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Local legend in line for honour

HUMBLE AND AWE-INSPIRING: After military service and a successful career in retailing, Fred Hyde was drawn to southern Asia, where he looked after an orphanage-farm run by an Australian aid agency before starting CO-ID. Fred is pictured here with families from a CO-ID school in Bangladesh.
HUMBLE AND AWE-INSPIRING: After military service and a successful career in retailing, Fred Hyde was drawn to southern Asia, where he looked after an orphanage-farm run by an Australian aid agency before starting CO-ID. Fred is pictured here with families from a CO-ID school in Bangladesh.

BY THE way his eyes light up when he talks about building schools in Bangladesh you can tell it's Fred Hyde's greatest passion and achievement.

The 94-year-old Warwick local - who spends more than half of every other year in the south Asian nation - is one of four finalists for 2015 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year, to be announced this month.

Mr Hyde and his organisation, Co-operation in Development or CO-ID, have built 45 primary schools on Bhola Island, one of the most remote areas of Bangladesh, since the 1980s.

The schools provide a free education for children who would otherwise go without and as CO-ID field director Mr Hyde is still actively involved in sourcing building materials, teachers and equipment.

"What happens is that we will be approached by a village community who want a school and they provide the land, which needs to be raised up above the flood line," Mr Hyde said.

"So far we have schooled more than 60,000 students - seeing it happen is what keeps me involved.

"Our schools have between 300 and 350 students, with around four teachers per school."

He returned from his last seven-month stint at the end of June and is heading back in November.

"Our immediate plans are to continue upgrading our existing schools, mainly replacing mud floors with cement, and rebuilding one of our first schools, which was washed away in a flood," Mr Hyde said.

"Bhola is in the very south of Bangladesh, you can walk out of some of the villages into the Bay of Bengal."

Mr Hyde said as well as educating their children, CO-ID had played a part in reducing the average family size of eight offspring to half that number through family planning education for parents, in a country with a population of 160 million.

CO-ID's goal is to hand over its schools to the Bangladeshi government.

As well as enduring the interminable rains of the wet season, Mr Hyde has become accustomed to the local diet of rice, lentils and fish, with meat a rarity.

But he has never learned the language, saying he "just seems to manage".

When at home in Warwick, Mr Hyde spends much of his time on CO-ID business in his home office.

Co-finalists for 2015 Queensland Senior Australian of the Year are Toowoomba philanthropist Clive Berghofer, Brisbane volunteer Joan Harris and indigenous advocate Jean Little, OAM, of Cairns.

The winner will be announced at a cocktail reception at the Queensland Museum on October 24.

Queensland winners then join those from other States and Territories as national finalists in January.

CO-ID vice chairman Len Willett said Mr Hyde was "an incredible character" who had given a lifetime of community service in Warwick and overseas.

To find out more about CO-ID and to donate visit http://www.fredhyde.org.

Topics:  education, volunteer



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