06 April 1999
by Isabel Julia Vázquez Prieto
The story of Benedicte Peraldi, who volunteered for eight months with a local organization in Bangladesh; YPSA (Young Power in Social Action). We interviewed her and asked her how it was. Here's the story.
Thinking of taking a year out before starting University, Benedicte wanted to join a volunteer programme in Bangladesh to gain some work experience and to travel to a new "world". Listening to her intuition that this is what she wanted to do, nothing could hold her back. She arrived in Dhaka and was immediately welcomed by the volunteer organization, YPSA. YPSA is a grassroots organization working towards promoting women's projects, primary education, micro credit, reforestation and sanitation. Before she could draw a breath, Benedicte was engaged in a workcamp at an eye clinic in Chittagong in Northern Bangladesh. Being only seventeen at the time, this was a wake up call to the real world. She learned quickly about the situation around her, living and working along side her host family, they were eager to tell her all about their country, its ups and downs. As time went on, she also learnt some Bengali, and was able to communicate with the local people with much more ease.
The first difficulty that she encountered upon arrival was the lack of privacy, living in a family of eight people, it became increasingly difficult to find a quiet space. Later on however, this did not bother her, she learned that the people in Bangladesh shared everything with one and another and it became more and more appealing to her. Being used to an individualistic society, she felt a fresh difference. Obviously, it left her with some considerable headaches at times. Throughout her stay, apart from eating and sharing life with a foreign family, she appreciated their strong family ties and friendliness towards her, and it did not take long before she felt almost at home. Her day to day activities consisted of administrative duties in the main YPSA office, writing articles, being interviewed on local TV stations, in newspapers etc. Sometimes, though, she did feel hopeless seeing all the poverty around her. However, now that she is back in France, she feels a great urge to help people with similar problems. "It is funny", she said, "You have to travel far and see poverty before you recognise that in fact the same problems are taking place in your backdoor. Now, I am more attentative to the problems in my own country", and this she feels, has been one of the greatest lessons she has learnt since volunteering in Bangladesh.
Now Benedicte if off to University and we wish her all the best for the future, but we must say again, well done for your effort !