A youth centre for a better future
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Letter to Friends around the World # 92

MATI is an NGO that has been working in the north of Bangladesh since 1997. Their aim is to combine the human forces of energy and love in the universal fight against poverty and for a life in dignity for all human beings. Here's news about their opening of a youth centre.

Development begins at your own front door. It has been a long-standing concern of MATI to include people living in Sankipara (around 30,000 people) in our work. Amongst the apartment blocks of the better off live many poor people in huts made out of bamboo and corrugated iron sheets that sprout from the ground like weeds.

There are scarcely any training opportunities for young people from poor families since few have completed their school education. Those who want to do an “apprenticeship” generally work for the owner of a shop where at first they work without pay. Due to their lack of education and bureaucratic hurdles, as well as widespread corruption, they find it hard to access social and State services. So, they have little chance to overcome their poverty. All that remains for boys is working as day labourers, rickshaw drivers and load carriers. For girls who don't want to work at the large textile manufacturers in the capital, it means work as domestics or little jobs working from home.

There is a large number of unemployed young people in Sankipara hanging around the streets without any prospects. In 2008, to get them involved, MATI suggested they organise some activities together. In discussion groups they put forward their own ideas for a youth centre. They wanted a library, learn how to use a computer, read newspapers and play board games. They also wanted to organise entertainment events as there weren't any on offer for them. Girls found that interesting because they could then go to events like this in a centre without their parents worrying about their safety.

This project became a reality in April 2014 with support from a German-based development organisation specialised in social housing. We want the centre to become a place where young people from different religious backgrounds who want a better future can learn and meet together.

Education has to be tailored to very specific needs, so-called “life skills”. It has to provide fundamental tools for dealing with life; help with searching and preparing for employment. It has to address important questions like: What can I do differently? What could I do better in my life? What does it mean to take on responsibility? How do I deal with disappointments and frustrations? MATI also works on other important issues such as women's rights, climate change and the protection of the environment.

Andrea R., Bangladesh