Thursday, July 6, 2017


(This week Bergen Volunteer Center begins a new blog series: What's On My Mind! For the next few weeks, this blog will be written by our volunteer student intern, Elma. A resident of Bergen County and a future doctor, Elma will be blogging about things that matter to her and the Bergen County community.)


I was born in Bangladesh, a South Asian country known for its' diverse culture. I came to the United States when I was 4 years old. Unlike the U.S., Bangladesh is also known for being one of the poorest countries in the world. The streets of Bangladesh bustle with poverty. Children weave through traffic half naked, maimed men drag themselves on the roads, and women cradle their babies on one hip and a tin bowl on the other hip - they all ask for money. Those images haunt me.

I go to Bangladesh every other year. And every other year I see the same thing. But when I return to the U.S., I find refuge from those images. In Bergen County, I do not see the sunken eyes of hungry children. I do not see their protruding ribs. I do not see their tiny hands banging on car windows asking for money. I do not see those things in Bergen County, so poverty does not exist here.

During my junior year of high school, I learned the truth.

Debbie Emery came to speak at my school, Bergen County Technical High-school, as a representative of the Bergen Volunteer Center. One of the things she said that stuck with me was about the poor in Bergen County. As ignorant as it may seem, I had never known there to be any poverty in Bergen County. Certainly, I had not seen any.

To me, poverty translated to the conditions I saw in Bangladesh. However, the evil of poverty is that it exists in many forms. In Bergen County, it exists as homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare.

Although these seem moderate compared to the situation in Bangladesh or any third-world country, any level of poverty must be acknowledged.

My county’s perceived affluence obscures individuals who truly need help. This is why I wanted to get involved in community driven non-profits. Through volunteerism and community initiatives, the Bergen Volunteer Center makes my county a better home for the less fortunate.

Now that I know poverty exists in Bergen County, and I know the extremes that poverty can ultimately lead to, I want to protect my community.

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