I got back last weekend from my seventh and most enjoyable visit to our children. Bhola Garden really has become a second home for me, and I enjoyed every moment of my time there – even when we had power cuts and there was no water on the third floor!
The weather could not have been better – hot sunny days and relatively cool nights. All the children were happy and healthy, apart from a couple who had been sent home to nurse chicken pox. The last thing Ali needs is an epidemic!
I was delighted to see seven children new since my last visit. Four of them are very young, which fits in with Ali’s plans to keep the age level down. Three are deaf, one has downs syndrome, one suffers from cerebral palsy, one is a slow learner; and dear little Hasnur is partially sighted. Ali hopes to take her to a specialist in Dhaka, in the hope of getting treatment. The new children had new clothes, material chosen by yours truly on an entertaining, three-to-a-rickshaw shopping expedition with Asma and Rozina, and made in her usual quick time by Asma and her helpers. My photograph shows them just after presentation, plus Rozina who was given a new dress to replace one destroyed by poor little Khadija…
Work at Valumia continues to keep us all occupied. Several of the men and boys worked there most days alongside Ali’s nephew Rabi and a team of daily labour, digging out the moat round the lower field so that it can be filled with water for fish. We, the gentler sex, were put in charge of clearing vegetation from the bank and I was pleased to have remembered my gardening gloves. Plenty of our own fruit and vegetables were on the menu, and we had the great excitement of taking our first crop of tomatoes, cabbages and eggplants to the wholesaler who sold them all without taking commission. Ali has so many loyal friends and supporters in the town.
A happy time was had by all last Sunday morning, when we caught fish in our pond by the simple means of taking out all the water and picking the fish out of the mud. Needless to say, I continued to be a vegetarian!
The other great excitement was delivery of the trailer. It is now painted, yellow and red so as to be truly visible. I had my doubts about Ali’s driving skills, especially reversing in our small space, but was delighted to hear on Monday that he had successfully driven it, and all the children, to Valumia to collect firewood. So now Ali can add tractor-and-trailer driving to his many other skills.
We now have five blind or partially sighted children. Ali and I visited Razia’s father, our erstwhile nightwatchman who always slept on the job, and persuaded him to let her come home to us, which made us all happy. We all worry about lack of any teaching for the blind. We can’t afford a qualified teacher, I tried very hard to inspire our present teachers to involve them in classes. The two sets of dominos were a great success, all the blind children used them to add up numbers and it was good for my Bangla number skills too. I can now go past baro, twelve! I will be searching for more simple games for our blind children before my next visit. They all love using my iPod, and I wonder if anybody can spare us an old one no longer in use after an update? Ali could record books on them.
Ali’s birthday, the second he has celebrated in his 57 years, was an occasion for a great party with wonderful singing and dancing, icecream eaten in the fingers (!) and a three-tiered birthday cake. The following evening, my last, we took everyone to the circus – a first for the children. Ali was worried about old Mammi sitting on a hard, narrow plank for several hours but in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it, loved seeing the children’s joy, and was twice visited from beneath the tiered seating by the clowns – one very short and one tall – asking if I was enjoying their antics.
This Friday 12th March is the third anniversary of Bhola’s Children registration as a charity. It is hard to believe how much we have achieved in these three years and it is all due to you. Ali asks me to send messages of love and thanks from him and from our staff and children. I of course add my own heartfelt thanks to you all,