Sunday, December 30, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
What we know is that now, each time we go to meet a potential partner or sponsor, we ask if they have a CSR department. And we know it will help us hugely as some people, in the companies, will exactly understand what we are asking for but also what they can get in return. YES, they need to get something in return and we dont have any problem whith it as long as their help and donation brings TDP to another level!
To read more about CSR it's HERE
I've known Maria for quite a long time. I know from the very start that she's a cabin crew and she's doing charity works. I was not familiar with Dhaka Project at that time. One day she asked me if I want to be a part of the Dhaka Project wherein I will teach and help girls in Dhaka to learn how to do beauty works. It was like a music to my ear when I heard the offered because since I was little I wanted to help others and most especially this project is very big and I know in my heart that just by teaching them, it will make a big change in their lives. That's why I immediately asked permission to my boss/owner - Aruna, if I can go and help the Dhaka ladies. I didn't expect her response to me because she immediately agreed and she wanted to go as well with me.
My boss and I gathered some money so we can buy things that they needed to start for a beauty school. We didn't expect that we got that money to purchase all the things we need. So many clients donated for the project.
We went to Dhaka even without knowing anything about the place and the people. We were shocked on what we saw. .......
Thank you so much....
Aruna's Hair and Beauty Salon
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Forgive me if I cannot name all of you but I wanted to send a unique reward to Emirates Airline and Emirates Foundation for sending 3 500 blankets and brand new toys, to SWIFT who helped us to send free of charge 1600 kilos of Donation to Dhaka, to Crew Dubai which dedicated 2 pages per month to our project and update through articles on what is happening in the project and also a special thank you to the Security Guards of my building. Because of their help, we could manage to receive, store and pack tons of goods needed for the project. They have been truly supportive showing unselfish commitment, dedication and loyalty to the extent of looking after my apartment when I was away in Dhaka for a long period of time.
To all of you from around the world who are volunteers to the Dhaka Project, thank you for the hard work you have done on the field and also in Dubai. The project welcomed this year 50 people from many different countries showing that charity and helping others has no borders.
And finally, I wanted to thank 7days and their team of journalists. You have done a tremendous job to help us this year with many articles and updates. Because of you we have been able to increase significantly the amounts of donations.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart
They need you, we need you
Founder of The Dhaka Project
There, everything is different. Having more than 90% Muslim believers they only stop working on Fridays to pray; there are no 2-day weekends as here in Portugal.
What happiest moment have you had there?
For me, the happiest moment has been, for sure, when I met ''my daughter''. Toni is a girl, like so many others who study and are the wings of our project, very sensible and needing cherish but having a strong personality what made me believe in her potential.
And what has been your saddest moment?No doubt, the worst moment was when I had to leave Dhaka. I was afflicted all the last day and it was hurtful to me to leave the kids, Maria and all the team and staff who work with her.
What is the real dimension of The Dhaka Project in the field?
The Dhaka Project has a nursery, a day care centre, a preschool, a primary school, a used clothes shop, a grocery store, a carpentry, a fleet of rickshaws to rent, a cooking school, a sewing school, the doctor, the dentist, the beauty centre where ladies have formation and from later go to work in hotels. Before arriving in there I had never imagined about so many activities in the project. But after being aware of this reality so different from ours, I think Maria is right and think like her: “We are already doing a lot, but why not to do a bit more?”. This is the Dhaka reality, growing, believing that it is possible to rescue those kids out of the streets and don't get stuck to values, numbers, when the reality is quite different.
What has moved you to sponsor that child...?
My love for Toni was a 'love at first sight'. She is a very special baby-girl and very similar to me, with a strong personality but at the same time a sweet of girl. We had days in which, whenever I was in the nursery, she was all the day close to me kindly and in a dear mood. But she had her bad days too, specially when she didn't feel in a good mood.
What would you say to a volunteer who was about to go now?
In first place I would say him/her to take all possible info about Toni to me. Then I would say to have a traveler's appointment with a doctor, tell the doctor how many days I would stay there, to have him prescribing adequate medication. I would recommend that in any case drank water not bottled and sealed, because in many places traders sell water-bottles refilled from domestic taps.
