Thursday, July 31, 2008

PEDRO AND CRISTIANA'S JOURNAL 4

It's keeping very warm in Dhaka during all day and night. It has rained sometimes but, incredibly all the lanes we daily use keep allowing us to go on our visits to the nursery and the preschool.
Its fantastic to see these so little kids in the morning and realizing that they already recognize us, and fight for a place in our lap or on us. We offered them racket kits, golf clubs (all plastic made) and many balls. It was funny to see how they felt amused when playing with so simple toys.
We have kept working on identification/file updating, by inserting the each one's photo, now in the new school (EK) with more students and demanding a little more work getting in touch with directors, teachers and students. And we have achieved some good results and soon are expecting to finish the job.

Added to the above, in the afternoons, we have helped the local team members of THE DHAKA PROJECT to develop administration procedures, in my case and now, I'm developing a presentation sheet to basic needs shop where the "FOOD FOR THOUGHT PROGRAMME" is taking place. Soon I will give more details. Cristiana keeps working on supporting in accountability field.
The power outages are a continuous problem and are always forcing us to stop working not allowing more efficiency as well as preventing us from sending daily news from DHAKA.

Pedro and Cristiana, from DHAKA!

GEORGIE'S JOURNAL III

Well, I'm back in Australia and it's taken a little getting used to. I thought I'd slip straight back into Sydney life but I find myself making constant comparisons to what I've seen working for the Dhaka Project. The extreme poverty and conditions contrasted with the strength, courage and warmth of the Bangladeshi people is remarkable and will be my overwhelming memory of my time in Gawair. Not only did I have the opportunity to learn much about Bangladesh, their people and culture but I've been lucky enough to experience the day to day running of an overseas aid project. I came to Bangladesh with a very idealistic view of how such projects run, thinking they have their challenges but overall run smoothly and are well accepted by communities. After a month with the Dhaka Project it is obvious that they take a huge amount of hard work, constant direction and drive and probably quite a bit of time to become successful and be embraced by communities. I think the Dhaka Project team, with their youthful energy, will provide that drive and change the lives of many Dhaka children. I feel privileged to have worked with the team and the project and hope to be back sometime soon!

Despite ending up in hospital, having my purse stolen/misplaced and experiencing a very scary altercation with a bus driver, a cab driver and a rather large plastic bat, I loved my stay in Bangladesh and that is mostly thanks to the kids. Their energy, smiling faces and affection is heartwarming, especially considering their often awful backgrounds. The most enjoyable day for me was helping Faria to run the session on puberty for the school girls. Faria has now had girls approaching her in the street asking questions and the girls have the confidence to talk among themselves about the changes they are experiencing. The boys were even asking for a talk too! It was lovely watching Faria establishing strong relationships with the students, and one that will strengthen and allow her to really make a difference in the lives of students, beyond education.

So, thanks to the Dhaka Project for making my time in Gawair so enjoyable. It won't be one that I forget easily! Getting all dressed up for my final Faculty of Law ball in Sydney next weekend feels somewhat trivial and futile in comparison to what I have experienced in Dhaka, especially in contrast to the poverty and conditions; but I'll try and be satisfied with the fact that I have used my skills, in a very small way, to do something to help...and that one day, I'll be back!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

PEDRO AND CRISTIANA'S JOURNAL 3

In the evening of Saturday we were members of the audience in a party running in The Dhaka Project school. This party had been organized by "Leo Club", in direct cooperation with The Dhaka Project, and enabled our kids to show their abilities in dancing and performance. These youngsters of "Leo Club" taught the kids to dance on stage and set up the play "Snow White And Seven Dwarfs". The performance has been totally passed in English and the kids did it very well. The others took part in the audience and were really amused following the performers in some songs.
For the first time since we arrived in here, it rained in Dhaka. Though it hasn't been a heavy rain and didn't last for long, as we were away from home we realised how it is easy to flood the streets, lanes and houses so fast.
On Sunday morning we visited the preschool where we gave some souvenirs brought from Portugal to the Kids. Small cars for the boys and hair holders and hair bands for the girls. And the first reaction of the kids was to hold their presents and share them. In a short while we could see boys wearing hair bands and girls playing with the cars, very funny indeed!

Just as I said in the last post, we keep working in updating the students file. Cristiana is taking pictures of all the kids including the name and the photo of each one in the file. This has been intensive work once we do several visits to the nursery and preschool to avoid leaving kids behind for the possibility of staying at home for being sick or any other reason.

At the same time just finished helping the member in charge of Micro-Finance, Babu, doing spreadsheets and reports on how the process is running. The Micro-Finance Programme aims helping the families of The Dhaka Project Students through loans to help them setting up a business or to face the immediate needs, and then they will pay the money back and some residual rate. Until now 11 people got help, for example, to buy Rickshaws or to set up sweets or cloths businesses.

We have had some problems with internet access, not even talk about the continuous power outages but spite of this we hope to be able to send more news as soon as possible.

Pedro e Cristiana.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Kids' Hygiene Class


The students under The Dhaka Project come from a different living conditions and society. And they know very little about hygiene let alone that the fact their parents have no idea of how to keep their kids healthy.


It was necessary to create awareness among the kids. So the TDP Health Care team arranged a programme to teach the kids of all age group about personal hygiene on the last Thursday of every month. The first session included few important points like, to wash hand with soap before having food and after coming from toilet, to drink boiled water, to brush your teeth twice daily. The team explained the kids with cartoons, placards and different drawings why they should cut their nails regularly, why to wear clean clothes and why they should have a regular bath.The second session consisted of more points emphasizing how to cross the road, not to play with street dogs and not to take open food.


The programme ended with kids laughing and shouting the rhymes they learned during the sessions.

Distribution Of Donated Clothes

This week the staff and volunteers have again been hard at work sorting donated clothes and distributing them to the children of the nursery, preschool and schools. A huge thank you must again go to those supporters of The Dhaka Project all over the world who have donated clothes to our project. In this case, the photos really do show just how grateful our children are!

