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Broadcast and web streaming of program in series
"Conversations with Harold Hudson Channer"

Conversations is aired each weekday at 10:30 AM


                            Guest For TUESDAY AUGUST 31

                    FATHER WILLIAM CHRISTENSEN

      

                                Society of Mary

            Institute of Integrated Rural Development,

                                                               Bangladesh

                                            Volunteer Social Worker                

                                                               The Society of Mary     

                                                            bangladesh missionary

                      Corporate Globalization Versus a Common Human Future, Third World ...

                                                                 iird@bdmail.net

                                                           v_kkein@sbcglobal.net

_________________________________________________________________________________________

More About: FATHER WILLIAM CHRISTENSEN: 

Missionary Creates Model for Fighting Poverty in Bangladesh


By Linda Busetti
HERALD Staff Writer
(From the issue of 8/16/01)

"Even though we have the capacity in the world today to solve world poverty, we are failing," said Father William Christensen. The thin, soft-spoken priest described his working model for eradicating poverty in Bangladesh to the staff of Pact, an international nonprofit corporation, in Washington on Aug. 8.

Father Christensen is a former St. Louis teacher and high school chaplain, who is a member of the Society of Mary.

"The income gap between the countries with the 20 percent richest and 20 percent poorest populations is rapidly expanding," he said. "Since 1990, 80 countries are growing steadily poorer. This growing gap is what is creating the tension between the poorer world and the wealthy." He said that 1.2 billion people now live on less than $1 per day. "At worldwide meetings leaders have said that we would cut poverty in half by 2015. Thatís ridiculous. Itís not happening."

Father Christensen lived and worked in India for six years and then went to Bangladesh in 1987, where he founded the Institute of Integrated Rural Development (IIRD), a Bangladeshi non-government organization with a focus on women and children, whose goal is eradication of poverty. Two Bangladeshi government officers helped Father Christensen set up IIRD, which is run by a Bangladeshi executive director and managing board of six people.

Although Bangladesh is the size of Illinois, it is the eighth largest country in population with 132 million. The capital, Dhaka, has 12 million people, 3 million of whom live in slums. The land is delta, subject to flooding from monsoons.

Father Christensen believed, "if some model could be created, even a small effective model for rural development, then there would certainly be a good response to it by the world community. This was my intention. I didnít have any special training for this kind of work when I went over, but I had hope."

He approached the U.S. Agency for International Development for funding, but received no encouragement from them. IIRD has received a more sympathetic ear from the European community and the Belgian government and receives private contributions and support from the Society of Mary.

In Bangladesh, 56 percent of children are considered "severely malnourished." He said Bangladesh is the only country where the physical size of individuals is diminishing because of poor nutrition.

IIRD works in six sub-districts of Bangladesh, each with "roughly 250-300,000 people." "We begin in a cluster of villages called unions and gradually build the project up." The program covers about 800 villages with a total population of about 1.2 million people." Each sub-district uses local program staff.

IIRD has identified 65,000 families for their "poverty eradication program" and overall development of sub-districts, including flood protection levees, digging of irrigation canals, sanitation, and tree planting.

Field workers go door to door to identify families in need, dividing them into the "hard core poor," "very poor" and "less poor." IIRD establishes and maintains close, regular contact with these families.

A forestry program employs 300-400 workers, with 600 in the fishery program, and about 500 in the silk project. Other projects include a small bakery, and candy, soap and chalk factories.

According to Father Christensen, the field worker system is, "one of the strengths of IIRD because I have not seen another organization either in India or Bangladesh that does the kind of detailed work that I think is necessaryÖ. Most programs do not take the trouble to go house to house, to see the situation."

Each year about 4,000 families "graduate" out of poverty. To be declared graduates, IIRD workers consider a familyís housing ó usually thatched walls, earthen floor and a tin roof are deemed "satisfactory" ó number of family members, education, animals or land owned, and income.

In terms of housing, IIRD works to provide tin roofs for the poor ó in Bangladesh, thatís the critical need for protection from heavy rain. The cost is $60 per house. IIRD has helped 9,400 families to get this improved housing.

More than 12,000 children are in the two-year school program that feeds into the government school system. The cost is about $15 per child per year. The goal is for girls to comprise at least 60 percent of the enrollment.

Parents get the materials for constructing the schoolhouse. IIRD pays for the labor and parents maintain and clean the school. More than 400 educated women work as teachers. Thirty-five women are school superintendents. They learn to ride bicycles so they can cover 10-15 schools.

Groups of 15-20 women meet weekly to "understand their role in helping to get their families out of poverty. They learn about their rights," said Father Christensen. They learn to save money before they can get loans of from $25 up to $200.

"Productive infrastructure" projects include fish cultivation ponds. About 110 families have been resettled around a fishpond. For 10 years they share income with IIRD. The money that they give to IIRD buys more land. After 10 years, the settlers will be full owners.

"In our industries we stress ownership. Our newly designed projects will get 1,500 people employed and trained over five years including 180 women in small garment units and 200 women in embroidery units. These will be 80 percent owned by the workers in 18 months," he said, explaining that this concept of ownership is "critical" not only for IIRD, but also for the world economy.

IIRD has received international recognition including a nomination for the prestigious King Baudouin prize and selection by the World Bankís Global Development Network as "one of the most innovative projects in the world with the most potential for helping humanity."

To contact Father Christensen, email him at bill.iird@yahoo.com or write to him in care of the Society of Mary, P.O. Box 23130, St. Louis, Mo. 63156-3130.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

TUESDAY  AUG. 31 / 10:30 - 11:30 AM / EDT (NYC) Time 

Channel 34 of the Time/Warner & Channel 107 of the RCN 
Cable Television Systems in Manhattan, New York.

The Program can now be viewed on the internet at the time of cable casting at: 

www.mnn.org

NOTE: You must adjust viewing to reflect NYC time & click on channel 34 at site


 

 

mily:"Centu

                                    241 West 36th StreetNew York,N.Y. 10018 Phone: 212-695-6351 E-Mail: HHC@NYC.RR.COM

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