Thursday, July 17, 2008


I am sure that I have forgotten friends’ birthdays since I have been here in Bangladesh. I apologise now for forgetting but not for trying to find the sketch the bigger picture, etch by etch. Please accept my apology.

Personal Development Seminar
Georgie and I have just returned from a personal development seminar which was presented by Faria, (TDP Family Counsellor) and supported by Fatema (TDP Doctor). Faria mentioned to me about one week ago that many of the female students were scared and confused about some of the changes that were happening to them emotionally and physically; however were without sufficient information or support (or knowledge of whom they could approach). We decided to hold a seminar on personal development for girls aged 10 and above to discuss puberty issues such as menstruation, physical development and emotional maturation. It was a very successful seminar. The girls were very attentive (scattered with a few giggles) and flooded Faria and Fatema with questions. It has been suggested that follow up (or more advanced) sessions be held in the future and that the boys be given the opportunity to be exposed to the same puberty discussions. Finding a male teacher or staff member willing to put up their hand may be the limiting factor. I get the impression that men here what to shy away from these realities. All in all, it was a really positive seminar to be involved in! It is scary to think that generations of young adults are not exposed to this information about health and hygiene (except through trial and error and vicarious information that trickles down). What is even more confronting is the acceptance of young pregnancy and marriage and the appearance of dissociation between personal development education and these realities.

There are even more plus sides to the personal development seminars. Indirectly, they have alleviated Faria from the role of rent determination and refocused her on her actual responsibilities: counselling and health development (mental and physical). Faria has run through the proposed criteria for rent and determined that of the 38 families receiving rent only 21 would qualify under the new system. The aim is to abolish rent entirely and encourage a sustainable community through enterprise programs such as those established by Kate and Babu. A community meeting was held yesterday covering issues such as absenteeism, counselling and enterprise. According to Mr Asad said it was a great success and rent was not even mentioned! Things are looking up!

Pressures on TDP Families
My current task, which is likely to continue when I return back to Australia, is to write articles for media in Bangladesh and Dubai exposing the very real, daily pressures that families of the Dhaka Project encounter; covering issues such as the ever increasing price of rice juxtaposed with the stagnate incomes of TDP families. The aim of the articles is to address the problems that people of the slums face and how TDP aims to ameliorate these problems; however also revealing some of the problems that TDP faces when it comes to helping TDP community as a whole and not just focusing of the children’s education and nutrition. I have started research into this. Trying not to get too bogged down in stats. We are currently trying to make a simple model of the income and expenses of TDP families and see who is breaking even, coming out with surplus or not even making the bar. Interesting times.

There have been some hard times and lonely times. But right now I don’t want to go home. There is some much to do and so much of it has to do with the beautiful smiles of the wonderful children here that we are trying to help. That is the being and end.

Jenna Dennison

No comments: