Be a Volunteer

GENERAL INFORMATION FOR VOLUNTEERS

Over the years, CRP has benefited greatly from the input of volunteer workers from Bangladesh and overseas. There are two categories of volunteer: long-term volunteers, who often come to work at their chosen profession e.g. physiotherapists, and short-term volunteers, who perform a wide variety of jobs.


There is a great need for trained physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists to work at CRP. If coming for a longer period (six months or more), it would be desirable to have at least two years' post graduate experience. The need is greatest in the Bangladesh Health Professions Institute where experience therapists are required to train students and supervise placements. Lecturing experience is not required and all courses are taken in English. Student placements are located in CRP, hospitals in Dhaka and elsewhere in Bangladesh. Other professionals are also encouraged to work as volunteers at CRP. Examples of other professional posts are Bio-medical Scientist or Radiologist. 

Short-term volunteers work in any department at CRP. Usually, a volunteer will have special interests or skills which lead him or her to work in a specific area. However, the need to be flexible and use one's initiative is very important. For prospective short-term volunteers it should be stressed that there are very many mundane tasks to be done at CRP. The joy of working at CRP comes not from the task itself, but rather, from the reason for performing that task.
   
Five days a week there are sports activities for patients in the afternoon. This is popular among volunteers who help organising different games, and often participate themselves. Activities include wheelchair basketball, archery, darts and skittles.
    
Secure accommodation on CRP premises is provided at minimal cost for the duration of a volunteer's stay at CRP. For short-term volunteers this will be in the CRP Guest House where there are single or double rooms. Double rooms will usually be shared with another volunteer. Shared cooking facilities and bathroom are available on both floors of the Guest House. If staying for more than six months at CRP there are flats to rent on the premises. Again, these will usually be shared with other volunteers. Conditions in both the Guest House and the flats are basic by European standards. Electricity and cold running water are provided. Meals can be ordered for a minimal cost. Most volunteers order lunch and make their own dinner and breakfast.
   
Excursions to places of interest are often arranged for volunteers, either with patients, staff or as a group of volunteers. To help prospective volunteers get a realistic idea of what living and working at CRP is really like, we have compiled a selection of reports from returned volunteers.

For more information on volunteering possibilities, please e-mail CRP with any queries. CRP's staff will get back to you as soon as possible with advice and assistance. Detailed volunteer guidelines are also available by clicking on the Button below -
      
For UK Volunteers    VOLUNTEER FORM 

   

  

ADVICE AND GUIDELINES FOR VOLUNTEERS

CRP has had tremendous assistance from volunteers since its inception and the number of opportunities to contribute to the organisation increase daily. Although formally a rehabilitation center focusing on spinal cord injuries, CRP has expanded substantially and serves musculoskeletal, neurological and paediatric patients, as well as the 100 bed spinal cord injury unit itself. In addition, on site exists the Bangladesh Health Professions Institute (BHPI), offering bachelor degrees in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy, as well as the special needs school and community reintegration and vocational services. 
   

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CRP is a fantastic place for sharing skills and techniques with the local staff and exchanging ideas or simply dedicating your time to help make someone’s day a bit brighter. Do not be surprised if your time volunteering at CRP has a profoundly positive impact on your life.  The challenges are rewarded with the most meaningful and life-changing experiences one could imagine, and living here as a volunteer will change you for the rest of your life.  The experience provides a unique opportunity to utilise your talents or discover talents you weren't aware you had. Most importantly the friendships and connections made during your time at CRP will remain for a lifetime and you will see why people travel from all continents to play their part here.
    
PERSONAL QUALITIES: Flexibility, tolerance, initiative and patience are the four main qualities expected of volunteers.
   
ADJUSTMENT: It may be difficult to adjust to CRP and to Bangladesh and you may initially feel isolated, frustrated and of no use, especially if coming from the structured lifestyle and employment in a developed country. These feelings are normal and will quickly be replaced with a sense of community, welcome, and excitement at becoming part of the amazing family of CRP.  Remember adjustment takes time and any time you spend with a patient at CRP, no matter how trivial it seems, will be time well spent.


You are strongly advised to leave plenty of time before you leave to complete your application form and obtain a visa.
    
Contact the CRP volunteer coordinator via email ( volunteers@crp-bangladesh.org) or go straight to the relevant application form on the website (for general volunteers - www.crp-bangladesh.org/volunteer_genvolform.htm or for professional volunteers www.crp-bangladesh.org/volunteer_provolform.htm).
     
The CRP volunteer coordinator will contact you via email once your application has been received and approved.


The normal procedure for obtaining your visa is:

Contact CRP via email for a “Letter of Introduction” This letter is essential when applying for a Bangladeshi visa.
    
