As far back as she could remember, Opi Sarker knew she wanted to help people. Her childhood dream job was to be a doctor, something you’ll hear from a lot of kids growing up in Bangladesh she says. But by the time she’d finished her high school education, she shifted her goal slightly and set her sights on nursing.
“I love to serve people, and nursing as a profession seemed like a way I could serve people in my job,” said Sarker.
Most of her life before school was spent in Mongla, a port city along the Bay of Bengal. Her father is a fisherman, while her mother doesn’t work, but cares for Sarker’s older sister, who has a mental disability.
So when Sarker was accepted into the nursing program at the highly reputed Christian Mission Hospital (CMH) in Rajshahi, some 400 kilometres away, she was thrilled. But what followed that excitement was the question of how she was going to pay for this chance to follow her dream.
MCC photo/James Kisku
When all the fees have been accounted for, each of the three years costs about 103,000 taka ($1,368 CAD). And with only one income coming into the family, Sarker says her family would not be able to afford it.
“My father is a fisherman, so he doesn’t have a fixed salary. We would have had to take out multiple loans from different places and repaying those would have been very hard,” said Sarker. “Another reason I want to be a nurse is to be able to support my family, because I’ll be the only member earning money in the future and my sister is sick, so they’ll need my help.”
It was in speaking with the school about payment that Sarker came to hear about MCC for the first time.
MCC works in partnership with the Elizabeth Conan Memorial Nursing Institute, the nursing school that operates within CMH, to offset the cost of attending the program for students who require financial assistance. Staff from CMH work with MCC to identify the students that would most benefit from this support. Last year, 36 students received funding for school through MCC at CMH.
Another of the students to receive support from MCC, Pratho Halder, also said he would have had to take expensive loans from multiple sources to pay for school without MCC’s help. He’s now working a year-long internship following graduation and says as an only child, the money MCC gave him helped him make his parents very proud.
“When I shared my exam results with my parents, I did pretty good, I finished my diploma, and they were very happy, thanking God for this achievement,” he said.
MCC photo/James Kisku
For many young adults in Bangladesh, finding a good career to support their family requires paying for a quality education, which is simply out of reach for some. But Sarker says the assistance MCC provided her made all the difference.
“For people from families like mine, the amount that we’re getting from MCC, that’s a big support for us, it’s really helpful,” says Sarker.
As she’s begun the last year of her diploma program, she says she’s considering furthering her education and becoming a nursing instructor. She says if she can train more people to help others as nurses, she couldn’t think of anything better to do with her life.
Top photo caption: Opi Sarker (right) sits with fellow students Bonnya Sarker (middle) and Pinky Das (left) in a class for their third-year curriculum at the Elizabeth Conan Memorial Nursing Institute at Christian Mission Hospital in Rajshahi, Bangladesh. All three students received financial support from MCC to offset the cost of their education. (MCC photo/James Kisku)