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.