And I'd recommend him/her to play a lot with ours kids in the project that is what the need more, besides all needs, they need tenderness and affect too. Finally I would ask if I could hitch a lift...
Which are the most urgent needs you found there?
The kids and the people working with the project are relatively well, they have their basic needs satisfied. For that, in my opinion, the most urgent need is our continuous support to Maria, sending donations to the field, so that we can help all those who are already there and, at the same time, be possible to keep rescuing children from the streets.
How is it to live with the fact of the drinkable water be a rare luxury?
The water is not drinkable but people born there have always drank it and the have health problems due to it though their body system reacts in a different way from ours. But it is difficult to keep potable where it rains from May to October due to monsoons, there are rubbish everywhere and where there are no sewers.
Which is the average level education of Bangladeshi people?
The right answer would be, the life school or the streets school. Our kids study until the end of basic teaching and then the secondary schools are not accepting those who wish to continue studying because they come from the streets what is appallingly shocking.
Have you known any case of success of a family who have done the transition and being now out of the Dhaka Project? How is their life after leaving the project?
Maria, sometimes gets jobs for some families there in Dubai and those are our success cases, the only they need is to learn English to go to Dubai. But, some stay even in Dhaka working for beauty centres in hotels, as drivers, etc.
How is the climate?
The climate in Dhaka is hot and humid having monsoons from May to October, with lots of rain and floods. But above all hot, very hot weather.
Are there any first need goods?
Yes! There are first need goods! In Dhaka, cooked rice is a first need goods.
What airline have you traveled with to go to Dhaka?
I traveled with British Airways. But I know that the airline company that Maria works with, the Emirates Airline, flies to Dhaka. However, Emirates doesn't fly to Portugal so, you would have to fly to other country where Emirates has flights to, and once from there you could travel with Emirates to Dhaka. For example, United Kingdom (London).
Which has been the situation in Dhaka, you felt you most made a difference?
It is very easy to feel we make a difference in Dhaka. They are people much in need, specially the children, who we work more directly in our project.
An English spoken class, in which we teach them how to use board papers, scissors and all that sort of material let them very happy. Some are creative and able to draw anything different, but many draw the Bangladeshi rose, the Tomb of Dhaka and the most draw their country's flag.
Once, in the street in Dhaka downtown faraway from Gawair, where The Dhaka Project is situated, a gentleman riding his motorbike, stopped; he asked in English where I was from, I replied I was Portuguese and explained why I was in Dhaka, he said he knew the Project adding he was a policeman, not being in uniform because it was his day off, saying 'thank you for visiting my country' and asking if I was enjoying Dhaka.
All them, in any age, are highly proud of their country, their culture and their lives and when I made an effort to pronounce any word in Bangle, or whenever I used their tunics much longer than ours, they felt proud for that and show gratefulness for visiting and helping The Dhaka Project.
What are the ages and the ratio boys/girls?
In The Dhaka Project we have the nursery and the day care centre with children from their early years until 4 years, respectively, after this they are transferred to the preschool where they are until they are 6. Then they begin the primary school until the end of the basic teaching. There are more girls than boys but the difference is not much significant.
Which is your main advice to the next volunteers?
Live and respect Dhaka, all has its own rhythm, they are a people who live the same routines for years and years, try to create new routines.
Teach English to kids and adults.
Give lots of comfortable lap and much tenderness to all in nursery.
Take pictures of my girl Toni :), this is a tuga* volunteer knack :), I only wish to see how she grows up.
Play much, run and jump in the preschool.
They are a sympathetic people, but cold, their misery doesn't allow them all this joy and happiness we try to 'leave' in the children, even for a short for a short time, but they always recall the volunteers, when we show them their pictures.
All you think is not correct in the field, or worth to be changed, report it to Maria if she be in Dhaka, or to one of her team members, she began the Project with them in who she much trusts, and propose changes.
And now as big as Dhaka hug to the two volunteers who are going to Dhaka in December.
* funny and friendly reference to Portuguese dwellers.
Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made, and his senses are being developed. To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow,’ his name is today.”
