We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
During my time as an Unofficial Ambassador, I met many great and influential people. I became friends with the local blacksmith, slum dwellers, rickshaw drivers, business owners, employees of the state, students, and black market vendor’s, and the questionable types you try not to look at twice. The connections I made will stay with me for the rest of my life. I still have friends from Bangladesh who call and leave me text messages on my cellphone here in the states. Their friendship gave me an insight into the culture I could not have picked up without their help. I was reminded of the stories my grandmother tells me when my friends from Bangladesh would explain their values, motives, and religious beliefs. I was often envious of their faith, community, family, and the value they found in their everyday tasks.
Nonetheless, difficult encounters will arise, as I had riding on the ferry one day. There was a woman practically being beaten to death by her husband. This and other incidents made me think long and hard about how humans write the criteria for what makes something good or bad. Its hard to watch so many men stand and do nothing as you witness something you believe to be evil. I am not a religious person, and I don’t believe in good and evil but that night I felt it. I learned how fear can motivate and immobilize men. I now have a stronger understanding of who I am and how I’ll react to a difficult situation like that in the future. My advice for anyone whom might find themselves in a similar situation: be easy on yourself, be understanding, and let yourself let go and grow.
When I returned home, I gave presentations on my time in Bangladesh. The questions people asked me depended on the audience. I presented for my local Rotary club and for some of the community members on two separate occasions. The members from the Rotary club asked questions regarding development, economy, politics, and Agriculture. The audience from the community were more focused on asking questions about the people and the culture. I had a few people approach me a couple of weeks after the presentation who’d been thinking about what I presented on. It had an impact, in that people were thinking about a part of the world they never knew existed before I presented.
Over the course of my service, I learned to be patient, to be tolerant, and to have compassion. Something I carry with me from that experience wherever I go is gratitude for what I have. If I had to offer any advice I’d say be patient and question where your frustration is coming from. While moving ahead with my future plans, I’m looking into a number of career paths at this point. I’m considering going back to school to get a second degree in Civil Engineering. I’m also looking to use my Spanish and management skills to work with marginalized communities. The experience in Bangladesh opened my eyes to opportunities in the United States and I learned to value honesty, integrity, and hard work. I plan to use all of those values when pursuing my career.