Our work is only complete when every individual within the communities we serve, and the communities as a whole are empowered to transform their lives and reach their full potential.
Therefore, one of our priority is to educate, build capacity, and give people the tools to uplift themselves and their communities.
When Friendship arrived on the river island areas in northern Bangladesh, there were hardly any schools in the remote islands.
It was impossible for the government or NGOs to run schools at such distances from the mainland, especially on a landscape that was constantly eroding and forming afresh.
Friendship overcame the problem by training locals who had a certain minimum education, and equipping them to run primary schools.
The pupils consistently outperform the national average despite significant challenges in their remote riverine environments.
The challenge of bringing quality education became more difficult to manage at the secondary level due to the scarcity of well-educated teachers in these remote communities.
As a result, secondary schools had to be taught through pre-recorded video classes screened through a solar powered system. The classes are assisted by trained facilitators who are able to contact the teachers as necessary.
The students in secondary schools have also achieved a high success rate at national exams. In villages with Friendship schools, child marriage has declined significantly, since parents are less willing to get their girls married if they gain knowledge and better life opportunities.
We offer adults a second chance at education through our adult literacy program that teach reading, writing and basic arithmetic.
This allows them to gain confidence in their lives and not depend on others for everyday tasks such as reading a signboard or a medicine label, keeping accounts of earnings and expenditures, and signing contracts.
In turn, these adult students are frequently motivated to send their children to Friendship schools.
SYSTEMATIC RECRUITMENT FROM WITHIN THE COMMUNITIES
Friendship employs around 3,200 people, more than half of whom are recruited from within the communities where we operate.
These community workers include medic-aides, teachers, paralegals, skilled birth assistants, solar technicians, etc., each of whom serve an essential purpose in improving the quality of life of their neighbours whilst being empowered themselves through training and connectivity with local governments and other resource points.
These people trained to work for Friendship are also given skills to be entrepreneurs so that they are empowered to be self-sufficient regardless of our presence.
PARTICIPATORY APPROACH / RELIANCE ON COMMUNITY-BASED GROUPS
Friendship works with active participation from local communities in all its interventions, both in determining their needs and addressing them. We form committees and groups within each community to take charge of social and environmental issues facing them.
Examples of this are the Friendship Community Civil Society Group (FCSG), the Friendship Disaster Management Committees (FDMC), the Friendship Community Development Committees (FCDC) or the School Management Committees (SMC).
Each of these have a defined purpose and members dedicated to those goals. For example, FCSGs are responsible for disseminating information within their community, identifying issues faced by the community and assisting them in finding the best means of resolving them.
LEGAL BOOTHS AND AWARENESS RAISING ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
Unlike inhabitants of the mainland, chars dwellers cannot always access the public services or institutions they are entitled to.
We have been able to offer remote communities access to paralegals to whom community members can address their questions. Our paralegals explain the basic legal, human and citizens’ rights, and describe the means for protecting and obtaining these rights.
They also help resolve common justice problems that community members face on a day-to-day basis.
Often the poor don’t have access to schooling and can’t read or write. It is therefore challenging to inform them of their rights.
One successful means of raising awareness is via theatre shows. The enactment of taboo topics (child marriage, dowry, child labour, domestic violence, etc.) conveys information and guidance in an entertaining manner, breaking down social barriers.
These shows are a highly engaging and are a powerful tool that help create an immediate and lasting positive impact.
EMPOWERING CARPENTERS FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE PRESERVATION
Bangladesh’s boat-building skills have been passed down orally from one generation to the next for millennia.
There are no written records documenting these ancient techniques, but they constitute a unique heritage of the most diverse fleet of riverine vessels in the world with more than a hundred different types of wooden boats.
Yet, as the wooden sailboats were pushed into extinction by motorized, steel-bodied traffic, their extraordinary craft was disappearing into irrelevance.
Friendship worked supported these master carpenters by commissioning miniature replicas built using the same techniques as the full-sized boats as a way to document and preserve the numerous designs from all over Bangladesh. As a result, these carpenters continue to make a living.
Moreover they have travelled around the world to exhibit their craft, and enjoy a status as the last remaining artisans of their craft.