Charity mission to Bangladesh was a life-changing experience for students

Charity mission to Bangladesh was a life-changing experience for students

Two current and two former students of New City College Tower Hamlets recently travelled to some of the most remote areas of Bangladesh as part of a charity project to help improve conditions for refugees, villagers and orphaned children.

Sufian Kamali, who is President of the Students’ Union, along with Oly Gofur Begum and former students Marzan Alom and Jumel Miah, joined a group of volunteers from local charity Splash and the Human Relief Foundation for the two-week project.

They installed 10 water wells and sanitation units at the Rohingya refugee camp in Dhakar to provide clean water for the residents and then travelled to Sunamganj in Sylhet where they visited various orphanages, handing out much-needed supplies and serving food to the children.

After working at Rohingya, the group of 10 volunteers journeyed to small villages in north Bangladesh which were so remote, they had to travel by speed boat for two hours as there were no roads. The villages had no access to fresh water and were using muddy pond water for drinking, washing and bathing. The group built two water wells which will now provide clean water for more than 350 people.

Sufian said: “It was a life-changing experience and one I would definitely do again. We could see how just having access to fresh water will transform the people’s daily lives. We were all humbled and grateful for the things we take for granted in the UK, like running water, heat, food and shelter.”

Oly agreed, saying: “I have become more appreciative with everything I have. This truly humbled all of us and we will remember these experiences for the rest of our lives.”

Jorge Castillo-Rodriguez, Deputy Principal of Tower Hamlets campus, pictured top with Oly and Sufian, said: “Everyone is very proud of the students who took part in this incredible project. We would particularly like to recognise and congratulate Sufian for showing tremendous leadership, but also to the whole group for the extremely important, selfless efforts that they have made to help make a vital difference in the lives of others.”

Sister Christine Frost, on behalf of the charity Splash, said: “The group had a life-changing experience themselves while enriching the lives of a great many others. It was a very successful project.”

We caught up with Sufian and Oly for a Q&A on the trip. Here is what they had to say:

What did your day-to-day schedule look like?

Sufian: We had to get up as early as 5am and then after breakfast we would visit numerous camps to provide aid and interact with the families and children.

Oly: Sometimes we would play football or cricket with them, which they loved. The people were very friendly!

What did you gain or learn from this experience?

Sufian: I learned how different our lives are compared to the orphans and refugees. They have nothing, and I literally mean – nothing. For example, I walked around with sandals, they were bare footed walking on the turf and in their homes.

Oly: Now that I have seen how reality is for the less fortunate, I appreciate everything in my life a lot more. We always complain about our problems to our parents and families because we don’t have this or that, but in reality, a lot of children do not even have the basic necessities of life.

Will this trip help with your studies or with anything else?

Sufian: Yes, we learned the importance of teamwork and how to discipline ourselves. On a day-to-day basis we would have to wake up very early and then work hard during the day.

Oly: Working as a team, we were able to provide aid and this taught us the importance of being punctual because if we were late, it would have affected the whole team and would have slowed the progress that everyone was making.

How did you get involved with this project?

Sufian: We play badminton at the workhouse. The staff members where we played asked us if we would like to get involved in some charity work, so we set up badminton tournaments where every player would pay an entry fee which would go to charity. We raised £200 through the tournaments.

Oly: We were then told about the project going to Rohingya, but before we could sign up for it, we needed to fundraise. So we set up an online donation page and we arranged a lot of fundraising events with our friends and families and amazingly we were able to raise approximately £14,000. This money helped pay for the trip and provided the refugees with water pumps that gave them access to fresh, clean water.

Would you volunteer again for a similar charity project?

Sufian: Yes! One hundred percent! This experience was unique and very rewarding. I will now certainly appreciate the things in life that I already have.

Oly: Definitely! Although we tried our best to help out, there are still millions of people who need our help. We should all try to help the poor and needy a lot more.