Sunday, September 21, 2008


Dubai, September 13th 2008,

The purpose of this letter is to openly address the problems that The Dhaka Project is facing at the present moment, already bringing to light the possible solutions that can solve them and also avoid having to face the same issues in the future.
As you all know TDP was born from a personal mission taken very seriously by Maria Conceição, a cabin crew member of Emirates Airlines. After visiting Dhaka on a layover trip she had decided that she should do something to change the terrible life scenario that the people and also the children in the slams of Dhaka face on a daily basis. Despite the fact that Maria had at that time no previous experience with this kind of institution she had a dream and pursued it with a lot of courage and determination, abdicating from her own personal life to be able to make this dream come true. After three years it´s undeniable that she succeeded, the high price paid by Maria was worthwhile, the innumerous problems that she lived with her own sacrifice brought an impressive result. Maria had been in Dhaka so many times, spending there all her free time during these three years, all her leaves, emergency leaves and absent days were taken by her. These efforts were not priceless to Maria; she paid indeed a high price by loosing opportunities on her professional career, by sacrificing her health, by not being able to have relationships as someone single in her age and lastly by being far from her own family in Europe for so long, since she wasn’t able to visit them during this time.
But anyway these efforts were rewarded, TDP is a reality, and it had certainly already changed the life of many people who were attended by the project. Maria had a vision, the vision of a different way to do charity, educating people and making them able to take good care of themselves in the future, assisting the whole family to break the circle of poverty and disgrace that are a common place in that area where the project had chosen to cover. These goals were achieved most of the time, but as everything in life it's not 100% perfect, the project had its problems and most of the time Maria was able to take action and go over them, but in the last times it became too hard for Maria to take care of it alone, and problems started to grow.
Unfortunately it isn’t easy to find qualified people to run a project with the size of TDP, nor it was affordable for the project’s budget to bring someone from another country to run the project in Dhaka. As Maria has her job in Dubai she had to count on the voluntary work of expats with a good formation to take care of the day by day of TDP when she is impeded to be in Dhaka. It’s hard to believe that someone that quits everything behind at his first world country can have any other objective on this act than helping other people, mainly in this case helping the children involved. It was with this belief that Maria accepted the last project director's help to run TDP in Dhaka. At the beginning everything seemed to be working effectively, but after a few months he decided to take over the project from Maria, she was isolated from the issues, her decisions started to be ignored and many decisions started to be taken by him without even informing Maria. Slowly he started to implement his own vision of what the project should be, and sadly the focus was not anymore on the children, but much more on the people working for the project and their “status quo” consequently achieved by being part of it, including his own egocentric interests. He hired so many new employees, most of them unnecessary. Due to the new priorities on bureaucratic work the project started to be deprived of its main characteristics; caring for the children's well being, providing them good and balanced food, adequate hygiene and good medical care, and provide them with a solid education that could give them better opportunities on their adult life. The food was dramatically changed despite the fact that there were resources available to maintain the same quality as before, but many of these resources were being used to offer better benefits to the staff at the project. All the hygienic measures implemented by Maria were left behind and the children were living as they were before TDP. Medical care was not so effective and the project even lost the life of one of its students due to the his omission and the staff working with him, that even after days knowing that the child was ill they never decided to take her to the available doctor, probably because they always had other wrong priorities with office work over the children. By that time the teachers were not anymore following the expected curriculum that was thoroughly planned by competent educators. TDP lost its character during that time; he became a leader by pleasing every employee, by not taking the project so seriously as Maria always did, and accepting bad actions that were affecting the children in order to avoid problems. He was always the nice guy, different than Maria he would never do anything against any staff member, but the children were paying a high price for his attitudes. But unfortunately due to his daily presence and to his political abilities in Dhaka he was able to temporarily take the leadership of TDP, therefore by having a bad leader the project was immersed in a serious crisis.
But anyway Maria was still working hard here in Dubai to raise funds to TDP, and although she knew that something was wrong she had no idea on how wrong it was, until she had the chance of going to Dhaka again. TDP was conceived by Maria's vision, therefore it was very soon after she arrived in Dhaka that she realized how deep the project had been changed lately, and she started immediately to take actions to correct the situation. She was very upset with everything she was observing, her personal dream was dramatically changed and her children were suffering because of that, and as a mother defending her children she was very energetic, very emotive, it was very hard to forgive that people for letting the children behind to take care of their own private interests. Maria took so many people out of their comfort zone during that time in Dhaka, she fired employees, just because they clearly acted against the children's interests, so many of the faults were unforgivable, and therefore many of those didn't deserve another chance. Maria was acting with her heart, until that moment she always had taken the decisions on TDP by herself, but always considering the children as the only priority, that was exactly what she was doing at that time. But damage was done, months of a wrong leadership affected the way that people in Dhaka were facing the project, and of course by not being nice to everyone despite how badly they have been acting towards the children Maria had a hard time there. At that moment the project manager realized that his time in Dhaka was over, and to leave with a good image he decided to attack Maria with a very cynical approach, writing e-mails to her personal doctor from Emirates Clinic, her own boss and even journalists that were supporting the project trying to convince these people that Maria needed help and that he had being so nice but he couldn't help the children because it was not possible to work with Maria. He had even used lies like the one saying that Maria physically attacked one of the employees, and also other lies regarding her mental state. He felt down shooting, showing his lack of character and his lack of honour. As he couldn't run his own project, knowing that TDP was a Maria achievement and that regardless of how he could control the people in Dhaka he would never be able to steal the support that Maria always had from so many that always recognized Maria's struggle to build this project, he decided that he would try to destroy Maria's reputation by sending e-mails to everyone involved with TDP. Hopefully he failed on his task, maybe because most of the people who knew Maria were able to perceive his intentions.
Any organizations are subjected to this kind of crisis; TDP is no exception to this rule. But what is paramount now is to find ways to surpass this negative moment, and that's exactly what should be done now. When articles from volunteers in Dhaka showing clearly and openly to everyone what was really happening with TDP were published in its own homepage it was for a good purpose, despite the sometimes bad outcomes that may take place when something like that is made public. The purpose was that of being 100% honest with everyone that supports the project, never hiding anything that is negative, if TDP was acting like that it would be fooling people, and that will never be accepted by any of us who are involved with the project, mainly by Maria that dedicated so much of her time to that children and never expected any kind of return from her good actions. Maria had the power to avoid that articles in the homepage, but she decided that nothing should be hidden, she showed how honest, open and sincere she's indeed.
Recently Maria received a significant amount of money to build a new medical clinic in Dhaka, unfortunately due to lack of manpower and qualified people in Dhaka to run this project it was not possible to put this in action on the expected time. Maria called the donor and gave him back all of the money explaining why it was not possible to build the clinic. The donor was very surprised and told Maria that it was the first time that any donated money returned to him and that whenever Maria is able to build the clinic the money will be available.
Today Maria is running the project with the help of Korvi, a young Bangladeshi that has a very good academic background and that was also the founder of another NGO for children in Dhaka, which is helped by TDP. Korvi has shown that he has a mission with the children, and
he's trying his best to put things on its places, by working directly with Maria on all pending issues.
Regarding TDP's future it's very clear that it lies on our capability of establishing a good control from the people who runs the project in Dubai over the structure and human resources that are in Dhaka. An efficient management system should be instated, and it's very clear that the project needs professionalism to be taken forward. Maria alone can't face the task of running the entire project, she needs relief and help from others. She didn't have a normal life and she truly deserves that from now on. Even her health was seriously affected and she has to take care of this now,... presently she's suffering from stomach problems, and is also anemic. TDP needs a Council, people who are in anyway involved with it that may bring good solutions to its problems. On a monthly basis the council will meet and with the analysis of the reports from the staff in Dhaka and also from volunteers that were there it'll take all decisions affecting the project. Of course Maria will be one of the members, the children need that she takes part of it, it was her vision that gave birth to TDP and nobody knows it better than her. But she'll be one of us, she'll be relieved from a very tough load, and when she goes to Dhaka she won't be anymore the one that takes decisions affecting people there, the one who fires people, but only one of the members of the counsel that takes the decision, and of course the founder of TDP and the honoured mother of that children.
So the project is entering a new phase, one that won't rely on only one person that has to sacrifice her own private life to make it happen, but one that a council that will be formed by competent and generous people, and that will always be taking care of those kids. Everyone will have his or her own time to help TDP, but there will be always someone to replace that person when he or she decides to leave. By creating the council and making it work effectively the project will gain sustainability, it'll last for decades. Even the assisted children can be members of the council in the future, having the chance to return to other children what they got from TDP years before. The hardest job is done, The Dhaka Project is there, the children are there, the supporters are here, what we just need now is to organize ourselves and together with Maria as one of the counsellors put TDP back on track. And it's very clear that if we pursue this goal with the same determination that Maria had in the very beginning we'll succeed, and therefore the children in Dhaka will too!

No comments: