On behalf of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission (CSC) in the UK, the British Council hosted a welcome home reception for returning Bangladeshi Commonwealth alumni of 2016/17 at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Bangladesh on 4 March 2017. The event was jointly organised by the British High Commission who also welcomed returning Bangladeshi Chevening alumni. It was the first time that both Commonwealth – around 25 - and Chevening – around 15 alumni were brought together under the same roof and the endeavour was highly appreciated by the guests. A number of key figures were present to welcome back the alumni which included Barbara Wickham, Director, British Council, Mr Alok Sharma MP, UK Minister for Asia and the Pacific; Dr. Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, Honourable Speaker of the National Parliament, Bangladesh; Her Excellency Alison Blake, British High Commissioner to Bangladesh and Jane Edmondson, Head of DFID Bangladesh.
HE Alison Blake opened the programme with a short speech expressing her pleasure to host the meritorious Commonwealth and Chevening alumni and conveyed the message that moving forward, Commonwealth will be a priority for the British Government that aims to see more of these brilliant minds coming back and contributing to the development of Bangladesh, utilising their knowledge gained at various UK institutes. Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury made a short note recognising the fact that she too is a Commonwealth alumnus and appreciated her time spent in the UK through the scholarship and encouraged the returning alumni to contribute to the society. Barbara Wickham spoke briefly about the services being offered by the British Council, including community engagement by Bangladeshi Commonwealth alumni which forms an integral part of Commonwealth Scholarship values; a new mentorship programme to be launched by the British Council for Commonwealth alumni and networking events regularly organised for the alumni, among other activities. Alok Sharma concluded speech sessions expressing his delight to have met so many Commonwealth and Chevening alumni and emphasised the UK’s commitment towards building a stronger relationship with Bangladesh.
The highlight of the event was that alumni took the opportunity to share with the British High Commissioner their ideas about engaging the community and contributing towards development. Alison Blake was very interested in what the alumni had to say and were keen to be kept in the loop in any future activity plans involving the alumni. Most of the alumni conveyed their eagerness for the mentorship plan and pledged to offer their support once it is launched. Moreover, they were excited at the opportunity to be able to engage with the community at a deeper level and expressed their intent on participating in future community engagement programmes.