Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A worrying message from Alibhai

Dear all, > > Plitical situation is very bad, Police,Bangladesh Rifels Bouder > guard, Army, Navy force are in the fields, on the road in the river. > We don't know what will happen today. 20 children are at School now > other is at home. > > All the food price are gone high. So cold we, can not go out, one of > our friends son 18 month is died for cold sicknes, in the house can't > walk with out shoue, children non't have socks, not good worm cloth > too. The nigt is very cold at the day is very fogi can not see the > sun. > > So you know what is going on in Bangladesh. We needs medicine for cold > and the sicknes from cold. The children are in the boundray are doing > well. > > Lots of love from your children > > Alibhai >

Monday, December 16, 2013

Freda's first visit to Bangladesh

My first impressions of Bangladesh are of a busy, frantic industrious and wonderful country. To travel through Dhaka is taking your life in your hands as your little 3-wheel car competes with pedal rickshaws, buses, smart motorcars and very ancient buses. The purpose of my trip was to visit Bhola’s Children’s and it is exactly as Dinah says - it is a very special place. Because Dinah broke a bone in her foot two weeks before we were due to travel there together, I went with Sandy and then spent some time alone with Ali and the children. The children are so happy, busy, independent and very friendly. There are such a happy family supporting each other, just the way it was planned by Ali, the Founder. Ali has a superb way with the children, they will be loud and boisterous one minute and a look and sign from Ali and they are as quiet as mice. At the moment they are deaf, mentally retarded and children with cerebral palsy (CP) living in the home and all are attending the local school for a couple of hours each day. They get extra tuition in the home, the deaf have sign and lip reading classes and the CP children have physiotherapy according to their needs. The children are so eager to communicate and it is so much easier to learn sign language than Bangla! Many of the older children from the home have now got jobs in Dhaka and are leading independent lives. These are children who were discarded by their families as being useless. It is thanks to the hard work of Ali and his team, and of course the support of our many donors, that these children are now independent and send money back to Ali to save for their future. Sadly the political situation was no better and our plans to get to and from Bhola had to be changed to fit in with the hartals (the political strikes). On the island we just stayed within the Boundary (the home) and we were very safe from trouble. We did venture out on a couple of occasions. We walked part of the way to Valumia, to visit the farm where some of the crops had been planted, the rest had to wait until the water dried up after the rainy season. It is wonderful the way the home grows much of its own food. I was impressed by Ali’s planning, the way he watches the weather in the Himalayas and northern India and when heavy rains are predicated, he knows there will be flooding in Bangladesh and the rice and potato prices will increase. So he immediately buys in stores cheaply to feed his large family. I was very impressed with the very busy tailoring department run by Asma. During the time we were there she made over 40 outfits, one for each of the children. It is a Muslim tradition that everyone gets a set of new clothes at the celebration of Eid-ul Fitr. Many of the older girls learn dressmaking skills and even the blind girls learn embroidery with the help of glue, which outlines the pattern. Thanks to the wonderful support for a recent appeal to buy a battery-powered vehicle, Ali bought this magnificent car. It will be so useful to transport the children and collect shopping. The battery can be charged overnight in the boundary. Soon after we arrived Ali, Sandy and I set off into town to collect it but, in true Bangla fashion, the battery had not been charged ! After a long wait standing at the side of the road, Ali put Sandy and me into a bicycle rickshaw and eventually drove our car home. Unfortunately, due to the hartals, I myself wasn’t able to ride in it but Ali reports they have driven it to Valumia as well as Bhola town, - full of children, needless to say! Many thanks to all those who financed the rickshaw on which all your names have been painted.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Visit to Bhola February - March 2013

Although it was headline news there, few of you will have heard about the unrest in Bangladesh. Death sentences were imposed on war criminals from 42 years ago (War of Independence). There was rioting on the streets of most major cities, even the burning of tyres outside the boundary, and constant hartals. All this made our trip more difficult than usual, but Peter and I achieved much of what was on our agenda and it was lovely to be with the children. All the children now go to school: classes 1 and 2 from 9.30 to 11.30, class 3 late morning and again after lunch. The English teacher comes every day, and Ali continues his very successful lipreading classes. The deaf children have taken to ‘speaking’ with enthusiasm and are now very noisy. Sima mother of CP child Sonali has been taken off teaching duties and is in charge of physiotherapy. There are at least 8 resident children and teenagers with CP or other balance and mobility problems, not to mention outpatients. Sima, assisted by Supia and Rozina, is giving morning and evening treatment. We now have a lovely large physio room accommodating equipment. Valumia is flourishing, although we will yet again have little surplus produce to sell, We made fewer visits than usual because of the hartals. We did, however, manage a couple of awareness programmes (again inviting parents of children with disability) and Ali has had another since we left, so the number of school children continues to rise. Because of the hartals, we had to take bicycle rickshaws instead of the car – no vehicles allowed on roads between dawn and dusk. We discovered, to our joy, that there are now battery-powered rickshaws on the island and our dream is to get one. Petrol is expensive and there are so many journeys, into Bhola to collect rice or potatoes, over to Valumia to bring back vegetables, for which a powered rickshaw would be ideal, cost nothing and available for any of the men to ride. We are hoping that there might soon be a little cart, rather than a two-seater rickshaw. We were given an estimate of around £550 and so far we have received £120 – so please do consider contributing to our rickshaw fund! We could put all donors’ names on the sides! Now that our other car driver Ronazid has left us, the tractor has come into its own. Montu is able to drive it, so our departure for the ghat was quite a merry party: nearly all the children and staff, together with our luggage, Peter and I on comfortable chairs, set off up the road followed by three friendly policemen who had been detailed to keep an eye on the children during the unrest! They all love playing with the children and I think they will be sad when life returns to normal. No sadness from me, however: I suspect I will not be returning until after the election, when with luck things will settle down.