Gabriela Mistral, Nobel Prize Winner.
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Flying in towards Dhaka, the early morning sun still rising, the view was a tapestry of lush green country dotted with ponds of lakes of water…it looked quite idyllic until you remembered the floods from the monsoon had washed away slum houses, made people homeless and increased disease and sickness. I was truly spoilt when Maria picked me up from the airport with Solaiman, because they had a people carrier with a/c rather than a rickshaw.
I was staying in the Dhaka Project guest house, conveniently located slap bang in the middle of the project. Maria was worried that I wouldn’t like it (being too used to business style hotels) and had gone to a lot of effort to clean it and get it ready for me. In fact, she still thought I wouldn’t like it and should stay in hotel…but it seemed fairly pointless to come all that way and stay an hour away, wasting 2hrs a day in traffic…and the guest house to me is much nicer than a hotel. Its warm, cosy, clean and convenient…I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. I spent the rest of my first day being given a tour of the project by Rasel seeing the amazing results that have been achieved in only 2 short years. Its phenomenal.
The 200 children in nursery, pre-school and primary, sewing school, cooking school, beauty salon school, clothes shop, internet café, welding and carpentry shops, Dhaka project rickshaws, general store and of course the Dhaka project cows and calf! Walking into a class room, all the children standing up in their clean blue uniforms greeting me in perfect English, it was heart warming to see.
In the nursery the children soon formed an orderly queue to take it in turns to be lifted up as high in the air as I could…with beaming smiles they would rejoin the end of the queue for more, rather like a human fair ground ride!
Seeing what had been achieved, the levels of education and most importantly the endless smiles and happiness evident on the faces of the children makes you realise why your there…and I knew Maria would have a week of hard work for me!
Every morning Maria would meet with her team, Rasel, Solaiman, Jewel, Noyen and the volunteers to dish out daily to do lists.
My first job was to go shopping…how hard can that be? No, problem, it shouldn’t take too long…or so I thought! Of course you can’t get any suppliers to make regular deliveries of food and general supplies for running the project – that would be too easy! Rasel and I set out on a rickshaw for a day of trekking around various areas of town, haggling and seeking out the products on our list – because we didn’t dare return to Maria with it incomplete! We bought sacks of potatoes and daal, tables and chairs for the school, bicycles, spices, cassette players for the class, water, school shoes for the kids and even a microwave…and there I was wondering how was this all supposed to fit on a rickshaw?
Luckily, we ended up in an area of town called Tongi, which has a very peculiar and unique odour to it which clings to your clothes like smoke at a bonfire…only not so pleasant! However, its great for buying supplies at very good prices…and it turns out that you can rent trucks here too! So as we worked our way back through Dhaka to the project we stopped and picked up everything on the way…finally making it back after dark…we had just about completed the list, but had searched high and low and couldn’t find one item on the list – baby cots for the nursery. Thankfully Rasel managed to find a carpenter locally who could make them in a day or two, so at least we could tell Maria we had completed the list! I ended the day dehydrated, exhausted and stinking after having run around like a headless chicken all day, but Rasel and I were very happy we had completed our list and wouldn’t be in for a grilling from Maria (thou she is Portuguese, you could imagine she was related to a strict German matron)!
For the rest of my stay at the project everyday was packed full with chores: distribution of supplies, painting one of the nurseries, doing admin, such as helping with the accounts and helping write proposals.
Admin is definitely not something Maria has much time for when she is in Dhaka, and I’m sure not something she enjoys…thankfully an angel arrived in the form of Christiana, a volunteer from Portugal…who just so happened to be an auditor by profession, thou Maria had no idea until she arrived. She was an amazing help to Maria in getting to grips with a backlog of accounts and admin work to be done.
