The NGO Friendship has been helping Bangladesh’s most disadvantaged communities since 2002. Most live on ‘chars’, ephemeral islands in the Brahmaputra River that disappear during floods, leaving local people in conditions of extreme hardship. This article profiles Friendship and its wide-ranging work to support the people of Bangladesh, in particular its educational access programme which is delivering results far beyond expectations.

Friendship’s comprehensive system of support

Founded by Runa Khan, a leading figure in Bangladesh and a long-standing partner of the ENGIE Foundation, Friendship works to empower people in need in the most remote parts of the country through a sustainable and integrated approach to development.

In 2002, the NGO dispatched its first hospital ship to bring medical care to the inhabitants of the Brahmaputra river islands. Nowadays, some 250,000 people a month are treated by this health programme. It also delivers emergency relief when required, providing basic necessities as well as raising awareness about natural disasters. In addition, Friendship is committed to preserving the culture heritage of the communities it serves, and works to promote access to energy. Since 2011, 500 microgrids powered by solar panels have been installed with the support of the ENGIE Foundation. This year, the number is expected to reach 4,000, providing over 20,000 people with sustainable, locally-generated energy.

Promoting access to education

Since 2015, thanks to the support of the ENGIE Foundation and volunteers from Energy Assistance France, Friendship has been implementing a comprehensive plan to boost literacy by building schools and adult education centres. The aim is to make the schools sustainable  by installing photovoltaic panels, mobile so that they can be easily dismantled and moved in the event of a natural disaster, and fun (courtesy of video lessons, a portable school library, gardening and biodiversity awareness lessons, and so on).

This innovative model is proving successful as all 56 students who completed their three years of lower secondary education in the schools launched by Friendship in 2015 were awarded their school certificate! This compares with a nationwide pass rate of 83%. Bangladesh’s Information and Communication Technology Minister Zunaid Ahmed Palak has congratulated Friendship and is keen to see more schools built in the near future.