My meeting with BRAC and Tagore’s birthday

It went very well.  I grabbed a rickshaw down to the BRAC Centre in Mohakhali, it took just 15 mins to get there through back streets and much weaving in and out of traffic.  I hung on tight. The BRAC Centre is a tall building, about 20 floors with full airport-like security before you enter the building.  I have no photos of course as I’m not really that comfortable taking out my camera and taking  my eye off my bag.  Just as I walked up to security, I spied a white-haired man, a little frail, stepping out of a car and by-passing security.  I looked closer, it was none other than Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, making his way into the office. How fortunate!  On my first visit to BRAC, I actually get to see (not talk though) the man himself. I was sent up to the 19th floor to meet with a gentleman by the name of Rana – Senior Manager, Visitors, Communications.  His sole job (with two colleagues supporting) is to coordinate all visits to BRAC, and people come from far and wide in a steady stream it seems. In some circles in North America and Europe, BRAC is not well known.  But here in Bangladesh, it is the bright light of Deshi Success.  I read somewhere today that Bangladesh is a country that never gives up, and from what I have seen thus far, it is true.  Everybody is active at making a living any way they can –  from the professionals to the retail staff to the rickshaw wallahs to the enterprising men & women selling peanuts on the sidewalk – everyone is striving for a better life for the next generation.  And BRAC is near revered in this country, people are dead proud of what BRAC has achieved and the impact it is having, one person at a time.  I consider myself really really fortunate that BRAC are even considering me a worthy ‘visitor’. After an hour’s discussion of where my interests lie within the BRAC organization, and how Rana can get me set up, I came away with having a loose plan of what the coming months will look like.  I’ll basically go through a day-long induction shortly, mid-May I will join a pre-planned visit by the University of Ottawa as the outline of their visit fits well to mine (I just hope they are Ok with me tagging along!).  After which we get into the more detailed learning specifically in the areas of Micro-finance, Social Enterprises and (I can hardly believe I chose this) Internal Audit in the coming months.  This could include both rural and urban exposure with visits to the field to allow me to see the practicalities on the ground.  I’ll have to have an interpreter with me given I don’t have Bengali. So not much “doing” for me in the coming months, the focus will be more on observing and learning what truly happens both on the ground and in the head office environment. This is definitely a change of pace for me.  For many years now, it is I who has been the teacher, the (mostly) all knowing person.  The tables sure have turned.  I hope I can handle it! Not to let it go unmarked, today is Tagore’s 153rd birthday (if he were still alive) and it’s a big day here in Bangladesh.  Although born in India, it is said Tagore and Bengali-ness remain inseparable.  I thought you might enjoy this article in today’s Daily Star (English-speaking progressive thinking newspaper published in Dhaka) on how Tagore can be applied to anything … well almost.  Enjoy.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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4 Responses to My meeting with BRAC and Tagore’s birthday

  1. Gary Lutke says:

    You chose Internal Audit? Seriously? Well then I guess the heat really is having an effect on your decision-making abilities. Keep your fluid intake up, else your next post will tell us you’ve taken a job as a rickshaw driver…..

  2. lalastudios says:

    I too was very fortunate to meet Sir Fazle Hasan Abed in Vancouver when I was doing work for the DLC. I’m a very big fan of BRAC and am so excited you have landed there! Miss you tons.

    • Kate Coffey says:

      I had forgotten that you had met him via the Dalai Lama Centre in Vancouver, Jacqui, How neat. Are you keeping a list of the world famous people you keep working with …Al Gore etc.

      Thinking of you guys lots you know. xo

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