Saturday, January 30, 2010

Anne's December 2009 visit to Bhola

Bhola, January 2010
We arrived en masse into Bhola Garden on the 2nd
January: Ali, myself and seven members of a Swedish
family who had lived and worked at the local training
centre, now sadly defunct, more than 15 years ago.
In touch with Ali ever since, for the adults at least it
was a homecoming and they were delighted to meet
Bhola’s Children, and the children to meet all of them.
This, followed by two Japanese guests, friends of the
local chair of Trustees, meant the celebrations lasted
several days.

In the midst of one of the coldest winters recorded in
Bangladesh, the children shivering in hats and
cardigans at 14 degrees Celsius, coughs and colds
not enough to dampen their enthusiasm, the
welcome for all of us was as warm as ever, and the
grounds, including the new house, looked pristine.

Early on in the week saw the switching on of a solar
panel, fixed neatly to the roof of the new building, that
ensures one room on each floor now has light during
the many, many electricity blackouts. In addition, with
the material available now, there has been a huge effort
in the workshop to make beds for all the children.
Within a couple of weeks, nobody should be sleeping
on mats on the floor any more.

Even in the few months since August, there are
significant changes as new children have moved
in and others have graduated to the next step in
their life experiences and training. Monira, the deaf
and dumb carpenter, has left to live with family
and to work in Dhaka, and Rabia, another deaf
girl, has gone to be married. Coming up behind
them, Shati and Fatima, again both deaf, have
finished school and are going into Bhola town to
learn more advanced tailoring. For Shati too,
there are tentative plans of marriage. Eyaruddin
and Sahid, the two very talented deaf boys
who graduated from the classroom in the
summer and have been working in the fields
and in the boundary since, have just started
a 3 month programme at agricultural college
20km away. This will enable them both to take
more responsibility for our land in Valumia,
to help train others how to make the most
of the many land resources in the Bhola area.
As Ali says, nobody with a little land and a
little knowledge should ever go hungry.

Sunday was picnic day in Valumia, where
there is an abundance of vegetables, grown
in careful rotation to ensure constant variety,
from cauliflower to green beans, broccoli to
sweetcorn, to the staples of lal shack, a red
leafy local vegetable, and lentils for dhal.
The pond is teeming with fish too, best caught
by hand whilst wallowing knee-deep in the mud,
avoiding the bite of the sting-ray that causes a
nasty, if temporary paralysis! Ali hopes to purchase
a labour-saving tractor and trailor, funds permitting,
before the end of this dry season to aid the
cultivation further.

Sofia and Rosina, both fully blind, continue to
entertain with their considerable musical skills
singing with the harmonium and keyboard, and
dancing classes remain enthusiastically attended.
Hafsa, Sonia, and Hassan, so long the little ones,
are now seniors in the classroom, doing very well
in their studies. Their places have been taken by
Farhana and Sharmin, two small deaf girls and
Rakib, with cerebral palsy, all of whom are still
settling in. There is a constant stream of enquiries
too; at least half a dozen parents arrived over
the course of the week, their children suffering
conditions from rickets to cleft palates, from
deafness to autism, not to mention the various
adults brought in horizontal and often in plaster,
looking for crutches and other assistive devices to
ease various breaks and strains!

Outside the boundary, the big news is the arrival,
this week of the gas pipes which will supply the area.
The recently built gas plant has been dormant whilst
the government got itself together, and suddenly
the work has started: not only are the main roads
being dug up for tunnels, the pipes are actually
being fitted at an enormous speed. For Bhola Garden,
this will mean that the new kitchen can be put fully
into commission and reduce the need for dangerous
of open fires or the very expensive bottled gas
sometimes employed.

Ali, of course, continues to work far too hard,
but his dedication and encouragement are invaluable.
With the young adults manning the workshop, the
tailoring section and the cooking, and with Ronazid
as administrator, one of the constant anxieties
remains over Ali’s succession, and more immediately,
the need for an experienced and mature female
member of staff to work generally alongside him.
Ali is currently in negotiation with a woman he
thinks is right for the job, but it’s a long and difficult
process... watch this space! And also, for news of
the next huge project, the building of a new and
productive workshop that should generate income
once we raise the £100,000 to set it all up.
All fundraising ideas gratefully received!
As always, it was a wonderful visit, far too
short with the arrival of the seaplane, an outing
in itself for the children, taking me back to Dhaka.
Bhola’s Children send a ‘big hug and many, many
thanks’ to all the donors and supporters out there:
‘don’t forget your children’ Ali says, ‘come and visit us,
please.’ Er, just maybe not all at the same time!!

Anne Hamilton

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