Ambassador Bernicat’s Remarks at JAAGO National Youth Assembly

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February 02, 2017

Good morning! I can’t think of a better way to start the day than with some of Bangladesh’s brightest young leaders. So thank you to Korvi and to all of you for inviting me to be part of your National Youth Assembly.

If I’m not mistaken, JAAGO will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. That is 10 years of making a difference in communities all around Bangladesh and truly something to be proud of!

JAAGO and Volunteer for Bangladesh are great examples of how small acts of kindness and an entrepreneurial spirit can help change a country. Back in 2007, Korvi Rakshand and his friends rented a single room in Rayer Bazar. They setup shop and started teaching 17 children. When we think of how many people live in Bangladesh, 17 is only a small portion. But Mr. Rakshand made an impact on those 17 children, and started a movement of volunteerism that has influenced thousands of people.

In just ten years, JAAGO has helped educate more than 2,500 students in over a dozen schools. JAAGO has also recruited more than 22,000 volunteers from all over the country to do good works (Or to teach or whatever). And now, with all of your help, JAAGO and Volunteer for Bangladesh can look forward to the next 10 years of tackling poverty through education and volunteerism. So what will the next 10 years bring? How will you continue to make your mark in Bangladesh as youth leaders?

As you start to answer these questions, I encourage you to keep three things in mind: embrace the “youth” in “youth leader”, engage every community you can, and explore new partnerships.

As youth leaders, you get to shape the future of Bangladesh. Not just because you have so much time and potential ahead of you, but because as young volunteers, you get to be creative, passionate, and influential in ways unique to you.

When I travel to schools and universities, I am always amazed at how willing and excited students are to think outside the box. Just look at how young minds have changed the world. We communicate faster and more frequently because a few college students developed a social media platform called Facebook. In 2014 a 17-year-old girl won a Nobel Peace Prize for her struggle against oppression and her pursuit of education for all children.

And here in Bangladesh, we have amazing young people, like you, who are passionate about breaking the cycle of poverty through education and volunteering. The great thing about young leaders like you is that you see Bangladesh, and the world, for what it can be, not just what it is right now.

I also urge you to keep your minds open and engage all communities. I’ve just spent the last few days meeting people all over Cox’s Bazar. I met with students and teachers from Muslim, Christian, and Buddhist communities. And while they may practice different faiths, they have one thing in common. They know that quality education can change lives, change communities and ensure a better future for Bangladesh.

I know many of you have helped to tutor children, volunteered in classrooms, and mentored students who struggle in school. You probably do not know how much you have impacted these individuals, but let me assure you, you have changed their lives for the better. You have shown just how important education is. It gives people new ways of thinking and engaging the world around them. And it gives them the tools they need to lead happier, healthier, and more productive lives.

I also know that many of you work in your communities to deliver food and clothes to those in need. Your acts of kindness, care, and concern show your dedication to service for others.

Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged all of us to ponder, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: what you are doing for others.” You have answered that question. As young leaders and Volunteer for Bangladesh volunteers, you have dedicated your time and your skills to help others.

Finally, explore new partnerships. The most important resource you have is each other. You are here because you share a passion to serve your communities and make your country better. You’ve also spent the last few days learning how to utilize your skills to be more effective. But each one of you also brings a whole network of potential volunteers, innovative thinkers, and passionate supporters.

Your passion is contagious, so encourage your classmates, coworkers, and family members to volunteer. Just like you, they will bring new and unique perspectives. Reach out to companies and other organizations who can offer wisdom, experience, and perhaps new resources. And of course, always remember the U.S. Embassy is here to support you.

We have a host of exchange opportunities that can further help you develop professionally, academically, and personally. We have resources to support innovative ideas. In fact, our Public Affairs office just announced new grant opportunities to help organizations expand educational opportunities to communities around Bangladesh. With new partnerships, you can build on your creative solutions, engage new communities, and make an even bigger impact.

I am excited to see what the next 10 years of JAAGO and Volunteer for Bangladesh will bring. With young volunteers, like you, embracing your leadership, engaging different communities, and exploring new partnerships, I know the future of Bangladesh is bright.

Thank you!

 *As Prepared for Delivery