Contact the Bangladesh High Commission or Embassy where you live for a visa application form or search online for their website in your country.
    
Tourist visas will normally be valid for 3 months.
    
Volunteers who intend to stay for more than three months will need an “N Visa”. To obtain this a “Letter of Introduction” is needed which is stamped “attested for N visa” by the NGO Affairs Bureau in Dhaka. In order for this to be arranged you must provide CRP with the following documentation: Completed “N visa” PDF form (contact volunteers coordinator), certified copies of professional qualifications certificates, six passport sized photographs
     
It is highly important that you double check that you have been granted the correct visa with the appropriate start and expiry dates prior to arriving in Bangladesh. This is your responsibility. If problems arise they should be addressed prior to your departure. It is very time consuming, expensive and frustrating to extend and change visas once you are already in Bangladesh.


IMMUNISATIONS

If you did not receive the full normal routine childhood vaccinations you will need to have the full course before departure. These may take three months to complete.
   
All volunteers should have vaccinations and relevant booster shots against: Hepatitis A, Tuberculosis (BCG), Tetanus, Diphtheria and Polio.
    
Hepatitis B is also recommended especially if you intend to work medically with patients. This is a course of three injections.
   
Anti-malaria tablets are recommended if you intend to travel in Bangladesh.
    
Check with your travel doctor for the recommended medications and to ensure that you have received all the necessary immunisations.
     

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AT THE AIRPORT:

Confirm your arrival and meeting details with the CRP volunteer coordinator ( volunteers@crp-bangladesh.org) at least one week prior to your departure.

  • You will be met at the Dhaka airport.
  • A hand held CRP board will be visible immediately outside the arrivals hall as you come through the doors of the glass wall. This is a fenced-in area which you should not leave before you identify the CRP representative as Dhaka Airporrt is a very busy area.
  • If nobody has collected you within 30 minutes of arrival phone CRP from the phone office within the fenced-in area.  Reception: +8802224445464-5 or administration mobile: 01740951989 & 01730059538.
  • Use a trolley and look after your baggage very carefully.
  • Change some money in the Baggage Hall where there are several banks. Ask for some small change (Tk. 2, 5 and 10).
  • CRP is between 1 to 3 hours drive from Dhaka depending on traffic conditions.
  • If you plan to arrive at CRP independently please let our volunteer coordinator know in advance. There are signposts marked “CRP 1 km” when coming from Dhaka and a large signboard spanning the entrance to CRP.

ACCOMMODATION : Comfortable basic guesthouse style accommodation is available on the CRP campus for both short term and long term volunteers. Guesthouse common areas are great for relaxing after the working day and for socialising with other international volunteers. Cooking and cleaning services are provided by friendly guesthouse management staff.
   
Short term volunteer accommodation: includes individual and double rooms with private and shared bathrooms.
   
Long term volunteer accommodation: includes double beds, study desk, spacious living area and ensuite bathroom.
   
Room rates: rooms range between Tk. 100-200 per night and Tk.700 and Tk.1400 per week.
   
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LANGUAGE : Bengali is the official language. However, many staff at CRP speak fluent English and there will always be several other English speakers available. Volunteers are advised to spend some time each day learning essential phrases. Bengali classes are held for newly arrived volunteers.
There are several language books available (see reading list below). Prior to leaving home try to learn some Bengali (counting, days of the week, parts of the body, food, directions etc.).
   
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A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam. A fantastic read, a poetic love story,beautifully written at the time of their fight for independence  Available from Amazon.

Triumph of the Challenged, conversations with especially able people by Elspeth Waldie available from Wendy Best (£5 per copy inclusive of postage & packing).
   
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TOP TIPS FOR COMING TO CRP

Bring, or buy in Savar Bazar, a cheap mobile phone. Grameen or other SIM cards are available at low cost at CRP's “Aware” shop or just outside of CRP gates in the shops.
Bring or buy a notebook and jot down helpful Bangla phrases.
Bring mosquito repellent containing DEET. The only local version is called “Odomos” and may not be so effective.
Bring a nailbrush and nail scissors to enhance your personal hygiene - especially if you plan to follow Bengali practice of eating with your right hand - without benefit of utensils.
Bring food or snacks that you think you might miss during your time, although more and more “western”  food is becoming available - for a price - in Savar and Dhaka.  Remember that chocolate doesn’t  do well in the heat and humidity! NOTE: The Bengali diet is very traditional, conservative and lacking in the variety we are accustomed to eat in our home environments.
Don’t bring too many clothes from home! Storage is limited and the heat and humidity may cause mildew if things aren’t worn often or aired.
Bring photocopies or electronic copies of any resources that will be useful to you during your time.
Photocopy the photo page of your passport and the page containing your current Bangladeshi visa. Keep this in a safe place - but not with your passport.
If you are sensitive to noise, it might be good to bring some earplugs (OROPAX).

