Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Richard's Journal - Life Decisions

The majority of us that end up in development work have a defining moment where we suddenly realise that we feel that we are wasting away in our rich corporate spiritless lives. Mine was building a house in a small remote village of Fiji when I was 20, where I realised this community, who had very little, had more happiness than any community I had been part of in Australia; even if their life expectancy was 25 years less than mine.

There is one friend of mine, Tom, whose defining moment has stuck in my mind ever since I heard his story. It was whilst he was sitting in a philosophy lecture – the lecturer posed the following question to the class
If you were walking past a lake and saw a baby gasping its last breath as it went under the water would you jump into that lake to save that baby, knowing that you destroy your new pair of $200 shoes?”

With all the class saying “Yes, of course”, the lecturer then posed the question of why people don’t give a fractional amount of the cost of those shoes to ensure that people in Africa have access to life saving immunisations and medication.

Since I have been at The Dhaka Project , Tom’s defining moment has come to me quite often – not in the form of medication to save someone’s life but rather for education to give someone life. I am often asking myself the question would I give $200 a year to ensure that a child lives a life free from poverty.

In an interesting happenstance, last week Tom’s defining moment came full circle for me, I was walking back from visiting the preschool and I got a phone call from the office – “Rich we need you to make a decision.”


“You remember the pregnant nursery assistant, Bilkis, who fell off the rickshaw last month? Well she needs emergency caesarean surgery, she is having complications”

“What are the details?”

“(The Dhaka Project) Doctor has told me that the Hospital doctors say that she needs emergency caesarean surgery or she and the baby may die.”

“So what decision do you need from me?”

“The surgery is going to cost her 18,000tk (~$250USD), and she doesn’t have that money.’

Straight up I thought – But I am only the Director of Adult Development… and hey I have only been here 2 and a half weeks. Knowing that the decision had to be made it was down to me – Maria was flying right at that moment and our project manager was sick with chicken pox.

So there and then I had to make that decision that Tom’s lecturer posed his class a few years back - $250 for the surgery or the possibility of Bilkis and her unborn baby dying. Not even knowing where I was going to get the money from, I knew that there was only one decision I could make.

Today, I am extremely happy to say that The Dhaka Project Family now has a healthy addition - A boy, Shakibul Islam, weighing in at 3.75kg and measuring 23 inches.

We are extremely happy to welcome Shakibul Islam into our family and look forward to have Bilkis and Shakibul Islam return back to Gawair soon.

On a personal note: The challenges of working here at The Dhaka Project still continue to amaze me, I sit here writing this blog entry at 10pm at night in 35 degree heat dripping with sweat, I am down to the last little bit of my laptop battery as the electricity has been out since 8 – apparently it’s just the usual day at The Dhaka Project! From the loss of electricity for 6 hrs a day to the need for more staff/volunteers to help complete my A4 page to-do list, I can’t help but keep tirelessly working as the smiles I get from the kids everyday reminds me of how the work I am doing is giving them life.

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