In Dhaka, Maria is like a woman possessed, quite unlike the Maria I knew from Dubai. She works morning to night, running around like crazy, dealing with people from the community, parents of the kids who need help, task mastering the rest of us to ensure the to do lists are done, working on new initiatives like planning a new medical centre, somehow managing to cram in admin work and getting to spend some quality time with the kids whose lives she has changed forever. I don’t know how she keeps it up, its exhausting just watching her! Not to mention the frustrations of getting things done in Dhaka…constant power cuts and losing all her accounts and admin work when computers crashed and mis-communications common to a country like that – for example, she requested fire extinguishers to be purchased, but what turned up were actually gas masks!! During my stay, there were some angry protests which resulted in a curfew, riot police were out in force and there were some clashes…this meant the power was out and telecoms were down, I couldn’t call out, but received a call from my office where my colleagues were worried because they heard someone had been killed in the riots. But like any big city in the west, this was isolated to certain areas and we were perfectly safe and saw no trouble at all, it just restricted the things we could achieve and jobs we could work on, slowing everything down once more. Blood, sweat and tears comes to mind…things can be so frustrating there…a small task, easy to finish in a place like Dubai, can take days in Dhaka.
Coming from a business environment, to me, Maria definitely works in an unorthodox way…and we had some heated discussions on what we each thought was the best way to get things done, but what really matters is that she gets results, not how she gets there, and the results are evident.
In a country where people often live on less than $1 a day, 80% of the nations exports are textiles and you have trouble persuading parents to let their children go to school (because they could be working), where rubbish lines the streets and slum houses seem to line the endless water ways, where many adults seem to have lacked hope their whole lives and so don’t dare have any ambition, it is striking to see the Dhaka project flower from the blood, sweat, laughter and tears that Maria has poured in from her heart over the last 2 years. The fact that she did this whilst still holding down a job is a testament to her dedication and to the patience and support of her employer. You can see the hope and ambition in the children’s eyes, they dare to dream where their parents didn’t and you ask them what they want to do when they grow up and they wish to be pilots, doctors, teachers and of course, after Maria, air hostesses.
Two things struck me in my last few days at the project. On my last Friday, Christiana and I went into the centre of Dhaka to see some sites, the parliament and opposite it, the shrine of President Zia. What struck us both was how clean and perfect the huge park surrounding the shrine was, no litter, nor dirt, just perfectly manicured lawns and paths surrounding the shrine with its perfectly clean walls. Its so easy to think it’s a waste of effort to try to make a difference in a place like Dhaka, you will never be rid of the rubbish and dirt, but it can be done and their shrine to President Zia is proof that it is possible for Dhaka to be clean. Secondly, I took some soduku books to Dhaka, to teach some of the children how to play this game that seems to have gripped so many in recent years. I sat down with one of the pupils who was 12 years old and is hungry to learn. Two years ago he was in the slum, had never been to school, couldn’t speak speak, read and write English and I’m assuming couldn’t read and write in Bangla either. Yet he learnt how to play soduku in less than half an hour. His methodical and logical manner in working out each problem, meant that after making mistakes and learning the rules on the first puzzle he completed the others perfectly with no mistakes…I’ve since learnt that he finished the 3 books I left him within days! He has hope, he has ambition and thanks to Maria he has the opportunity to develop to his full potential. What an outstanding achievement.
Having spent a week on the project, full of so many different and opposing emotions, I was both happy to be heading back to Dubai, but also very sad to be leaving. Since returning to Dubai I have looked into how other charities spend their money and was saddened, shocked and a little angry to discover statistics varying from 30% to 90% spent on head office, admin and overhead costs. One of the beauties of the Dhaka project is that 100% of the money goes to the people who need it. Maria doesn’t draw a salary, because she still has her job, in fact she even pays for all her flights to and from Dhaka herself. Don’t expect corporate style reports and professional feedback – you have to pay people for that – so if you want to see expensive marketing and huge admin support, definitely work with another charity. But if you want to know you’re donations really go to those who need it, then this is the project for you…just don’t expect Maria to respond to everybody in person, if she did that, there wouldn’t be any time left to push the project forward! If you are someone who can find time off to be a volunteer there, I’m sure she would be only to happy for the assistance and I can highly recommend it as an incredibly rewarding experience…I surprised myself in going for a week, but have a feeling I may yet surprise myself again and return!
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Thank you so much as this money is going to be spent on the renovation or we could say when you see it..... the construction of a new school.
What a great gift for us just before christmas.
Thank you from the bottom of our heart.