Thanks to The Dhaka Project and it’s Brazilian supporters!

Marcelo, a veteran pilot of Emirates Airlines and a representative of the Brazilian community in Dubai came to visit The Dhaka Project on the 15th of July, 2008. He received a warm welcome from the children and exchanged greetings and affectionate smiles. He then went for a guided tour of the entire project with the volunteer manager, Mr. Jewel. The tour took a full two hours. With a very happy feeling about the work being undertaken for the underprivileged of Gawair, Marcelo set off to visit a similar project in the south of Dhaka, JAAGO Foundation. He was accompanied by Korvi, Project Director for both The Dhaka Project and JAAGO Foundation and also other volunteers from both organizations including Kate, Jenna, Georgie, Nayan, Jewel and Riyad.

Prior to Marcelo’s visit to Dhaka, The Dhaka Project kindly offered to contribute BDT 257,582 (USD $3,685) of the money raised by the Brazilian community in Dubai to this fledging project.

On the way to JAAGO, the team stopped at Panthapath, where Marcelo, on behalf of The Dhaka Project, paid for chairs, tables and other furniture for the children of JAAGO Foundation. Marcelo and the team then went to IDB Bhaban to buy computers for JAAGO’s beneficiaries. Meanwhile, volunteers bought stationery, exhaust fans and paint from the donation money. The entire team then got together at JAAGO Foundation, Rayerbazar, along with the furniture, computers and equipment.

The visitors were enthusiastically welcomed by the members of JAAGO. After having looked around the JAAGO premises and signing their names in the Guest Chart, the visitors and JAAGO volunteers all joined hands in painting the classroom and the computer room. The hands-on painting session went on for about an hour, after which Marcelo and the visitors bade farewell.

Words cannot explain the gratitude JAAGO and it’s team feels for the support provided to them by The Dhaka Project. The donation will enable the children of JAAGO to attend classes sitting in chairs, instead of on the floor. The computers will also facilitate greater learning for the children as well as their parents as they will be given training on how to operate computers and use various software. The paint that has been put on the walls will not only bring color to the lives of these underprivileged children, but the color itself (sky blue) will encourage the children to dream, dream about a better life, dream about a brighter future, dream about the sky and beyond, for the sky is not the limit.

JAAGO Foundation would like to especially send a huge thank you to Maria, Founder of The Dhaka Project for this kind gesture and for her support of this new and exciting project.


Cost break down of the donation:

Total donation made to JAAGO

BDT 257,581.50

$3,685.00




Expenses



Computer + Printer

BDT 124,000.00

$1,771.43

Chairs, PC Table, Shelf

BDT 52,300.00

$747.14

Stationery

BDT 8,700.00

$124.29

Exhaust Fans

BDT 2,400.00

$34.29

Paint

BDT 4,500.00

$64.29

Books

BDT 47,000.00

$671.43

Rent of Computer Room

BDT 15,000.00

$214.29

Total

BDT 253,900.00

$3,627.14

Remaining

BDT 3,681.50

$52.59

Thank you Crossline

A very big thank you the French textile company Crossline for the huge donation of clothes made to The Dhaka Project this week. These clothes will be both distributed to our Dhaka Project families and also sold in our clothes shop, with the profit to go towards our children’s education. We would especially like to thank Pedro Castelo, supporter of The Dhaka Project & Crossline’s Country Manager for Bangladesh, Arnaud Cognard for their support of the project and for their organization of this kind donation. Thanks must also go to our volunteers Christiana, Pedro and Kate and our Volunteer Manager, Jewel for all their hard work in transporting these boxes from the Crossline office back to The Dhaka Project.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

VOLUNTEERS ACTIVITY IN DUBAI

This is a time for holidays.
And of course most of our volunteers are enjoying their deserved holidays.
But,... not all !
We have been carrying lots of donations to Dhaka as far as it have been possible, managing to get some control on the tidiness in our mezzanine store and in a few days everything turned to its usual state; lots of donations to be packed, sorted... or prepared for sale. A sure sign that the kind donators from Dubai have been very active too.
Before last garage sale Maria and Fernanda from Brazilian Community got through the storage room and felt stunned when they opened the door. They spent four hours to get some control back and to prepare things for the following day.
After getting back home, the Founder herself, decided to empty all drawers and donate all her not used things to garage sale :)
And then, on last Friday they have run two garage sales, one in the mezzanine floor having achieved the amount of 1005 Dirhams ; in the same day Luiz and Maria have gone the the staff accommodation in Al Quoz where they made more 215 Dirhams, sweat Dirhams, once this has been performed under a terrible heat !
Thanks to the donators keeping with us !
And a big THANK YOU to Maria, Fernanda and Luiz, who keep working for our slum dwellers kids, seeking a brighter future to their lives !!!

