Saturday, March 21, 2009

Dinah's Report, March 2009

Dear all,

It will not be easy to keep this account short; ­
every one of my twelve days with Ali and the
children was packed with different events and activities.

I hope you enjoyed Birgitta and Christer¹s account
of Ali¹s birthday celebrations. They are members
of the Swedish Support Group for Bhola, without
whose help it would have been difficult to buy
the property two years ago. It was good that
they could see our progress and be present at
the party. Ali¹s birthday was a wonderful
excuse to christen the new building, and
the following day we moved most of the girls
into two rooms on the first floor. Then Asma¹s
tailoring section transferred into a third room.
This became a wonderful oasis of calm and industry,
I often sat with them during the heat of the day
before lunch and never failed to be amazed by the
quality of their work, much of which I have to say
is now in my house ­ the presents at my farewell went
on and on, and I began to wonder whether Bhola
town sold suitcases.

Moving the tailoring section means Ali now has
his own bedroom, next to his office in the old
building, so we hope he now gets uninterrupted nights¹

Everyone apart from Ali and I, although we did
join the first lunch, began taking their meals
in the new building. They sit on the floor and
Monira quickly made three trays on wheels so that
the girls serving could push the huge bowls round
the room.

During one of our rooftop meetings in the evenings,
Ali and I realized that a fire drill was needed now
that the children were living in the new building.
The first floor has access to the next-door roof,
but the second and top floors could be dangerous
with only one staircase. So the fire
brigade came to give us all much needed instruction.
Ali collected the 100 girls from the government
orphanage, along with their director and some
staff, and we had an extremely interesting talk
from six handsome firemen, followed by a very exciting
practical demonstration outside. Anne, we are
invited to the fire station in August!

The boundary is looking lovely, apart from the
building site in front of the construction.
Ali had waited till I arrived to make a decision
on taking down two large palm trees which gave
nothing except shade in the vegetable
garden. They boys and men had them down
before you could say knife and,
amazingly, dropped the huge trees in
such a way that not a single papaya
tree was damaged.

As you can see, the exterior of the
new building is finished and we all
think it looks beautiful. The ground
floor room is being used, although
food has to be carried a long way from
the existing kitchen, it will be a
while before the new kitchen is built.

The girls and Asma's tailoring are
in residence in the undecorated first floor
which only has basic plumbing, and we will almost
certainly leave the boys in their present rooms until
next year, when we have enough money to do the
work on their floor. But everyone is pleased with
the accommodation they have, and I will be more
than happy to sleep on the floor of the wonderful
guest room at treetop level, though I suspect beds
will be taken up for us. The roof terrace is a
joy, especially at sunset, and we had a couple of
roof meetings up there,which the mosquitoes loved
when they found a large area of white flesh.

We have knocked a hole in the wall leading to
the land behind the boundary, and will be completing
earth filling of the ponds quite soon. When I left,
digging of the septic tank had begun and when I spoke
to Ali yesterday, he reported it was almost finished.

The other good news was that the existing well
has sufficient pressure to get water up to the
top floor of the new building, which will save us a lot
of money. We were so happy when we tested it and it worked!

The new land at Valimia is wonderful. There is a
mass of vegetables, pumpkins, bananas. We went
over several times to work and to harvest, and
had our picnic there. Ali had finally managed
to persuade a family living in our house there to
move out, so the boys had a great fun knocking down
the shack and partly rebuilding a new, stronger one.
The girls did their usual vegetable-picking, looking
beautiful and asking for their photographs.
The large island in the far field, in which we have
planted 500 pumpkins, was only accessible by a

wobbly branch, which I spurned, so that afternoon
the boys built a wonderfully solid mud bridge and
we can now easily get to the pumpkin field. This
is where our group photographs were taken.
Picnics are great fun, I was having such a good
time I went over in the
first busload and came back in the second.
Muntu, who counted heads for me, said we got
30 into the microbus. And the generator!

I felt that classes were better run than in
November. We have a lovely new teacher, Masuma,
a 17 year old orphan who teaches well and has the
added advantage of being very musical so we are
not totally dependent on Rina for accompaniment.
The deaf children had their daily classes with Sima,
and everyone seemed to be working well although we
still need tuition for the blind. I met a nice young
man who will come every Friday afternoon to teach
art. I showed him the stencils I took with me, which
were a great success: small themed books with 6
stencils in each, the more able children soon
learned how to make a composition on one piece of
paper, and I am hoping to get our 2009 Christmas
card picture when I go back in August. I also bought
large simple Early Learning stencils which were great
for the less able and especially for the blind ­ Mamun
caught on very quickly and by the last
lesson, was drawing the outlines and filling them
in perfectly. My photograph is of his first attempt.

