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Fight for Valerie Taylor & CRP

Valerie Taylor helped to establish CRP and has been instrumental in its development. In the picture above, Valerie can be seen assisting a patient at CRP's first premises

I first came across Valerie Taylor at the Daily Star Awards. I knew her before as the British physiotherapist and humanitarian who founded the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), a non-profit NGO, which provides treatment, training, education, and rehabilitation for the disabled people in Bangladesh. CRP has made a name for itself for providing world class healthcare for the poor, and has been highly praised for not only its extensive treatment facilities, but also for its awareness programmes, vocational training courses and other work to increase social welfare, reduce social stigma and reintegrate their patients into their communities.

Valerie Taylor spoke so feelingly and with such empathy about those less fortunate, it really touched our hearts and made it impossible to feel anything other than respect for her. That is why the news of her removal by the Board of Trustees of CRP as Coordinator came as such a shock. Why was the woman who gave her life to creating an organisation that served the “poorest of the poor” removed? According to the Board, she was engaged in activities that were "prejudicial and detrimental to the interest of the CRP," as printed in Daily Star in May 16th. Apparently, she was involved in corruption and misused the resources of CRP. This statement is extremely contradictory, to say the least, for how can Valerie Taylor be against its interests when she established and ran the whole organisation for 25 years?

18 prominent activists have recently signed an appeal against the removal of Valerie Taylor. Among the 18, freedom fighter Akku Chowdhury said, “The saddest part is that the trustees she took in herself are saying such terribly wrong things about her. She is a foreign woman who spent her whole life in serving Bangladeshi patients. How many people have achieved as much as she has?” He also said that her laudable work makes her comparable to people like Mother Teresa.

The removal of Valerie Taylor as Coordinator is not the only change that has occurred in CRP. According to a press release by the 'Citizens' Committee to Save CRP', one of the trustees of CRP, who appointed himself the CEO without any selection process and letter of appointment, secretly negotiated a salary of Pound sterling 22,000 (which is around Tk. 30 lakh) from one of the donors of CRP, in spite of this being against the NGO laws of the country. But apparently a salary of Tk. 30 lakh is not enough, because the Centre is being converted into a commercial organisation; now the poorest patient must advance Tk. 12000 as seat rent for 2 months and buy himself a wheelchair before admission! This change was made in spite of Ms. Taylor's vehement opposition, who herself earns only Tk. 7500 per month.

Asaduzzaman Noor, cultural activist and politician who had also signed the appeal, says that if corruption exists in CRP then government should investigate. “But before questioning Ms. Taylor's sincerity, the trustees must prove theirs. Turning CRP into a commercial organisation will destroy her ideology and CRP's commitment to serving the poor.”

Valerie Taylor left her own home and came to Bangladesh in pursuit of a dream to serve others. When she founded CRP in 1979, she started with four patients in two disused warehouses of the Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital. Now, CRP has treated more than 250,000 people who have neurological and other spinal injury related problems. It has located sub centres in different parts of the country, and organised community-based rehabilitation programs in more than a 100 upazillas. She selflessly dedicated her life to making CRP what it is now, and asked for nothing in return, and even adopted two disabled children in Bangladesh to bring them up as her own. Her great work has earned her the Independence Day Award; she has been made an Honorary Citizen of Bangladesh and there is even a street in Savar named after her! Valerie Taylor is a role model to us all; she is proof that hard work and utmost dedication can make dreams come true. But now her life's work is being turned to dust, her noble ambitions being replaced by the commercial selfishness of others. A Citizen's Committee to save CRP has been set up, so if you wish to support her and CRP send your name, address and email to adtl@citechco.net or akkuchowdhury71@yahoo.com, and help prevent depriving hundreds of poor handicapped people from receiving their medical care. Let Valerie Taylor receive the recognition she deserves.

By Shuprova Tasneem

Charity and the underprivileged: Sunnydale's Syllabus

Dhaka 1987. I cannot say I remember much of my life two decades ago-actually I cannot claim I remember any of it. But some memories, if not as specific incidents, have at least stayed on as vague images. Images of being raised by Nani in a house that always bustled with thrice the number of outsiders as there were family members, images of an endless day in the kitchen (what with so many people to feed) and images of a perpetually unlocked front door; providing permit-unrequired entry to anyone who cared to enter.

Some figures that frequented my grandmother's house do stand out as individuals: Abdul er Maa, Kagojala, Ghomtawali Bua. Not that individuality really mattered much- they shared the collective commonality of being ill-clad, seemingly dirty, barefoot and almost toothless.

An official purpose was created for every stray person we entertained like sweeping the stairs but I would be downright lying if I ever accused any one of them of fulfilling their duties. Ours was a simple house where one could eat, bath, rest and generally be as lazy as they chose to be. My sister and I unfortunately had no such luxuries; our duties were clearly assigned and meant to be followed. Speaking to the 'guests', ladling out food and transferring to them the money that Nani stuffed into our child-palms. Imposed charity-just as important as respect for elders or obedience.