PEDRO AND CRISTIANA'S JOURNAL 2

The humidity and the heat cause the work in Dhaka to almost unbearable. However, our bodies are getting to be used to this rhythm (if someday it will possible...).
Our daily meals routine starts after we get up at around eight in the morning (local time) with a breakfast in The Dhaka Project canteen, having lunch after at 1 PM or later and as for the dinner it's up to us when and where. Sometimes, we order some food (having more than all types of precaution...) choosing from a very short menu, and all, absolutely all, based on chili.
Lately we have made the option of eating some fruit at night. The streets between our accommodation and The Dhaka Project are overcrowded by street sellers, small shops and small places to eat which they claim to be restaurants.
We have bought a kind of bread, cooked under our sight made of flour and boiled oil, sometimes in ovens, other times in oval shaped pans on the flames. Due to my academic skills and professional experience I've been asked to help a local Dhaka Project member - Babu - in establishing procedures and sending reports of almost all activities at The Dhaka Project such as the Micro-Finance, the basic products' shop, the cloths' shop and the sewing centre.
As for Cristiana, due to her past in this project, she has been asked to cooperate with the local accountant manager - Munna - so implementing the necessary procedures to adequate the accountability to The Dhaka Project's needs.
Meanwhile, and specially in the mornings, we visit the nursery and the preschool. We have spent hours in the nursery and this dedicated time is is being reflected either in the kids or in us. There are kids who already know our names, spending their time holding us, playing or simply enjoying our lap. Being us sweating and tired, they manage to grasp us in very small spaces of our body, and when we leave the nursery we feel really rewarded by knowing that this trip is achieving all our expectations to that level.
Added to that, we try to understand which students are absent and why they are absent, at the same time that we count the presences and try to know about their families and their brothers/sisters. In The Dhaka Project, there are kids from the same family in the nursery, in the preschool and still in the school what makes it easy to know, for example, why a baby is not in the nursery or the older kid is absent from school.
Also, Cristiana is trying to take pictures of all the kids (ID type) aiming to build an updated database file containing data related with the kids in the nursery, the preschool and the schools. So, The Dhaka Project will have files with names and photos and some other useful details in its archive.

...directly from The DHAKA Project,

Pedro and Cristiana

Friday, July 25, 2008

WE MOURN ANOTHER LOSS - RABEYA BEGUM REST IN PEACE

We are sad to announce that on the 15th of July we found out that a child of our pre-school, Rabeya Begum (aged 5), died during the night to unknown circumstances. We have withheld announcing this news on the blog with hope of providing more details of how she died. However, we are just finalising an investigation which has revealed nothing to bring understanding to us here at The Dhaka Project. (We will put up the report of the investigation in the following days).

It has been an extremely hard week for the whole team dealing with the loss and has been even harder on her family which have been apart of The Dhaka Project since the start and our thoughts and prayers are with her family she left behind: her mother, Nazma, and her brother, Billal.

A few words about Rabeya by our Pre School-in-charge – “She was very polite and gentle kid. Her hobby was dancing as well as gardening. She was one of the most obedient students of Pre-school.”

Rabeya Begum – please rest in peace and peace be upon you.

Love from your Dhaka Project Family

x

RICHARD'S JOURNAL - THE HIGHS AND LOWS

My week has been from highs to lows – with the lowest point coming with the death of Rabeya (aged 5 – read above) from strange and unfathomable circumstances a week ago. This death occurred whilst I also suffering from one of the worst colds and fevers that I have ever had – a fever that kept me bed ridden for 5 days. Rabeya's death was then followed by the death of one our student's father - the thought of losing a father at the age of 10 makes me wonder why life is so cruel.

My highs included my final week with 2 of my close friends that have been visiting for the last month and a visit from 13 Australian youth leaders who were amazed with the project but they were also able to impart knowledge onto our leadership team.

But I must touch on the sad death of Rabeya – it has been the hardest challenge of my working career, let alone my time here at The Dhaka Project. Knowing a girl has died 7 hours after being in your care makes to start questioning every decision you have made and the decisions that you will make in the future. I feel somewhat haunted that if I had been more proactive as the Project Director things wouldn’t have turned out the way things did – all I can say to Rabeya in heaven is Sorry, I pray that if I was somehow at fault you will forgive me.

Rabeya’s death highlighted the plight that our children’s parents go through in order to ensure the best for their children – her mother, Nazma, worked from 8am to 1130pm to feed and provide shelter to Rabeya and her son Billal.

Having realised the stress that families are now facing due to rising food crisis and general inflation, three weeks ago I initiated an investigation into understanding the pressures that our families face and the initial results have come in and show that it is almost near impossible for these families to provide even the basics for their children. Further updates will come out soon where I have 2 writers drafting newspaper articles about the plight that our families face.

Finally, to finish my update I want to share a little story from Thursday when I was helping one of our journalists/writers interview our cleaner, also called Rabeya. We were asking Rabeya about rising food prices and how it effects her looking after her two boys – Mosharraf and Mobarak. She started with the nervous statement “no one has ever wanted to hear my story – no one cares about my story.” (which was ironic as she had 3 volunteers and 3 TDP staff waiting to here her speak J). We asked Rabeya what she would do if The Dhaka Project didn’t exist to provide for her and she just replied “I just have to work harder and longer to make sure that my boys receive the chances in life that I never received.”

I believe that she is an amazing mother with 2 of the most amazing children – a family that I sponsor through our family sponsorship programme. As the story continued and I was brought to tears – not of sadness, but of pride; about how this lady would do anything to see her two boys become the heroes that they can become! And we here at The Dhaka Project have to continue to do our work to make sure that we can make her dream come true!

I am now on a mission to find someone to tell Rabeya’s story – a story that the world needs to hear, a story that the world needs to care about.

A photo of me and Mobarak - my choddo bhai (little bro)

PEDRO AND CRISTIANA'S JOURNAL 1

After having spent a night in London and flying for 9 hours in a British Airways flight, we arrived in Dhaka. We had to wait for more than one hour to see our visa issued and get our luggage back. During this hour we realised that there were properly more police officers, airport staff and others than passengers like us.

We got our luggage and went out quietly...
Out of the airport we felt the first shock with the Bangladeshi environment. The temperature and the smell were feeling like a kind of gum on us. It leaves an intense and warm taste in our mouths. While we got in a taxi we realised that there were many people pushing one another, hanging on the bars so making it difficult other people to get in the airport.
We then met a Dhaka Project founder staff member waiting for us, Jewel, and got directly to the Guest House.
After leaving our luggage in the Guest House we had a tour throughout the project: the new school, a preschool, a kindergarten, a sewing center, a basic needs shop, a cloths shop and the building where part of the school is running as well as the Dhaka Project administration.
There are many volunteers from several nationalities in the project such as English, Australian, one from Ireland and us from Portugal. There is also many local staff members who work for the project.
Some volunteers help the local teachers in planning and giving classes to the children or in teaching the women to take care of the children in the preschool and in the kindergarten.
We are feeling happy for being here.
I (Pedro) have been detached to give support in the management of almost all the projects inside The Dhaka Project.
Cristiana is giving support in the accountability field, not forgetting the visits to the nursery, where the smaller babies are, as well as to the preschool.
We have visited the preschool and the nursery regularly, sometimes paying long visits to provide some lap to the children. In some occasions we have so many children with us or over us that we can hardly breath. They like it and we get feeling much better re-energized to start a new day.