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You will have access to free wireless internet at the Guest House and computers are available for use at the BHPI library. Most of the time the connection is good.
   
Most volunteers wash their clothes by hand although there is a washing machine in the Guest House. This machine is due for replacement (2014).
   
The electric current, as in the UK and Europe, is 220V and the wiring at CRP reflects those - with both 3-squared prongs and 2-round plugs. Adapters are available in the market.
   
There are stacks of used books in the Guest House and many copies (usually) of Guide Books (e.g. ‘Lonely Planet’). Bring your favourite/current book and consider leaving it behind for others to enjoy..
   
Take every opportunity to go on home visits with CRP staff.
 
Accept invitations to visit homes of local staff for a cup of tea or a meal.
 
Learn as much Bangla as you can before you arrive. Even a little will be very useful! Volunteer Coordinator, Masud, gives Bangla lessons for foreign volunteers.
 
If you will be working in a specific area/department/unit of CRP, make contact with them in advance and ask if there are any resources they would like you to bring with you.
 
Make sure that you only use your right hand to receive or give anything, shake hands, eat food.
 
Be considerate of Bangladeshi modesty: men should not automatically shake hands with a Bengali woman unless she shows a willingness to do so. Equally, western women should not extend her hand to a Bengali man unless he shows the initiative.
 
There are certain dress codes which foreign volunteers should respect and practise at CRP. For females, the Shalwar Kameez (SK) is recommended. The Kameez is a loose-fitting tunic top worn over Shalwar (loose trousers) which should cover the ankles. An Orna or a Dupatta (long shawl/scarf) completes the ensemble. For men, casual shirts and trousers are most acceptable.
 
Shorts/T-shirts should only be worn by both men and women in the privacy of the Guest House. Women are encouraged to have SK made for them by local tailors (not expensive) as soon as possible on arrival - but until that time, should wear modest clothing (long trousers/jeans and baggy T-shirts) plus a shawl to cover the chest/shoulders.  (Sometimes there will be SKs which have been left behind by previous volunteers. Ask Shyamoli at the Guest House.)
 
For exercise, ask about opportunities to use the equipment in the Physiotherapy Gym. At times, there are fitness groups for female volunteers and sometimes including CRP female staff members.  In the winter months, there are badminton tournaments in Reddaway Hall and women are sometimes welcome. Ask about table tennis, volleyball and basketball. Females should not be discouraged if some sports seem to exclude them; sometimes you will be welcomed!
 
Keep your USB stick to yourself! Don’t risk a virus or loss of work by using it in, or sharing it with, someone else's computer.
  
Jatiyo Smriti Soudho - the National Monument of Bangladesh, in the memory of the valour and the sacrifice of all those who gave their lives in the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, which brought independence and separated Bangladesh from Pakistan. This is relatively easily accessible by local bus (about 15 min.) from the main road near CRP. Set in a vast park, it is an impressive memorial. Have a look at this you tube video.
 
Near the National Monument is the Savar Golf Club where one can enjoy Chinese,Thai or Indian food as well as a glass of wine or a can of beer.
  
If you wish to see the site of the Rana Plaza Disaster, ask locals to show it to you in Savar Bazar.
  
Jahangirnagar University is a public university  located in Savar Upazila, Dhaka. It is a fully residential university in Bangladesh. It is also easily accessible by bus from the main road near CRP. Enjoy a nice walk around the campus or get a rickshaw to take you around as it is a large campus.
Enjoy a relaxing boat trip at Bongshai Nodi. Ask local CRP people for directions.
  
Shopping near CRP and in Savar Bazar.
  
At the local shops just outside CRP gates, fruits, vegetables, and much more are available. Greater variety can be found in Savar Bazar where there are now two small western supermarkets.
  
Dining near CRP: Jielians is a reasonable, air-conditioned restaurant with walking distance of CRP found on the main road, heading toward Savar Bazar. Other volunteers who have been at CRP for a while can direct/advise you about it and other local restaurants. Caution is always advised as sanitation in food preparation may not be very high standard.
  
To get into Dhaka, other volunteers or staff will help you to take the right public bus or organize transport from CRP, if you are in a big group.
  
Ask CRP volunteers about access to foreigner’s clubs in Dhaka.
   
For more information on volunteering possibilities, please e-mail CRP with any queries. CRP's staff will get back to you as soon as possible with advice and assistance. Detailed volunteer guidelines are also available by clicking on the Button below -

For UK Volunteers    VOLUNTEER FORM .