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Volunteer work made for a memorable posting for Bangladeshi envoy

By Shahed Al-asadi      

Counsellor Nahida Rahman Shumona helped local group Child Haven International.

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Nahida Rahman Shumona doesn’t just get posted to another country. She immerses herself in the country through its people.

The counsellor with Bangladesh’s high commission has made connections in every country she has lived in, whether those connections are diplomatic or not. 

“I always like to make personal connections with like-minded people because it helps,” said Ms. Shumona. “As a diplomat, I have to make connections so that even if I’m not in this country, I go to another country or go back to my country, I can use that in my advantage and in my country’s advantage.”

While she loves travelling, she needs to get a sense of home with every move. Creating close bonds has helped her adapt to each country she has worked in. That is why she has gotten involved with local organizations during her postings abroad, such as World Vision Australia, a big non-governmental organization, where she met a woman who connected her with a couple living in India who helped her out during her next posting.

In Ottawa, she has dedicated most of her time outside the office to Child Haven International, a local organization that provides the necessities of life and education to women, and kids who are disabled, parentless or socially disadvantaged. Child Haven has nine homes in four countries—India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Tibet in China—to accommodate the children. 

 

Brazil’s calling

She is set to leave it with a heavy heart in mid-July. After serving more than three years in Canada, she is preparing for her next posting in Brazil.

“I knew that after three years, I would be posted anywhere. And I have a reputation in my ministry; I like to move. Whenever I get my orders, I don’t ask for [an] extension or anything, I just move. This is my longest stay in one place. My other postings, [Australia and India] I couldn’t even complete two years. So, here I am over three years, and I am really happy,” she said in an interview earlier this month. 

Ms. Shumona said she asked her foreign ministry for a place that required only one flight back to anywhere in Canada so she could see her eldest son, who is an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia.

Brazil was a little farther away than expected. When she got the call about posting there on May 20, she said she was disappointed for just a split second.

Then “I just smiled and picked up the phone, called my husband and said ‘I am going to Brazil,’” she said. 

 

Finding Child Haven

She met the founders of Child Haven International, Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino, at Bangladesh’s National Day reception in 2012. They intrigued Ms. Shumona and she invited them to her high commission. 

“I tried to gather up information on them on the Internet. At that time, I really felt very small, what a vain person I am. These people, they’re changing the world, the way they are sacrificing their good times. Until I met them, I didn’t know that life could have a bigger purpose,” she said. 

She got more and more involved in the organization. Now, Ms. Shumona participates in fundraisers. She also drives an hour southeast of Ottawa to the small town of Maxville, Ont. where Child Haven is based in Canada, on the weekends to answer volunteers’ questions about the region before they embark on a trip to one of the group’s homes.

The Cappuccinos have 21 children, 19 adopted and two biological. Ms. Shumona is known as D9, meaning the couple’s ninth daughter. The Cappuccinos gave this nickname to her themselves. “I am an honorary Cappuccino,” she said with a giggle.

In Bangladesh, the mixing of community and government service is looked down upon, she said. “But I can’t live without it. These things make me happy. You won’t see me smiling if I’m not involved with anything like this.”

All her postings involved Ms. Shumona being involved in local organizations, except when she’s back in Bangladesh. She described her life there as miserable in that aspect.

“Canadians like to give more. Whatever they receive they would like to give it back. It’s a beautiful thing,” she said.

Other than volunteering for Child Haven and work, Ms. Shumona has spent her free time at the Ottawa Public Library. She said it was like her second home and she would dearly miss it as she is a huge Agatha Christie fan and takes her 45 books by the author wherever she goes. She regrets never learning how to ride a bike in Canada since it is such a bike-friendly country. However, she will miss the Cappuccinos more than anything, she said.

“I have made the right connections I should say. I am able to work more effectively for my country’s interests and since Canada has a big place in my heart, I would like to come back here as often as I can,” she said with a smile. 

salasadi@embassynews.ca

 

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