We have a lovely Hindu singing teacher who comes
two afternoons a week. I always sat in on these
classes and am endeavouring to learn the words
of a splendid song which I believe is about boats
and fishing. The teacher very sweetly wrote the
words down for me ­ in Bangla script! I will master it
next time, it certainly makes a change from
We Shall Overcome.

One lovely surprise, which Ali gave me when I
arrived, was that Sharmin and Shamoli were
coming back to Bhola with their 6-month old
son Shemanto. They arrived the same day as
us and it was great to see them again. Sharmin is
such a good worker, and Shamoli a wonderful
mother ­ Surma could learn from her! Little
Shemanto is adorable and of course enjoying
suddenly having 30 brothers and sisters.

One sadness, for me and for all of us who
visit regularly, is that little Sonia has gone home.
She has been there for nearly 3 years and her father
has returned from Dhaka. I don¹t think Bruna,
Jose or I will ever forget the stern, fully covered
mother who come to collect Sonia on our first open
day. After being dragged off kicking and screaming,
Sonia moved in with us the following day. She is
such a character and we will all miss her.
Happily our other baby, Haftsa, is still with us
although her father is also planning to come back.
We made a wonderful trip to Haftsa¹s house and met
her family, and on the same trip we visited
Fatima¹s brother¹s family.
Fatima has become one of my greatest friends
at Bhola, she is such a lovely girl and so incredibly
beautiful with a natural grace, it is heartbreaking
to think her body might remain so scarred.
She is going monthly to Dhaka for treatment
but Ali says the extent of her burns mean
plastic surgery is impossible. I have a
sub-group of Fatima supporters who have sent
photographs of her injuries to burn specialists
in Dhaka and India, if it is possible I think
they will finance skin grafts.

Money continues to be a problem. The cost
of living has rocketed once again, Ali
and I retreated most mornings to the top
floor and did our number-crunching, but in
the end the draft budget we sent back to the
trustees made grim reading. If anyone knows
of any company or charitable
trust which might be interested, please do
let us know. One of our donors has kindly
recommended Bhola¹s Children to the person
in his company responsible for charitable giving,
and I have a meeting with her soon. Any
other such recommendations would be so very welcome,
since we private individuals are all feeling
the pinch.

It was a wonderful trip and two weeks are
certainly far better than one for me, giving
us all time to do everything we needed to do
and have time to just be together.
I think the high point each day for most
of us was teaching Mammi sign language and Bangla.
We had huge fun and I even managed to make a few
jokes. The low for me was the constant power cuts,
which meant no fans in the heat of the evening.
and the Islamic festival in the village, blaring
out heaven knows what over loudspeakers for three
evenings until late into the night. Otherwise, it
was pure joy and I miss them all.

Thank you for your continued support and interest,

Very best wishes,

Ali's Birthday Celebrations & Christening the new building, 2nd March 2009

Message from Birgitta & Christer Wallhagen and Lena & Lennart Backman, March 09

Our experience of meeting with Bhola Children

To have the opportunity to visit Bhola Children
has made our lives richer. Getting together in
an atmosphere of love, where religion, disability or
other status is not important but the love of God

The joy to live in their own paradise on earth
without fear of not being good enough to be removed
or supported by the Community. Unfortunately it is
these people's experiences in these previous life.
They have been removed fromthe selected context.
It can not leave anyone indifferent. It's really the
way we all would face each other to see the possibilities
in every human being in spite of our limitations.
Remember when our newly won friends sang
together, "We shall overcome one day and we
are not afraid", it was impossible to hold
back the tears.

It is precisely this type of community that
we all need. Where our hearts meet in love and
grateful public intersection. This produces grace.

The day after we arrived, we got to attend the
inauguration of the new house children are now moving
into. Then it was more than a party. It was incredibly
gratifying to see how well the children have received it.
This was also Ali's birthday and the first time he had
celebrated it in 56 year, so knew joy no bounds.
We took part of the dancing and were allowed to see
how the deaf girls danced with a great sense of rhythm
in their bodies.

What a privilege to be involved in the children's
joy who have experienced that their disability
has made them outcasts from the family and society
have brought them to a heaven on earth. Where
everyone felt love for its own sake.

It is clear that we sent many grateful thoughts
to all people who have given of their abundance
to these children. Hope that the joy from the
children and young people is spreading to the people
who have opened their wallets and given to those
in need.

Birgitta and Christer Wallhagen
Lena and Lennart B├Ąckman