Pedro Montez and Cristiana

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

RELATIONSHIP WITH JOYBANGLA.INFO

We here at The Dhaka Project are proud to announce a relationship with our friends and supporters at JoyBangla.info. The team there absolutely love the project and with the release of their postcard set they have pledged to give 10% of their profit to us here at The Dhaka Project.

Please visit their website at www.joybangla.info and you can also check out the postcards they have released by clicking here

Thank You JoyBangla for your wonderful gift! We hope we can continue a long-term relationship with you.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

LYNDA'S BACK!

Just a quick entry to let everyone know Lynda has been back volunteering again as a teacher. She last came to the Dhaka Project 2 years ago! When she was last here the school was a couple of rooms and 30 children; since then it's grown to over 500 kids! She's training as a teacher in the UK and might return again at the end of training!

Wow! Volunteers like this are amazing. They realise the Dhaka Project is doing a great job and love being part of such a mission. Thanks again Lynda!

FIONA'S FEEDBACK

I usually do not post peoples' emails on a Blog - But here is a recent email from a volunteer who has just returned back from 3 weeks at The Dhaka Project.
- Rich


Hi Rich,

Thank you so much for giving us such a fantastic time in Dhaka. Nothing I have ever done really prepared me for what I would experience living in Dhaka and working for The Dhaka Project. I have spent the last week or so in an absolute daze, and still can't really believe it was all real. I'm not really enjoying being back in Melbourne, I just had so much fun hanging out with kids like Sha alam and Rubel who have nothing and yet are so happy, honest and giving, and then I got back here and turned on tv to see women complaining on today tonight that their microwaves are unreliable. I am sponsoring their family now and am excited about seeing them next time I am in Bangladesh. I am seriously reconsidering my new job, and might apply for a volunteer position, or just skip back over to Bangladesh in Feb. Feels a bit weird chatting to friends about it, their eyes kind of glaze over and they say "ah yeh, I always thought about doing some aid work, couldn't deal with the heat though".

Thank you so much for inviting me over, organising such a great job for me to do within the project and for looking after us. It was so great to meet Kate, Georgie and Jenna too, really hoping I can catch up with them all here.

You are really doing some tremendous work over there, and are making a fantastic difference to the lives of brilliant children.

MORE SALES TO RAISE FUNDS

The team of volunteers in Dubai, always thinking of The Dhaka Project children has been doing some precious cash through  garage sales running in our mezzanine floor .
And so, in a garage sale run by Solange on last Thursday she fundraised 95 Dirhams.
On the next day, Maria Conceicao and Marcelo Taborda have run the holiday garage sale having sold items worth of 1805 Dirhams.
To these volunteers who are always concerned with the heavy burden on Maria's shoulders and came forward to relieve her, a big THANK YOU for keeping the hard work, on behalf of the unprivileged slums children under the care of The Dhaka Project.

Monday, July 21, 2008

NEW LIBRARY + COMPUTER LAB.

After moving the shelves and the books over from TDP Primary School, EK now has a new library!

Along with the hundreds of donated books, we've supplied some mats and cushions for the kids to relax on while reading - a nice atmosphere is important so you can concentrate on your novel! Reading is crucial to develop good language skills and with this addition EK will really help the kids develop quickly. The majority of these books were donated - Thank You!

But it doesn't stop there.... EK has also moved it's computer room to the more spacious 207, meaning more kids can be introduced to computers and start developing the skills that will be so important in their future jobs. We've labeled the computers "Boys' Computers" and "Girls' Computers" - that stops the girls being pushed off the machines and means everyone has an equal opportunity to learn.


If you would like to sponsor either the library or the computer room, feel free to contact us at sponsorship@thedhakaproject.org.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Food Prices to Child Marriage

The pressure of rising world food prices has finally burst within the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. The families of The Dhaka Project have been witness to the devastation of these price increases and many have reached desperation point.

The only possible solution that some families have found to overcome this pressure is to marry their daughter to a man who can then take the responsibility of providing for her. Unfortunately, within the Bangladeshi culture, a daughter is still seen as a burden – another mouth to feed. She is not seen as the amazing and successful Pilot/Teacher/Businesswoman that The Dhaka Project schools encourage her to grow and mature to be.

Over the last few months The Dhaka Project staff have been trying to ease the financial pressure on families by providing discounted rice and staples. This however has not released all families from the ongoing pressures. Parents of six of the thirty female students aged 12-14 have attempted to marry off their daughters in the last six months. Four of these children have had their marriages aborted by The Dhaka Project staff, whom, upon hearing of the potential arrangement, have rushed to educate the parents about the negative consequences of illegal underage marriage. However, sadly, two of these children have actually been married off as per their parents' wishes.

That doesn't mean that The Dhaka Project team gives up once these girls are married. One case is Bilkis, 13, (photo left) the smartest student in The Dhaka Project Standard 5 class, who in May was married off to her cousin from her home village. The Dhaka Project team were able to locate her and convince her new husband to allow them both to return to Dhaka to ensure the bright and talented Bilkis could return to school.

