Forty years ago this year, U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy became the first American statesman to visit Bangladesh. He helped to inspire generations of Americans and Bangladeshis to dedicate their lives to improving their communities through public service and volunteerism.
Over the decades, the United States has been a key development partner for Bangladesh. The U.S. Agency for International Development recently celebrated 40 years of cooperation with Bangladesh, during which the U.S. government has provided over $5.7 billion in development assistance.
“Many partnerships have been forged and much progress has been made over the years,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, “including the establishment of the Bangladesh Agricultural University and many other important programs.”
Bangladesh is also a focus country for U.S. initiatives promoting climate change adaptation, food security, global health, women’s empowerment, and engagement with the Muslim world.
Bangladesh, said Assistant Secretary Blake, has a well-earned reputation for its active civil society and volunteerism. A case in point is Korvi Rakshand. He participated in the United States’ International Visitor Leadership Program, was inspired by AmeriCorps, and created JAAGO in 2007. This organization strives to bring education to children living in slums.
At first, he began his work on an individual basis, and then was joined by a few friends. Now JAAGO runs two schools, with another set to open very soon. Korvi went on to launch Volunteer for Bangladesh in 2011, which now consists of a network of 7,000 volunteers across the country.
Another young activist is Ejaj Ahmed. He founded the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center in 2008. This organization encourages young people to take the lead in addressing problems in their country. The Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center brings together young people from diverse religious, ethnic, and educational backgrounds to learn how to work together to solve problems.
The United States is proud to support organizations like Volunteer for Bangladesh, JAAGO and the Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center, among others. These organizations help people reach their potential as dynamic leaders, and engage citizens working for their community, their country and their world.