Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Global Village Team in Bangladesh!

Habitat Bangladesh is hosting its first GV team for the 2008/9 building year!

16 students and 2 teachers from the Shanghai American School are currently building homes for a small community in Bangladesh, from 27 September to 5 October. The team comes to Bangladesh as part of the Global Village program. They are working in Mymensingh to build three homes in Roghurampur village, under Shombhuganj police station. The team will have the opportunity to enjoy the EID festivities in the town, visit the Garo tribal community for a unique cross-cultural experience, visit a local school and a museum.

The Shanghai American School sends many teams to developing countries as part of the Global Village program of HFHI to build homes for the people in need. Habitat Bangladesh is one of the few programs that has continuously received teams from the school over the last few years.

Photos from the team's experiences will be posted soon!

If you are interested in volunteering at Habitat Bangladesh, please contact Sanjay, our Volunteer Programs Manager at sanjay@habitatbangladesh.org

International Day of Prayer 2008

Habitat for Humanity International –Bangladesh (HFHIB) organized a prayer meeting for Christian pastors at the YWCA Conference Hall, Dhaka on 17th September 2008. Thirty-seven pastors and leaders from different Christian denominations and organizations gathered for the prayer.

As Master of Ceremonies, the Volunteer Programs Manager, Mr. Prince Sanjay Saha welcomed all of the participants. The work of HFHIB was then presented to the audience by the Public Relations and Resource Development Manager, Emelda Mullick.

In her presentation on Habitat Bangladesh, she highlighted how HFHIB is working in Bangladesh in its regular ‘Save and Build’ Program, Disaster Response Program, Volunteer Programs and Church Relations Program. She also explained about the plans of Habitat Bangladesh for the 2009 fiscal year.

The National Director, Ms. Kelly Koch welcomed everyone in the room. She especially thanked everyone for choosing to spend their time with Habitat Bangladesh, to pray for people living in substandard housing in Bangladesh. She explained HFHIB’s mission as an Ecumenical housing ministry and the partnership and role that churches can play in the organization.

Rev. Sourave Folia from the Church of Bangladesh conducted the prayer and Pastor Robinson Mondol from the Seventh Day Adventist Church of Bangladesh delivered the sermon. He spoke about the parable of Zacchaeus from the gospel of Luke. As Jesus went and mingled with people from all walks of life, so can the leaders of Christian communities of Bangladesh go out of their circle to reach the poor and show the love of Christ through their work. Rev. Mondol encouraged everyone to come forward and take a step to help the poor.

After the sermon, the Chairman of the Board for Habitat Bangladesh, Mr. Peter Halder thanked everyone for considering HFHIB’s request to attend the prayer and also for their time with Habitat Bangladesh.

The prayer meeting finished with a prayer for people who continue to live in substandard housing and the desire that Habitat Bangladesh will be able to help these people.

Congregations in over 280 churches prayed for homeless people and HFHI at the International Day of Prayer on September 21, 2008. The National Council of Churches in Bangladesh (NCCB) delivered the prayer call of HFHI to its member churches. The Seventh Day Adventists (SDA), The Church of Bangladesh and Bangladesh Baptist Fellowship (BBF) centrally circulated the message of prayer at the HFHI’s International Day of Prayer to all its member churches. Mr. Subodh Adhikary (General Secretary of the NCCB, Rev. Sourov Folia (Pastorate Superintendent and Principal of St. Andrews Theological College) and Rev. Leor P. Sarkar (General Secretary of BBF), Pastor Dulal Mitra (Dhaka district Pastor of SDA) lead to deliver the message and prayer call to their respective churches. All of these denominations have over 100 houses of worship and churches in the country.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Farewell to Pierre Johannessen

Pierre Soheil Johannessen walks into the conference room of Habitat Bangladesh dressed in a Big Bangs t-shirt - the community-based basketball charity that two Frenchmen, a Bangladeshi and himself founded. He is here to discuss the last 12 months he as spent in Dhaka, Bangladesh as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) working in the National Office of Habitat for Humanity International Bangladesh (HFHIB).

Pierre had no preconceived ideas on Bangladesh before arriving in September 2007. He reflects that he was "not in the mind-frame" for coming to Bangladesh, and, frankly, does not look in the mind-frame to be leaving. the work completed, the experiences had, and most importantly, the relationships made, are hard to leave behind.

Arriving in the country two months before Cyclone Sidr struck southern Bangladesh, Pierre also witnessed HFHIB commencing its first Disaster Response project in Bhuapur Tagail which built 122 transitional shelters for families who lost their homes in the September 2007 floods.

Thousands of families lost their homes in the destruction of Cyclone Sidr in southern Bangladesh, and Pierre was thrown into the deep end and was fortunate enough to join the disaster assessment team in Patuakhali. The trip brought about a swell of emotions for the young Australian. The vast destruction and desperation in the faces of people play over in his head as a constant reminder that his work as a Resource Development Associate at Habitat "concerns families, not just dollars and cents." He comments that he is impressed at what Habitat has done and continues to do in Patuakhali. "We have not abandoned the community. We are still there. We are rebuilding the houses." While mentioning his experience on the assessment trip Pierre said, "I took lots of photos and one of the
most appealing photos that I have taken is the photo that is featured in the Habitat Bangladesh 2008 calendar. This image will remain in my heart for years to come."

Pierre has had a significant impact on the Resource Development and Public Relations Department of HFHIB. Introducing accountability, new internal and external communication methods, policies and procedures, improved efficiency, and marketing techniques, were just a few outcomes achieved by Pierre.

Where Pierre differs from other AYADs, work is only one facet that makes up his experience in Bangladesh. Basketball, a lifetime passion, could not be put aside while in Bangladesh. From coaching school teams, to meeting other 'ballers', Pierre began to spend most of his time after office hours on a basketball court somewhere in Dhaka. It was on one of these courts that the Big Bangs was born. An organization that has run tournaments, entered and sponsored competitions, organized skills training workshops, run basketball camps at orphanages in and around Dhaka, and, handed out food packages and played ball with street kids in Old Dhaka.

Pierre has enjoyed his time in Bangladesh, contributing significantly to Habitat Bangladesh, playing basketball and eating Shingaras (a typical Bangladeshi snack). He came with no conceived ideas on Bangladesh and leaves with what he calls a "priceless experience". Pierre articulates his experience at HFHIB as "awesome", his favorite word. Travelling from Dhaka to Tangail, to Mirzaganj to Savar, Pierre has met with and interviewed families, taken pictures, and written stories and articles about Habitat. He emphasises that these were the most enjoyable parts of his assignment.

Despite Pierre commenting that he has experienced more personal development rather than career development, his contribution has had a positive effect on HFHIB and has encouraged the organization to raise its profile in Bangladesh and increase its confidence in engaging future international volunteers to its programs.

Pierre's final words to future volunteers - "be part of the community". A statement that certainly rings true for this Australian.

Thanks a million to Pierre!

With his talent, dedication and hard work Pierre assisted PR & RD team to stay on track and meet its goal. His willingness and creativity is much appreciated.

Pierre Soheil Johannessen was the first Australian Youth Ambassador for Development (AYAD) for HFHIB. We were blessed to have such an extraordinary talent in our team. Pierre left Bangladesh on 18th September 2008. We miss him and wish him all the best. Good luck Pierre!