“My DCI Experience” by Salma Siddique

Salma Siddique

Salma Siddique

When I was five years old, I visited Bangladesh for the first time with my family. It was my first international experience, not only unique for that reason, but also because it was a trip to tie me to my roots, so that I could know where my family came from. Among many other firsts, I remember seeing children about my own age lining up next to car windows in the densely trafficked streets of Dhaka and begging for food and money. I had never grasped that children could live in conditions like that until then. During our visit, I went with my mother to a local clinic where she volunteered her time as a physician. Watching how she helped to treat the patients made me feel that she and the other doctors at the clinic were making an active difference in the lives of the children. At five years old, I could not comprehend why they were living in such conditions, why they had ailments I couldn’t diagnose, but I understood that I wanted to be a part of a solution to the problems I saw when I grew up. That was what motivated me to pursue medicine.

During my second year of college, I became involved with Distressed Infants and Children International (DCI) by sponsoring a child in Bangladesh. Reminiscent of what had sparked my desire to pursue a career in medicine, I recently volunteered at DCI’s health clinic in the Kolanpur slum in Dhaka. The children in the slum had very little, were plagued with chronic diseases, and yet were happy with what little they had. I was only able to spend a short time there, but in that short time I saw clinical presentations I’ve never seen in America – kwashiorkor disease, chronic pustular otitis externa, varying degrees of malnutrition, and more. As a medical student, the experience was an eye opening one, giving me a viewpoint on global health, specifically in Bangladesh. The lack of resources in the clinic made me realize that much more had to be done to serve rapidly growing communities like this one. The DCI staff members were so helpful and welcoming. They took us through the slum where we saw the conditions in which the children and their families live. Talking to the children was refreshing. We had more in common than either of us would have imagined and their love for live was truly inspiring.

After volunteering at the clinic, I was able to meet the girl I had sponsored for the past few years. Putting an actual face and personality to the pictures I had seen of her put so much into perspective for me. DCI truly makes a difference in the lives of these children. It is hard enough for children in villages and slums to go to school when they are pressured to start working to help support their families. If they have some financial support, some incentive to stay in school, medical care and basic needs provided, it makes things somewhat easier for them and their families.

Things have changed a great deal since my first visit to Bangladesh so many years ago. It is because of organizations like DCI that change is coming to Bangladesh. There are efforts being made to promote good health and hygiene, clean drinking water, sewage treatment plants, adequate healthcare, and financial support to people who really need it. I am grateful to DCI for allowing me the opportunity to have volunteered with them, and to have been able to see how they are making a difference. Now I am fully committed to continue doing work with DCI in the future; they are truly performing a great service for some of the most deserving in Bangladesh.
I hope that the next time I am able to visit Bangladesh, things will have changed even more for the better, and I am hopeful that DCI will be among the organizations at the forefront of that change.

Salma Siddique
Brooklyn, NY