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Winrock International

Volunteer Post

The Price of a Dream

Today’s blog post is from BoDavid Williford (pictured above, center), who recently completed a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer assignment in Bangladesh:

“As my time in Bangladesh comes to an end, I am left with a new phrase that I don’t plan to leave in Dhaka.  After numerous conversations with students at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT), I have learned of many barriers to education in this country.  The students at this university have a strong sense of determination that you can almost feel by walking down the hallways.

I believe that is partially due to the great job that the faculty does in pushing their students to fulfill their dreams.  But also, the student body at IUBAT is unique in that it has a large subset of graduates from the Agricultural Training Institutes (ATIs).  IUBAT was the first university in Bangladesh to offer admission to these diploma holders.  The ATI graduates are students who normally were raised in production agriculture settings and took study at an ATI instead of secondary school so that they could enhance their skill sets in agriculture.  With this background, a lot of the students at IUBAT have struggled financially to make a bachelors degree achievable.  Not only is money a barrier, but IUBAT also requires their students to speak English at all times to improve their opportunities at working with western organizations upon graduation. The ATI graduates studying at IUBAT range in age and gender.

A statement from one boy in his third semester of study made this whole process make sense to me and showed me the true value of my American education.  When I asked the boy if he was scared to move 6 hours from home to Dhaka to study in English, he responded no.  I couldn’t believe it.  I have held my own apprehension of moving away from home for education in the past and here this student struggling to pay tuition and learn a second language all while studying in subjects such as plant protection and genetics claimed no fear.  His response to me put chills down my arms as he said, ‘Sir, my father tells me my dreams are far greater than any costs.’  Of all the students I have met with and heard their goals, this statement would hold true for them all.  The faith I have gained in higher education from working with these students has made this trek from Arkansas more than worth it.

During my time at the International University of Business Agriculture and Technology I have provided seminars on classroom management, entrepreneurship and social media marketing.  I also met with the communication team at the university to provide recommendations for reaching more students in rural Bangladesh.

I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to build relationships with so many of these students as I worked with them in developing stronger communication skills.  I cannot wait to return to Bangladesh again, hopefully to see some of the students I have befriended making their dreams come true.”