How an Ipswich group is changing lives for the better in Bangladesh

Fundraising by the Al Tazid Foundation

Boshor Ali of the Al Tazid Foundation - Credit: Archant

I’m writing this on Thursday January 27, which means there is still an elephant in the room while we await Sue Gray’s report.

As I said last week, it is very difficult to comment on the situation given that we still do not yet have all the facts in front of us. I hope this report will be published soon and give us more clarity on the situation. That being said, I wanted to use this week’s column to focus on an unexpected opportunity: a political trip to Bangladesh.  

I recently had a very unique and eye-opening opportunity to visit a country which has a strong link to many of my Ipswich constituents. I think in total I represent approximately 4,000 British Bangladeshis.

The Bangladeshi community is incredibly valuable to Ipswich, contributing hugely to the town, as well as to charitable initiatives which I was fortunate enough to visit last week. Amongst other things, this visit gave me the opportunity to better understand the homeland of many of my constituents.

I also wanted to see the impact and involvement of my constituents in their homeland. A prime example of this is my constituent Boshor Ali, who established the Al Tazid foundation in memory of his late father. This foundation is supported by a number of volunteers from my constituency and I have been pleased to support him since my election in 2019. 

The Foundation is based in Ipswich and has been heavily involved in charitable activities in the province of Sylhet, in the North East of Bangladesh for almost 15 years. At the moment, the foundation is working on much needed projects to provide clean water, winter clothes and housing support for the most impoverished villages in rural Sylhet communities.

As a result of the foundation’s work and the generosity of Ipswich and Suffolk donators, Bangladeshis living in extreme poverty have received vital help. Disabled people have received wheelchairs, many living in completely inadequate housing have received new homes and many who were blind either fully or partially can now see again through effective treatment.

The eye clinic in Bangladesh funded by the Al Tazid Foundation in Ipswich

The eye clinic in Bangladesh funded by the Al Tazid Foundation in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

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While in Sylhet, I was pleased to be able to join Boshor to mark the opening of a new health clinic. Whilst at the clinic I was able to meet a large number of people who have directly benefited. It was impressive to see the project which Boshor’s foundation has made possible, and the incredible impact it is having on the rural community in Sylhet. 

I’m proud to have visited and to see for myself the impact which the foundation is having in Sylhet, support those living in desperate circumstances, especially given the active involvement of the Ipswich Bangladeshi community.

While there have been significant economic advancements in Bangladesh over the past decade, millions are still living in extreme poverty. I am very pleased to be supporting Boshor’s foundation and the incredibly worthy causes which they are funding. 

It would not be an overstatement to say that this visit has made a big impact on me.

On the final day of our trip, the delegation visited the Rohingya refugee camp at Cox's Bazar in the south of Bangladesh, bordering Myanmar. This is currently the largest refugee camp in the world.

I met with community leaders and a number of child refugees, many of whom have known nothing other than this camp. Their message to me was quite simple and clear: all they want is to return home and to live a life free from persecution. The Bangladeshi Government are doing their best to support the refugees but the living conditions are very challenging. 

It's right that the British Government steps up attempts to apply pressure on the Myanmar regime to ensure that over 1 million Rohingya peoples can return to the Rakhine area of Myanmar to live their lives in peace in their homeland.

In the chamber today, Thursday, I raised the persecution of Rohingya Muslims with Jacob Rees-Mogg, and asked for a debate in government time on what steps the UK government can take to ensure the safe return of these refugees to their home.  Following my recent visit to Bangladesh, I will be working to do what I can in Westminster to strengthen the ties between our countries, as well as ensuring that the UK government is supporting the humanitarian efforts in the Rohingya refugee camps.

This experience was definitely one which will stay with me. It highlighted the humanitarian efforts in Bangladesh for those genuine refugees, and gave me a lot of perspective on the issue. 

Following this trip, it is clear to me how important the ties between Bangladesh and the UK are and will be in the future. This is not least because of the strong links between members of the Ipswich community and their homeland. 

I was also pleased to meet the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister in Dhaka during our delegation. He spoke of his desire to strengthen and deepen relations between our two countries. At a business conference with industry experts and leaders from across the country, I spoke of the trade relations between our two countries.

In my capacity as Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Bangladesh, I plan to build on the positive developments that have taken place over the past week. I am looking forward to meeting with the Bangladeshi Support Centre multicultural services in the coming months, to share my thoughts and welcome their input. 

This was a visit which was incredibly valuable, and has given me a really interesting perspective on the backgrounds of many of my Ipswich constituents.

Bangladesh is a beautiful country - from the bustle and the energy of Dhaka to the natural beauty of rural Sylhet, we managed to see a lot of this great country within a very short period of time. I'm very proud to represent so many British Bangladeshis.