With world food prices forecasted to increase, The Dhaka Project, with the support of the Emirates Airline Foundation, has planned for the future and has opened a girls hostel to protect vulnerable girls like Bilkis from early marriage. The initial hostel will house 28 girls who will be cared for by a number of their grandmothers (who are also deemed as a burden on the family). The Dhaka Project girls hostel will ensure that these children will be able to grow and develop within a safe and secure environment and assist them to reach their full potential.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

MEETING WITH PARENTS II

The second parents meeting at The Dhaka Project consisted of more issues.
Firstly, the parents did not have a clear idea about the Food For Thought Programme.
Babu, who is operating the program, explained the idea to the parents, who were worried about the discount but he has given them the calculation
in a easier way to make them understand.
Secondly, our Family Counselor talked with them about the problem of house rent.
A new criteria is set to differentiate between the families needing the rent and families who are not so poor. Faria explained the whole criteria to the parents.
Thirdly, Mr Azad, our Community Chief, made a procedure of HELP LINE.
Parents were feeling defenseless during weekly holidays not knowing how to take their children to Hospitals in case of an emergency ; now they can call our health clinic manager and family counselor to quickly attend a casualty easing their problems a little.
Their questions were encouraged to pop out their problems.

GEORGIES JOURNAL II

Since my last “blog” things have changed a lot in the office. The newly introduced staff structure seems to have motivated everyone and after spending four days in Nepal the change is really evident. Faria, our counselor suggested that she should run, along with the new female doctor Fatema, a session educating young girls about menstruation and puberty. It seems that this has been a topic attracting much stigma and many of the girls have been scared or confused. Dr Fatema and Faria conducted the session and it was incredibly rewarding sitting at the back of the EK library watching forty or so enthralled girls who, after the session, had enough confidence to stand up and ask questions in front of the group. Not only will this encourage the girls to contact Faria or the medical centre if they have any problems or worries, but it will facilitate important discussion between the girls and maybe even younger girls to dispel some of the mystery surrounding menstruation. With the house rent situation under control Faria now has more time to concentrate on her role as a counselor and she’s doing a great job.

Korvi took us out to see Jaago, the “sister” school to the Dhaka Projects schools near Dhanmondi. It was really inspiring to see young, educated Bangladeshi students giving their time after work and study to provide education for kids in slum areas. Jaago is in its early stages in comparison to the Dhaka Project but it is evident that it has much insight and energy behind it; it has such potential to change the lives of many children. The kids at Jaago are so lucky to have teachers who have perfect English and are university educated. Marcelo, an Emirates Pilot had helped to raise funds in Dubai to provide the school with chairs, desks and computers and it was great to see how money raised for the project is implemented.

Friday, July 18, 2008

HOW COULD MARCELO DO ALL THIS ?

In this world of contrasts, and much specially in the solidarity field, we can find huge cons side by side with pleasant pros!
We're talking for example about the rules that lead to bad results, developed by the authorities against the income of donations to our kids at the project; by the law nobody is allowed to offer any used items to the kids in Bangladesh without paying rights, most of the times far beyond the money they are worth of; so if internally they are let to be in absolute poverty and, when foreigners try to help they face all kinds of barriers, a procedure that could break their will to help at least with what would go to the garbage bins in developed countries, what else could outside world citizens think but that there is a force pushing this poor people downwards the poverty line decades after decades ?
The above exposed may cause many people to get dimmed out and finally giving up.
On the other hand there are those who, resisting against the failure, face it as challenge, and exploit all the possibilities left, and when they find one they will use all the resources possible to the extent of their own energy.
In this context and by these days we have mentioned some of our volunteers in this crucial time when we really need people who do all they can... it's a kind of "It's now or never!"...
Direct to the point, we must refer a few pleasant pros, who we address a TREMENDOUS THANK YOU:
Marcelo Taborda, has really performed one of those heroic feats on behalf of our kids two days ago,... so many lives he will have saved in a long term point of view!
Instead of enjoying all his possible amenities during a layover in Dhaka, he decided to roll his sleeves up and get his hands dirty having started before his flight, and ending a few hours after his return, what represents a continuous multi-task work from the labour worker category to the honourable status of a pilot in the skies.
During this Dhaka Adventure he took 15 suitcases full of precious donations offered by people in Dubai to Dhaka; and once there, he has gone to visit The Dhaka Project and later, with a project committee he went to visit another partner project and helped on setting up a school for 75 children using the the money fundraised in latest garage sales by the Brazilian Community in Dubai, as it can be seen in a previous post.
After getting back and before preparing himself to the return flight, he volunteered to take the empty suitcases back... not only the above 15 but 31, once there were 16 waiting for a good soul to bring them back to be refilled; so he packed the 31 suitcases, with some help given by crew members, in a minivan that normally has room for not more than 30, in a hard task under 42 degrees heat in Dhaka,... folks are still to know how he could have done that...
And after his return to Dubai his batteries still had enough charge to stay at CBC, under a temperature of 48 degrees (only!!!) to pack more 18 suitcases for 4 hours!
And what to say about Solange? She is always committed to help in all fronts in the town for hours and hours. It's that simple!
And the same applies to Luiz Ogg, who hardly arrived from his deserved holidays and has already volunteered to take donations and pack another 10 suitcases left at CBC by Marcelo.
These volunteers also drive from one end of the city to the other, using their own cars, paying for the gas with their own money, carry heavy bags,... slowly damaging their cars...
And as the fight can't stop, today, three of us, Maria, Luiz e Marcelo took more two full cars of heavy suitcases to CBC and donations to refill other ten bags... what a tremendous work they have done, items in the car, items out of the car, packing...
We are really in debt with these people who joined our 'army' of volunteers !!!
From this and all the sweat works done on behalf of the slums' Dhaka kids by volunteers who have got concerned by this cause we could expect not less than Bangladeshis to jump out of their comfortable chairs and join to their own cause, the fight against poverty, not creating barriers but eradicating them; this would be a best award not only to Marcelo but also to all who have been involved in the field work !
These barriers are what is causing all this rush under unbearable temperatures for the children's cause!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

JENNA'S JOURNAL II

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.

