Choose Optimism

January 25, 2018

Tune in to Bangladesh’s most awarded community radio

The radio is on full blast as we drive down the winding roads of north-eastern Bangladesh. News, music, discussions. As we come closer to Moulvibazar city, the young people we are travelling with turn up the volume even more. The dialect changes. Everything is suddenly in their local tongue - Sylheti.
December 7, 2017

Preparing for exams on a remote island

Standing on a distant piece of land in the middle of the haor (wetlands) of Sunamganj in northwestern Bangladesh, a sea surrounds the school. The water stretches as far as the eyes can see, with a few patches of croplands peeking through the horizon. It is the only school in an area of eight square kilometers.
November 9, 2017

The secret of a smart child: Plenty of playtime

This little indoor playground looks like utter colourful chaos. Blank pages smeared with rainbows and imperceptible shapes. The air resounds of age-old songs and simple poetry. There is a grown-up here, but she too is immersed in the madness. But there is a method to this madness.
October 31, 2017

Of dignity and dream homes: Transforming a slum in 3 steps

Chinta Didi just got a new, two-storied house. It costs less than USD 1,500 - and her neighbours built it for her. She has been partially blind since birth, and relies on the little income that her husband earns from working at a welding shop.
September 5, 2017

Floating schools for climate change

Jhuma’s home, a small mud house, stands alone on a little raised piece of land in the middle of a vast inland sea. She lives in the haor, a seemingly endless stretch of wetlands in Sunamganj in northern Bangladesh. Everything around her is covered by water. She cannot see land, as far as she looks, for more than half of the year. More children drop out from schools in these areas than anywhere else in the country. 20 million people live in the haor region that spreads across seven districts. Less than 1% finish high school.
August 17, 2017

Why is Bangladesh in space?

From the congested, waterlogged streets of Dhaka to flooded farmlands across the country, Bangladesh has enough problems right here. What is the point in looking to the sky when all it brings is rain? Why on earth are we trying to get to space?
August 11, 2017

Four lessons from a rising star in local governance

Rina Halim is in a rush today. Her husband is outside, waiting to take her to Dhaka. There she will be receiving the Mother Teresa Award for her social service, and for being an outstanding councilor.
July 20, 2017

The superhero in a sari who’s giving every child a better chance

It is a weekday afternoon in Moulvibazar, Rangpur, and the melody of children chanting times tables is wafting through the trees. School is over, but students are gathered under shady trees in the village courtyards for another round of lessons.
July 13, 2017

No tragic hero

But as soon as night falls, she replaces her sari with a colourful salwar kameez and swaps the bucket on her arm for a row of shiny bangles, ready to take the stage. Alpina acts in a popular theatre group that regularly travels across the northern villages of Bangladesh.
July 6, 2017

Meet the millennial who’s changing our farmlands

Peeking from behind the tin door is Ibrahim’s two-year-old daughter, Amena, in a blue polka dot dress, and a kitten in her arms. Another kitten appears and darts across the courtyard. Ducklings scatter about in panic.
June 29, 2017

The flock formula

It is difficult to monetise how livestock impacts a household's income, but it certainly increases resilience in vulnerable households. Growing rice or vegetables, especially in time of unpredictable weather and natural disasters, is often a risky venture. However, livestock is easier to take care of. For example, sheep and goats are adaptable assets that are not vulnerable to seasonal changes.