Dhaka 2007. Independent houses are apartments, darwans are uniformed security guards, doors cannot be kept unlocked and even if they can, the less fortunate will see more profit in begging on street corners than sleeping off the afternoon sun in some dazed old woman's verandah.

But even though the infrastructure and changing societal patterns of our city have negated the functioning of the 'Charity begins at home' adage, there is hope yet in that other authorities are taking up responsibility for the appreciation of such values in children. Since 1998 onwards, Sunnydale School has ingrained into their system the compulsory practice of making donations to charity at periodic intervals, which usually sum up to a minimum of twice every year.

Their students are asked to contribute a specified sum of money from the amounts that they collect as Eidi and even though individual contributions may be minimal, when combined, the school raises enough to change lives. For almost a decade now, Sunnydale has contributed to a range of charity and non-governmental organisations such as the Prime Minister's Relief Fund, Prothom Alo-Acid Burn Victims, the Centre for the Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP), Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, Ahsania Mission Cancer Hospital, Islamia Eye Hospital and so on. The amounts of money they have donated range anything in between Tk 5000 to Tk 200 000. Apart from cash donations, their students also contribute in kind, for example by donating 500 new sweaters in 2005 to the Monga affected areas of Rangpur and a computer to Holy Cross College in 2000.

Aside charity organisations, Sunnydale also looks to assist individuals whom they may deem to be in need such as donating to a blood cancer patient of Dhaka University and to two acid burn victims in 2007. Although most of Sunnydale's efforts are designed to help the underprivileged, over the years they have also raised funds of Tk 100 000 for the Liberation War Museum in 1999 and Tk 5000 for the Bangladesh Centre of the International Theatre Institute in 2001.

Creating the greatest impact however, has been Sunnydale's latest venture where they invited the recently famed Polen Sarkar and Ziaul Huq. These two individuals despite having very little, work very hard to provide books and even education for others. The school donated Tk 50 000 worth to Mr Sarkar and the same amount worth of textbooks as he prefers to collect and supply books to those who want it but cannot afford. Tk 10 000 for bookshelves was donated to Ziaul Huq, a struggling villager who makes and sells doi for a living. One of the things he does is help needy students give their metric examinations.

Even though twenty long years have changed everything about our city and its people, I can only be grateful that some things are always meant to be. And even if only handful of Sunnydale's students can retain in them the appreciation for charity, this will be one part of their curriculum well worth their effort. And my grandmother's.

By Subhi Shama Reehu

Higher studies Down Under

Why study in Australia when there are tons of other countries in the world to choose from? Because this place, besides being a living paradise, offers education that is recognized over the whole world. First of all, there are some simple things that you should keep in mind if you want to study there:

1) Are you up for the challenge of studying in a foreign country?

2) Do you have enough finances for tuition and living costs?

The basic requirements for undergraduate studies in Australia are:

* a high school certificate: 12 years of study which is equivalent to HSC and A-level

* IELTS: the English Language Proficiency Test which is a must for international students and also for a student visa. The minimum score for entry are set by the concerned universities but they usually require a band score between 6 to 6.5

* evidence supporting that you've sufficient funds to cover all costs (e.g. bank statement)

* completed application form

If you think you do not meet these requirements such as if you haven't completed your high school education, then acceptance could be made based on your prior results or if you're worried that your English isn't good enough then there are many Australian universities that have an English language centre that provide English language courses with starting dates throughout the year to prepare for further study in Australia.

The main courses and training taken by international students on a student visa are covered by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) that is endorsed by the government of Australia and is widely recognized. However, courses under AQF require the following mentioned above. Again to make things more easier, if you still do not meet those requirements Foundation Studies and Bridging courses are available. These are one-year preparatory courses that enable students to prepare for further studies in Australia. Once you complete the Foundation Studies Program and meet the institutions academic and English requirement, you will be allowed entry to their selected course that is under AQF.

There might be many options available for studying in Australia but the costs of tuition can be a big factor so it is advised that you finish your high school education properly to minimize costs as much as possible.

Tuition fees
1) English language training range from A$ 3500-A$13,500
2) Foundation Studies: A$ 9000-A$ 14,000 per year
3) Undergraduate Studies:
a. Bachelor Degree (in arts, business, law and economics): A$ 10,000-A$ 13,500 per year
b. Bachelor Degree (in science and engineering): A$ 11,000-A$ 16,500 per year
4) Postgraduate Degree (Masters or Doctoral): A$ 11,000-A$18,500

Majority of international students are full-fee paying students and there is intense competition for scholarships. But international students can still apply for scholarships offered by the Australian Government which covers some portions of undergraduate and postgraduate studies but not the English language training. More information can be found from www.australianscholarships.gov.au/.

Student Visas
Although English Language training courses are available, a good amount of English proficiency level is required for a student visa. Furthermore, student visas are issued if you have evidence of a registered full-time course that you'll be taking and adequate means of financial support. Ambreen Mehjabeen, former student of University of Melbourne, talks about her experience, “I've had a great time studying in Australia. People here are so friendly and hospitable! The overall environment is just awesome!”

So, all you future students wanting to go abroad can give it a try for Australia. I'm sure you'll not be disappointed!

By Faria Sanjana


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