Rent
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

BIRTHDAY FOOTBALL MATCH!

It was our 3rd Birthday a few days ago and along with a cultural programme and a Birthday cake with the kids we decided to have a football match... in the school field... which is currently one very big puddle of mud!

The stage was set for a titanic clash between the administration staff and the teachers. It wasn’t looking good for the teachers with players such as the brutish Nayan (Maintenance) and the powerful Mir (Health Operations) as opposition players. However, the teachers had the agile skills of Osman Bashar (Maths) and Firoz (Head of Education) to back them up.

The game kicked off with a crowd of a couple hundred Dhaka Project school-kids and it wasn’t long before everyone was covered in the gooey mud. Most people took a fall or two, Mr Azad (Principal TDP) loved being the goalkeeper and had to swim through the mud a couple of times to make a save.

The administration took the lead 20 minutes in, then a goal from the teachers 10 minutes later made it 1-1. It was all very tense and everyone was getting used to the tricky conditions. Then, suddenly, a goal from halfway! The admin staff lead 2-1 after the goalkeeper struggles helplessly in the mud.


And that’s the way it ended, a 2-1 victory for administration over the teachers. Everyone had fun, the kids loved watching their staff fall about in the mud and apparently a re-match is already being organised for next year!

THANK YOU !

Over 200 selfless and hard working Dhaka Project volunteers have donated their time to help countless children, youth and families in need over the past 3 years. This is a remarkable figure and an extraordinary achievement. But I came to a realisation today after listening to Marcelo Taborda feedback about his trip to Dhaka how it was the friend of a volunteer who played a major role in fundraising for the project. It suddenly dawned on me that one single volunteer is a representation of ten, twenty, fifty others, or more. There is a long trail of kindness that goes back much farther and runs much deeper than what may appear. There are family members helping out with fees and donations; there are friends collecting toys and books to go to Dhaka ; there are work colleagues , school kids baking cakes and organising fundraising morning teas. The trail goes on and on...
Today I wish to not just acknowledge the volunteers who are on the ground but also thank and acknowledge the thousands and thousands of friends and family members who are working behind the scenes, providing strength and support to the volunteers who are out there trying to make a difference in the world. We could not do what we do without them. Just like a flower needs sunshine and water to grow, we too at The DHAKA Project need nourishment from others to give us the strength to go forward.
So today I want to say a TREMENDOUS THANK YOU for the people in my life who provide me with the nourishment that enables you to go off into the world to help others and fulfil my dreams.
As John Lennon so famously sang, "we get by with a little help from our friends."
You and I and all of our friends, together, will make this world a better, brighter place for us all to live.

Maria

Monday, July 14, 2008

Food For Thought



“Thursday and Friday their school is closed!! How will we manage their food??”


A question that disturbed the long nights of the parents is brought to an end by ABRAAJ CAPITAL LIMITED,who are funding the Food For Thought Programme.


The food price is rising all over the world making life harder. ABRAAJ CAPITAL LIMITED are helping us here at The Dhaka Project by giving 20% discount off the regular price of items that the students would eat in their weekend meals. These items include rice, lentils and oil.

The food is distributed from the newly opened Dhaka Project grocery shop.

Little Master


It’s a boy!!! Yahooooooo!!!!

Md. Rashedul Ahsan, IT Manager of The Dhaka Project, became father on 1st July. The family is happy with their first kid and everyone in the office can see a new glow in Rashed’s face.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

OUR SPECIAL SECURITY GUARDS !

As we have been telling you, we have really had high movement of toys, clothes and shoes, from our mezzanine floor to CBC towards our children and the community at The Dhaka Project.
Our security guards Rajesh and Ali

We have already referred the tremendous work done by our volunteers, in an endless and uncountable number, having written some latest references about them in this blog.
Packing and carrying all these tons of items in suitcases, persistently step by step, many times running garage sales at the same time, demands a lot of work and time investment... (and we are always running against time)... so, being continuoulsy helped by security members Rajesh and Ali when putting all this stuff in cars before mading our way to CBC has been a tremendous relief day after day giving us an important boost, physically and psychologically , to proceeding ahead seeking our goals.
And our security guards are really remarkable; they have been present every single day for more than a year now, always ready to help us in the area under their control, carrying heavy suitcases and bags from our store to the cars so relieving us by transferring hundreds of Kilos from our hands to theirs, saving us many hard and heavy steps, many drops of sweat,... and the result is that we can keep our stamina for much longer.
Thank you to Rajesh and Ali for their continuous and long hard work on behalf of our children and their families, who you have been helping to get warmer through your precious help.

Our garage sale yesterday was worth of 75 Dirhams as usually run by Solange.
Also a great thank you to Solange for dedicating her time to our kids!

