My visit to the tiny island of Madaripara on May 10th gave me a great insight into the unique partnership of Friendship and the local community. These islands are so isolated that the villagers have very few ways of selling their produce and gaining an income, they have no access to banks and government funding. Friendship has introduced an economic programme on these islands with the ultimate aim that the community will be self sufficient. One part of this programme is the Transitional Fund which encourages the community to save a small amount of money each week, in this case 10 taka for a period of two years after which they will receive the money back in a lump sum. This encourages savings and allows for investment. Another programme is the Sustainable Economic Development Programme. This programme focuses on training and education and looks at how the community can use the land most efficiently. Through this programme Friendship provides the community with 14 different types of vegetable seeds and provides education and training as to how to best cultivate these seeds. The programme encourages the community to keep a note of expenses and Friendship has also led the community into using organic fertilisers rather than pesticides and chemicals.
On the island I met Morshida who had been trained by Friendship on their agricultural programme. Her role now was to go door to door in the village and advise the villagers as how to efficiently cultivate the land. This is an example of how Friendship empowers the local community, they train and educate the villagers and this knowledge is then passed on to the rest of the community. In the two years that the programme has run income has increased by 55-70%.
Whilst on the island I met Nurjamal. Nurjamal was from another island but he had visited Madaripara and was helping work on the fields. I found Nurjamal to be a fascinating man, he was a real character and had great pride in how the community was coping with the devastation of the growing number of floods. I could see in Nurjamal a real joy, a confidence and a feeling of hope which was incredible bearing in mind the anxiety and fear that floods would bring. This raised so many questions in my mind because I could feel the pride and hope in almost everyone that I met in the village and I wanted to focus on these questions in my portrait of Nurjamal, I wanted to create a puzzle which would ask the question of how despite such fear and desperation such feelings of hope and happiness could flourish.