare in more rural areas, because these tend to be the most underserved areas of the country. Healthcare volunteering in Bangladesh often involves working with indigenous communities, women, youth, and those living with HIV/AIDS, which tend to be the most disadvantaged populations.
Wildlife Conservation volunteering in Bangladesh is also very possible and needed. With climate change posing such a serious threat throughout the country, there are many volunteer opportunities in Bangladesh that involve animal care and wildlife conservation activities. Wildlife volunteering is usually focused on more rural areas of the country where more wildlife reside.
Teaching. From working as an assistant English teacher to teaching sports, volunteers will be able to work closely with local children and improve their educational opportunities. Regardless of your specific placement, your involvement will have a profound impact on the children with whom you work. By encouraging them to work hard in school and show up everyday ready to learn, you can help change the direction of their education.
Knowing Bengali is not required to volunteer in Bangladesh, but keep in mind that not many people will know English. A basic understanding of keywords and phrases will therefore be a big help, since day-to-day communication may prove to be challenging, especially for those who volunteer in the more rural areas of Bangladesh.
Costs & Affordability
Bangladesh is a very affordable destination for volunteers on a budget. With food and drinks costing half as much as they would in the U.S., for example, it is easy to make your money go a long way in Bangladesh. Although the cost of living is dependent on where you choose to volunteer in Bangladesh, even the more expensive cities, like Dhaka, remain affordable.
Volunteer programs in Bangladesh will vary in costs depending on the project, provider, and the duration of the program, but you can expect to pay between $500 and $1500 for upfront program fees. Although this may seem like a high price to pay to volunteer your time, program costs will typically include in-country travel, project orientation, housing, and most, if not all, meals. In the end, the most expensive part of volunteering abroad in Bangladesh (or anywhere in the world for that matter) is usually the international flight. Flights to any major city in Bangladesh from large international airports will cost between $800 and $1000, but if you keep an ear to the ground for deals and discounts on airfare you can keep a bit more money in your pocket!
Accommodation & Visas
Those who volunteer abroad in Bangladesh most commonly live with a host family, but they will also typically have the option of living in apartments in larger cities. Apartments will provide a very different living experience than a homestay environment; volunteers will likely come to love the connection and support system that host families provide. Regardless of the location or accommodation arrangement, volunteer organizations in Bangladesh generally assist all volunteers in finding a home away from home.
A visa is necessary to volunteer in Bangladesh, which will require the usual application form, passport, and photographs. However, a work visa is required for those who plan to volunteer in Bangladesh for longer than thirty days. Visa fees usually range anywhere from $150 to $200 and applicants may also need a letter of acceptance from their host organization to prove their participation in a volunteer program.
Benefits & Challenges
Population & Poverty. Since Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries in the world, high poverty rates are expected, but still surprising for incoming volunteers. Although volunteers won’t be able to solve systemic, socioeconomic problems during a short volunteer program in Bangladesh, they will still be able to make a real difference in the lives of locals, and that is something they will be proud of.
Tropics & Tributaries. With over 700 rivers flowing through Bangladesh, this tropical country provides a unique landscape and warm climate. However, late summer monsoons and other natural calamities can prove to be a challenging for volunteers and locals alike. Severe weather causes damage to infrastructure and displaces local families throughout the year, but these events also provide volunteers with plenty of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of Bangladeshis