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Serving the Garo Tribe in Bangladesh

Garo tribe The Garo community is one of the major tribes in Bangladesh. According to the history books, the Garo tribe entered Bangladesh in the first century. They were refugees from Mongolia and came to this region through Tibet.

The Garo have stayed in Bangladesh for thousands of years. Initially, they followed a religion called Sonatoni. Today, nearly 100 percent of the Garo tribe practices Christianity, though a few still believe in Sonatoni.

Garos have their own language, Achick, which is completely different from the local language, Bengali. Achik has several accents/branches such as Habeng, Attong, etc.

The Garo tribe also has its own culture. Their dress, food habits and celebration styles can be easily distinguished from the Bengalis and other tribes.

The people from the Garo tribe have different features than the original inhabitants of Bangladesh (Bengali people). They are a little shorter and have fair skin. Their eyes and nose are similar to their ancestors from Mongolia.

Compared to the other tribal groups, the Garo tribe is little advanced in education and social activities. The first Garo church (Garo Baptist Convention) was established in 1910. Many missionaries and evangelists from Europe and North America worked among the Garo people over the decades.

Being a part of a developing country, the Garo community also suffers from poverty. Many Garo families are deprived of education.

Garos in the villages and in remote places suffer from lack of clean water [3] and sanitation. There are many villages like Gobindopur and Nalchapra, which greatly need hospitals and medical facilities.

The people from the Garo community have to go to the local pharmacy for  minor diseases or injuries. For major problems, they have to take the patient to the town, which is about 35 kilometers away.

The Garo have only one high school (sixth through 10th grade) with a capacity of only 300 children. This government school has only nine teachers. There are also two primary schools in those villages with limited capacity and facilities.

The houses of the Garo people are made of bamboo walls and straw or tin roofs. Some houses have mud walls with a roof of straw and plastic sheets. House are typically 7 feet wide and 14 feet long. The Garo build their own houses. Usually they have free spaces in front of their houses. They keep cows, chicken and ducks as pets.

Garo families usually have an average  of two to three children.

Thirty percent of the Garo people have completed high school. However, the remaining 70 percent have not; the poor families can’t afford to send their children to school.

The government of Bangladesh has ensured that all children can attend primary school. But many children from the Garo community drop out after the primary level.

The educated people from the Garo community work in nongovernmental and other corporate organizations. The poorer Garo people earn their keep by working as day laborers, usually in the crop fields for nine or 10 hours daily.

Available transportation in Garo villages is cycle or rickshaw, especially for long distances. But since most peope can’t afford the rickshaw fare, they walk. Cycle-vans are used to carry goods.

In the Garo culture, both male and female have to work for the family. The interesting part is that the Garo ladies get ownership of the properties from the family, a tradition completely opposite of the Bengali people.

The Garo festivals are very colorful and full of music and dancing. Christmas and Easter are the two major religious festivals. Their biggest cultural festival is called Wangala.

Wangala is the festival when the Garo thank God for the new crops. It takes place just after the harvesting period. The Garo prepare pitha (homemade pies), sweets and other food to celebrate this occasion. At the celebration, Garo girls wear their traditional dress and sprinkle puffed rice and dry rice with their hands.

The traditional dress of the Garo ladies is called Dokbanda,  a combination of a long skirt and blouse. The gents wear regular shirts, trousers and lungi (Bangladeshi skirt for men).

The favorite dishes of the Garo are pork, snails, eel and little tortoises. They use a special substance called Khari to make the food more tasteful. They prepare the Khari at home.

Compassion-assisted child development centers that serve the Garo people include: BD-401, 402, 403, 404, 405, 406, 407, 408, 409, 410, 411 and 412.