“In December 1993 we established in Australia the Symbiosis Trust, to enable development work in Bangladesh. We met on a Friday afternoon in a solicitor’s office in central Brisbane – and the deed was done”.
David and Jill Yates have been part of Symbiosis since the organisation was just an idea. This year David retires from his role as a Director with the organisation.
A friendship and shared background in agricultural science with Symbiosis founding Trustee and CEO Morris Lee and wife Ros, lead David and Jill to diligently and unwaveringly serve Symbiosis International for the past 29 years. David served as the Chairman for 27 years. Jill’s annual fundraising efforts in that time are second to none as well as her support to teaching english as a second language.
As a previous Chairman and long-term Director, we want to acknowledge that David has been part of decisions and responses to a variety of pressures and influences. In time, the initial trust David refers to in the quote above, morphed into the Brisbane-based Symbiosis International with a branch office in Bangladesh, Symbiosis Bangladesh. The organisational structure we have today.
Below is a summary of outgoing interview responses from David.
What has been a highlight of your time on the Board?
Working together with a group of people, sometimes closely, may lead to friction or clashes. To my knowledge this has not happened within the Symbiosis Board or in our various committees. Directors and other contributors have always been courteous, respectful and affirming of each other.
This is a testament to the common resolve of Symbiosis people to work together for good, and to the un-matched example of Dr Morris Lee.
The Board has always been acutely aware that we meet for the benefit of our primary stakeholders and staff in Bangladesh.
We face the issues together. In addition, and in contrast to what may be the case in other organisations, the board members and staff across Australia and Bangladesh see themselves as co-equals.
The elevation of women through Functional Education Groups into Community Based organisations which enable them to represent and advocate for their fellow group members is a remarkable highlight.
A memory that has stayed with you
At the 2012 Annual Conference, an older village woman asked to speak to the many people present. There was apparently some trepidation on the part of organisers in allowing this simple village woman to participate. She said that she was immensely grateful to Symbiosis staff. She had been poor, illiterate and with little hope for herself or her young son.
Symbiosis had not only taught her to read and write, but how to create an income for her family selling eggs and chickens initially before purchasing a cow and selling its milk and calves. This enabled her to send and keep her son at school – to the point that now he was studying medicine at university. What an amazing achievement! I like to think of that young boy now, a further 10 years later meeting the needs of people wherever he is in Bangladesh.
Tell us about the importance of Jill’s involvement
Jill values the work of Symbiosis and she has patiently supported me as a Director. This required spend time handling documents, correspondence and attending Board Meetings – more than 60 during the period.
Since retiring, Jill has done an immense amount of fine sewing for Symbiosis, selling her diverse creations at fetes, high teas, via Facebook and through ladies’ groups, Christmas stalls, family and friends etc. During the Covid pandemic she sold perhaps 1,000 masks at $5 each! Overall, she has raised about $42,000 this way.
In 2011/2012 we spent three months in Mymensingh during which we celebrated the opening of the Friendship Tower. Jill prepared and presented an English course she designed to help Bangladesh staff of organisations who must deal with writing reports in English for donor organisations.
How have you seen Symbiosis change in the time you’ve been on the Board?
The number of people directly involved (staff, board members and close supporters and donors) has grown and these have made it possible for Symbiosis to flourish and become more effective in pursuing objectives relating to serving the poor in Bangladesh.
The breadth and depth of work by our Bangladeshi staff in their country and their commitment to objectives of the organisation are to be applauded, especially as there have been many unforeseen financial limitations.
Thank you – ধন্যবাদ – Dhonnobaad, David and Jill – Symbiosis is the organisation we are today because of the work and commitment you have had to see lives free from poverty and dependency.