In addition to being Senior Advisor to HealthBridge, Debra Efroymson runs the Institute of Wellbeing (IWB) in Dhaka, Bangladesh. IWB regularly organizes internships and other opportunities for youth—usually university students—to gain skills in advocacy, confidence, and an interest in preserving their idealism.
On 27-28 January 2023, IWB organized its 15th Camp Cool on carfree cities with students from a mix of countries. Camp Cool is a two-day residential training that focuses on one specific issue (in this case carfree cities). During Camp Cool, the participants learn about a specific issue and also engage in activities to learn more about public speaking, networking, advocacy, organizing demonstrations, and making slogans.
This Camp Cool brought together twelve university students (four men and eight women): five from Bangladesh, two from Afghanistan, and from Cameroon, and one each from Mali and Côte d’Ivoire. They are currently studying at BRAC, Dhaka University, National University of Bangladesh, and the Islamic University of Technology.
During Camp Cool, Debra gave a presentation on carfree cities where she talked about the many harms caused by motorized vehicles in our cities including to our health and lives, our economies, and our communities. Participants divided into small groups to do intensive training with IWB staff on public speaking, networking, advocacy. In the advocacy session, participants attempted to convince an extremely stubborn but powerful government official (Debra) to reduce or eliminate the tax on bicycles.
The demonstration involved a short cycle rally with the demand of reducing tax on bicycles. In order to strengthen team building, IWB also organized a small talent show where the participants sang and danced.
In their evaluations, participants mentioned that they particularly appreciated the warm, friendly, welcoming and safe environment of IWB as well as the diversity of participants.
Other than the downside of having to work on weekends, IWB staff love organizing Camp Cool. The participants appreciate all that they learn as well as the opportunity to do something both fun and meaningful while making new friends.