Asian Pacific American Heritage Month News
DU Catalyst for Word Change
In south central Bangladesh, a small village named Kandopasha is the ancestral home of Associate Professor Mohammad Matin of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. What makes this village unique and of prime importance to the region is the Jahanara Majid Memorial Hospital. The hospital is named for the Jahanara Majid Foundation and for Dr. Matin’s mother. The hospital is now the proud owner of a new ambulance, thanks to the combined efforts of the Foundation, local Colorado Rotary chapters, and the International Rotary. With the addition of the ambulance, the hospital can now service all the neighboring villages, providing medical attention to many who have never had it.
The story behind the hospital follows the family history of Dr. Matin. His mother was raised in a very traditional Muslim environment, where she was fully veiled and not permitted to go out alone especially after dark. But she taught herself to be a midwife so she could help the other women in the village during childbirth. On one memorable evening, as the story goes, her skills were required but her husband was away in Pakistan and unable to provide the needed permissions. Her father, who was a very future thinking individual, told her that he would not be the one to grant her permission, but would not deny it either. With that, Jahanara temporarily put aside the veil and went out to help with the birth. She is said to have felt that saving a life was more important than following the dictates of the culture.
For generations, the family was raised to be especially benevolent in non-traditional ways. Dr. Matin’s grandfather donated land to start a girl’s school. His father further donated to expand the school to cover two additional years. The family has established scholarships for girls in the school who have exceptional grades. Each year, even though the family had moved to Canada, Dr, Matin’s mother made sure he and his siblings gave 2.5% of one year’s savings to the poor as is traditional in a Muslim household. When his mother passed away, Dr. Matin and his siblings established the foundation in her name to make sure this tradition continued.
In 2008, the Matin family donated their ancestral lands in the village in Bangladesh for a hospital. As an active member of the Rotary, Dr. Matin engaged the local Englewood chapter to adopt the village and to help with this endeavor as well as other improvement projects. Initially a small four-room facility with two doctors doing outdoor operations and basic primary care, the hospital has grown to a 12 room facility with the help of many “life members” donating $1500 or more. The hospital got electricity in 2012 and, while they have recently hired a woman to intercede on their behalf, the new goal is to hire a female doctor to assist the women of the village. Since Rotary does not actually build buildings, they have improved the local water source, provided solar power, provided computers to the girls school, and created a home for orphans. Professor Matin asked that they do a regional and national grant match to get the ambulance. This will now allow the seriously ill to be transported to a government hospital 30 miles away.
Dr. Matin proudly explained the improvements to the village and down played his own tireless efforts to help those in an often neglected part of the world. In so doing, he is a most admirable example of the DU pledge to be a “catalyst for world change.”