Samia Alam

This summer I was in Bangladesh, working at a clinic for underprivileged people, visiting slums to check health conditions of children and pregnant women, and working at an orphanage, which overall has been an eye-opening experience for me. The DCI volunteer program has given me the opportunity to learn about the healthcare system of a third world country like Bangladesh, and have a life changing experience there.

I would wake up at 7:00am and get ready to go to the clinic. Although the clinic is half an hour away from my house, it usually took me an hour or more to get there because of traffic. When I finally get to work, patients start coming to see the doctor. When the doctor asks the patient a question, I asked some follow up questions to get more information about the patient. I helped with taking history of the patients including checking their blood sugar level, blood pressure, and recording weight of children and pregnant mothers. Since all the patients are from slums near the clinic, they are usually uneducated and quite ignorant about their health. We had to talk to them in simple words so that they would understand what we were trying to explain. Because of their lack of knowledge, they seemed very helpless, and expressed their gratitude when they got better. I gained a sense of fulfillment after helping them.

It was very interesting to work at the clinic as I observed a pattern in the type of health issues people suffered from in Bangladesh. The majority of the young patients were malnourished, suffered from flus, various infections, diarrhea, and skin diseases since they live in an unhygienic environment, and do not get enough nutritious food. A lot of older patients were suffering from body aches, arthritis, vitamin deficiencies and problems related to lungs due to doing physical labor and inhaling dust at work and the slums they live in. I have also observed that a lot more female patients were suffering from malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies than males. Working with different doctors and seeing patients has helped me learn about different treatments and diagnosis, and also understand the life styles of extremely poor people in a third world country.

After watching all the patients, we would visit the slum to see if there were any children or pregnant woman in the houses. We examined the health condition of the children and pregnant women in each house, and talked to them to increase health awareness in the area. As they realized that we were trying to help them, they were very generous and friendly with us. Even though they are very poor and do not have enough food for themselves, they still invited us to their small one-room houses and offered food. However, we always avoided eating their food for safety. Still, it’s very nice to see how welcoming they were. Since people at the slum are not used to seeing people in western clothes, I wore very simple and traditional Bengali clothes called “saloar kamiz” at work in order for me to feel comfortable as well as make them feel comfortable to talk to me about their problems. I even tried to talk in their slang while talking to them about health awareness issues.

Last but not least, I have also worked at an orphanage run by DCI. When I met with the kids during my first orientation, I wanted to know about their lives, and also wanted to help them. I went to the orphanage twice a week to spend time with them. I taught them English, helped them with their homework, and then played different games with them just for them to have some fun. I was amazed to see how curious they were to learn new things and meet new people. The supervisor of the orphanage told me how they lost their parents and homes, and how some of them were physically abused by their relatives. Despite experiencing such tragedy at their young age, they have learned to stay strong and smile again. Their lives have made me realize how fortunate I am to have a family and my various opportunities in life.

I had so many different experiences during this summer through the DCI volunteer program. While I have enjoyed working and living in Bangladesh, I have also gained a lot of valuable experiences which will help me in the future. That’s why once again I would like to thank Distressed Children and Infants International for my unforgettable summer experience in Bangladesh.