Maria

KATJA FEEDBACK II

Dear DhakaProjectarians,
I am doing fine, back in Germany. Berlin is a good place to be in summer anyway: lots of open-air concerts, chilling in beach bars alongside the Spree river, and interesting people: Barack Obama will come and speak at the Brandenburg gate on 24 July - should be interesting. Nonetheless quite a contrast to my time at the Dhaka Project in Gawair, and still it makes me very thoughtful of what the common Bangladeshi citizen would think of our life here: food thrown away carelessly in garbage bins, not only one car
but 3, kids dressed in clothes worth a yearly Bangladeshi salary - still, I am sure they would think that people look grumpy and are not very friendly with each other a lot of times. Back in Berlin, I also look at poverty - that does exist very openly in Berlin - in a different way. To live in a rich country unfortunately is no guarantee to live a good life. But at least you can be sure that your basic needs will be covered. Still, so many children grow up in certain parts of the city of Berlin totally neglected by parents and society in general. That`s the sad fact: in Germany as well as in Bangladesh and everywhere else in the world, children always suffer most, they are the most vulnerable of a society and rely on our protection. At the same time, they
can't make their voice heard and are often overlooked. An important corner stone of a country's future wasted!
That is why I see as my personal goal in life: to help make their voice heard, to help children unfold their potential and become responsible, happy citizens of their country, who develop a sense of fairness and justice. At the Dhaka Project, I saw even more clearly that education is the only way to achieve a better life for children and break the cycle of poverty. I was very impressed with the staff of The Dhaka Project which works under very difficult conditions. I was welcomed so warmly, and was always well cared for ( I am still smelling the lovely ginger-tea that helped ease my cough - thanks!!!). And the children were amazing: so full of natural curiosity, so keen on getting feedback and attention, not always easy to handle but impressive little fighters in a surrounding that was - except for the Dhaka Project itself - everything but child friendly.
I did what I could within my one-month-stay, of course time was flying. Still, together with the wonderful, and very motivated teachers I started a few things that will hopefully be taken further: we discussed innovative teaching methods to come up with ideas of how the classroom routine can be made more interesting for students. Also, the teachers are now more familiar with children's rights and have - I was sooo happy to receive the pictures!!! - already established so called classroom-contracts that make rights and duties of students and teachers visible. A great result of our teacher's day!
My time at the Dhaka Project was very rewarding in many ways. The children taught me, that you can blossom and grow even in the most difficult conditions: all I can say is, keep on growing! I want to see you live your dreams. And thanks a lot to the Dhaka Project team for making this a wonderful experience. I admire your work and hope that you will be able to help many more children! I will continue to help "change the world" in my way - I know it's going to be a long journey, that's why it's good to know you have travel companions.
All the best and Auf Wiedersehen ( and I really do hope that I will see you again)!

Katja

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fiona's Journal - June 2008

We arrived in Gawair in the middle of the night two weeks ago. We couldn't see the huge pot holes filled with sewerage that stretched across the roads but we could feel them. The air was moist and humid and smelt of smoke. It was two am, but the towering garment factories on either side of the road with their fluorescent lights beaming lit up the night sky. The several garment factories in Gawair make up just a few of the 4,000 or so factories in Bangladesh; purpose-built brick monuments to the instant money to be made from a global clothing industry.

The garment factories in Bangladesh have deep historical roots to the 18th century when the British banned the importation of Indian silk that was far superior to anything that could be produced in Britain. Ironically, it is now the objective of Western powers to ensure that countries like Bangladesh do not adopt the protectionism which proved essential to the effective development of their own industry three hundred years ago. Despite the violence and war that plagued Bangladesh in the 1970's and 1980's, it is in fact economic rather than military forces that are proving more effective in constraining the Bangladesh people, particularly women. Bangladesh is now an export-processing zone; garments earn two-thirds of the foreign exchange. About 800,000 people work in the garment factories of Dhaka, three-quarters of them are women.

During my time volunteering at The Dhaka Project I have been assisting in turning the current sewing centre into a profitable enterprise by writing and implementing a business plan and designing a new range of products. The sewing centre at The Dhaka Project is designed to combat the growing problem that is preventing the women of Bangladesh escaping from the cycle of poverty. Providing training and then opportunities to get involved in production, The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre will give the women in The Dhaka Project Community a sustainable business which will be a tremendous benefit for the community. The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre is undergoing expansion and has just moved to a new location guaranteeing space and excellent working conditions. During their nine to five shift the women receive two meals and regular breaks.

In the short term we intend on employing over twenty new production staff who are parents in our community, as well as providing paid training to parents and sisters of children in our school who have never sewn before. Once equipped with knowledge and skills in karchupi and sewing the women in training will have the opportunity to quickly move into production if they wish, and earn a substantial salary of over 1500 taka per month.

The Dhaka Project Sewing Centre will begin targeting Emirates Airlines Air Crew, a market with which we have a great relationship and whom we know will be receptive to our ideas. Creating a fusion of Western clothes with Bangladeshi characteristics, the bags, scarves and clothing will bear The Dhaka Project logo. We look forward to this being a very successful venture, whereby we can quickly grow and promote our free trade practice and break the cycle of poverty that is unfortunately being repeated all over this beautiful country.

Friday, July 11, 2008

SOLANGE - ALWAYS ON THE MOVE !

Solange has been a persistent hard worker who has been giving extreme and continuous efforts towards The Dhaka Project, packing as many suitcases as possible to be taken to Dhaka while she also runs garage sales and keeps the store tidy. Now a few months before the winter in Bangladesh and having a wave of cooperation from captains in matter of taking suitcases out she has been dedicating 5 to 7 hours daily, in the store room or around, in a kind of multi-task environment....
As part of theses multi services we can refer organizing new donations, packing and distributing donations to be dispatched to Dhaka, driving to and from CBC in a daily basis, to drop the suitcases ready to go...
And as this could be thought to be little, she still looks after my wellbeing!!!
She has run private garage sales where her friends bought some items; while she takes care of the clothes separating them at our mezzanine floor in Sheikh Zayed Road, she chooses some items among them, those she thinks her friends would like, and as an extra job she goes meet them and sells... sells... two days ago she fundraised 90 Dirhams and more 185 Dirhams yesterday,... all these by selling clothes to her friends!
And she sold items in the garage sale run today worth of 1730 Dirhams.
We counted with Marcelo Taborda's usual and helpful cooperation to help taking many clothes to CBC !
Finally she got a donation of 500 Dirhams from Syed!
For all the above and on behalf of our kids and the community at the project we would like to send a big thank you,... to Solange who is beyond any words, for the hard and persistent work done ,... to Marcelo who dedicates most of his spare moments working with us...
...and to Syed for this precious donation that will make a difference where every bit counts, and generally to all who have donated items or have been carrying them to where they are needed.
Without your help it will not be possible!
Thank you !
Maria

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Winners

Al-Jabel School of Dubai gave T- Shirts to the winning team after a match between The Dhaka Project School and The Emirates Airlines Foundation College.

