June 6, 2012 - After spending a fairly uneventful five days in Dhaka, Ryan and I are finally back out in the field! This time, our destination lies to the northwest of the capital city. In fact, this particular upazilla borders the region in India that receives the most rainfall in the world! As a result, although Netrakona is only about 100 miles away from Sherpur, the area itself tends to have a cooler climate and the vegetation is noticeably more lush and different from anything I have ever seen in Idaho. However, Sherpur and Netrakona are also quite different from one another in ways that do not pertain to their individual geographies. According to the Netrakona PEP workers, Sherpur is vastly superior to Netrakona in terms of infrastructure, employment, agriculture, literacy rates, and health care facilities. Throughout our stay in Netrakona, Ryan and I have had the opportunity to put this claim to the test, and several of our findings can be read in our blog posts to follow.
Even though Ryan and I still have the pleasure to meet with individual impoverished families during this field visit, William—per our request—has added a few additional activities to our agenda. Amongst these activities include a meeting with a group of graduates from the IIRD program (an NGO that William had originally founded before starting PEP) and participating in a discussion with several women who have been ranked as Extreme Hardcore Poor under PEP’s definition of poverty. With the addition of these activities, Ryan and I hope to gain an even better understanding of the obstacles and hardships faced by the country’s most poor while hearing the stories of those who have escaped from the cycle of poverty, as well as those still currently trapped in its grasp. Also, in order to obtain a first-hand view of the country’s health care facilities, one of our field days will be dedicated to visiting two local hospitals. To allow us to compare the inner-workings and conditions of the two systems, we will visit one public hospital and one private hospital. This will be our first experience with the Bangladeshi health care system, as—thankfully—neither of us has had to visit a doctor ourselves!
While preparing us for this particular field visit, William described Netrakona as being “socially and economically backward.” Thus far, Ryan and I have yet to fully appreciate this description, but I am certain it will become more clear as the days pass. Look out for future blog posts to see what we find!