KATE'S FEEDBACK 2

Before coming out to the Dhaka Project last week I had no idea what to expect. What I’ve experienced here in the last week has been truly uplifting. It is incredible to see what has been accomplished here over just a few years. From two small rooms and less than forty children, the project has grown and flourished, and at the 3rd year anniversary celebration this week the room was packed with the laughter and enthusiasm of the vast number of children who are now benefiting.

As a teacher, it has been really interesting to come and work with the teachers here to begin developing strategies and teaching methods that are appropriate for the unique situation of the project. As many children have not received formal schooling until recently there are large differences in ability between children of the same age. What stands out here is the huge desire of the children to ‘know more’ – like sponges wanting to soak up information and ideas. The dedicated staff at the schools are showing enthusiasm for discovering new ideas to use within the classroom and we are supporting them in using more interactive and creative methods. So far we have looked at using reward systems and monitors within the classroom, building self-esteem using circle time, golden agreements, display and making and using puppets in the classroom. Many of these ideas are new concepts and it will be a very gradual process but it is great to see star charts and colourful posters beginning to appear around the building!

I’ve had a fantastic experience and hope to return. I have learned a lot from the children and staff at the Dhaka Project and I hope that they have learned some new things from me too.

Kate McCleanaghan

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

CHILD IN DANGER !

Mainuddin needs immediate surgery, he is suffering from Rectal Prolapse. The total cost for the operation would be 30,000 Taka. ($430 USD approximately)

Will someone come forward to help this little kid ?

Mainuddin is a nursery student at the The Dhaka Project. At the age of 3 nothing could get worse than this. Mainuddin’s father, Abdul Kalam, passed away a few years ago.

Mainuddin’s mother, Fatema, works as a cleaner in The Dhaka Project. She is the only person who earns a very small amount of money for the family.
In this circumstance, they can't afford the surgery cost.
And Mainuddin’s condition is getting worse day by day!
Before it's too late we should do something.

Else we might lose him!!!

RICHARD'S JOURNAL - 3 YEARS AND COUNTING

This week has seen The Dhaka Project blow out 3 candles on the cake. Whilst it has been a week for us to celebrate, it has also been a week for us to reflect upon what we have achieved and look forward to the future as how best to proceed.

In the recent weeks the project has experienced some turbulent times: from asking some of our staff to leave because rice was left to go to waste (yes, as we saw rice prices doubling throughout the world and our families struggling to feed themselves); seeing more female students tried to be married off at early ages; a large drop in student attendance after the summer break; and recently an upset parent population not grateful with everything that The Dhaka Project had already given them and their kids.

So upon reflection, I found that we (including myself) have somehow lost the focus on what The Dhaka Project is trying to achieve and we were getting too focussed on growth and change that we lost our priority of ensuring these kids will reach their dreams. I realised that before we continued to expand further, we need to consolidate the great work we have already established.

Due to things changing so quickly here at The Dhaka Project, I forget that it was only 6 months ago that I arrived here at The Dhaka Project to see a plain brick building with no windows, no internal walls, no sign of the life – just the sad skeleton of a garment factory! This building is now the wonderful Emirates Foundation School – our ladder allowing our children to climb even closer to their dreams!

All the amazing feats we have achieved over the last 3 years have happened at warp speed. To ensure the continuation of this great work we are now at a stage where we need to consolidate; we need to make sure that we have the team to make it to the next step; we need to make sure that we are running our current operations as efficient as possible; we need to make sure that we learn from our last steps, allowing us to take our next steps more effectively.

But most importantly we need to make sure that our focus at all times remain on the children – the future leaders of Bangladesh, the businessmen that will pull their compatriots out of poverty, the doctors that will ensure that their parents will live past the age of 60, the honest politicians that will remove the smear of corruption from this country's name.

So as I sit here and reflect on the wonderful years that our 3 year old baby has lived –
I am proud of what has been achieved.
I am excited by the potential.
and I know that it won’t be easy.

BUT to continue the wonderful sucess that The Dhaka Project has already achieved we must focus on creating tomorrow’s leaders of Bangladesh, not getting distracted by all the little things that try to take our attention away from these little gems.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

DONATIONS AND HELP

A great thank you to all these friends and volunteers who kindly have helped us in the last days... end of June up to today!
So we present the following donations or helpful actions:
From Mr. Paulo Fonte - Coimbra - Portugal, who graciously transferred a wonderful donation of 400 Euros to our account!
From our volunteers in Dubai, Maria, Solange, Marcelo and Luiz Ogg by selling in Garage sales, the hard raised sum of 2,100 Dirhams!
From Mr. Baluch - Dubai, who kindly helpd us with an amount of 5,000 Dirhams.
And still from Solange, who in a turn (yesterday) sold items to her friends, not at the usual place, but in her house, worth of 235 Dirhams and in another turn (today), made a selection of clothes to a friend, went at her home and sold them worth of 50 Dirhams!
Also we have been kindly offered a donation from an anonymous friend who left 500 Dirhams in Maria's mailbox.
Today Solange and Maria have gone back to CBC to pack 13 suitcases.
Manuel de Sousa, Captain with Emirates, has been helping, tremendously appealing to all pilots to take suitcases almost every other day to Dhaka, and also Luiz Ogg, 1st Officer with Emirates, has looked for crew members going to Dhaka, both developing great public relations and trying to convince crew members to take suitcases in their flights having been rewarded for the spirit of solidarity always present in each human being's heart.
And finally, once again Solange, having sold Clarins-Dubai products, raised more 70 Dirhams, being on action at the time this text write up.
We wish to show our gratitude to all these donators and volunteers who, with their kindness, with their sensitivity to this noble cause, have shown their solidarity with us in the mission to keep this work on, on behalf of the most unprivileged kids of Dhaka.
Thank you very much !!!