Tuesday, September 30, 2008

FUNDRAISERS OF THE WEEK - 3

Our team of volunteers in Dubai has kept working in the store while they do eventual sales, or yet running the Friday Garage Sale, as follows:
  • On 22nd, Solange Fortuna was tidying the store also having done sales worth 30,00 Dirhams.
  • On 23rd, Solange Barros while tidying the store also sold items worth 20,00 Dirhams
  • On 26th, Solange Barros, Solange Fortuna, Fernanda Laço and Renata Vonkouh run the Friday Garage Sale from 10:00 to 14:00, having fundraised 1.495,00 .
And many donators keep showing up asking for directions and delivering their donations at out drop-off point located as shown in the side bar on the right.
Thank you for so much voluntary work and solidarity towards the kids at The Dhaka Project !

Saturday, September 27, 2008

FUNDRAISERS OF THE WEEK - 2

While the project's life runs in its usual way in Dhaka, the activities of those who are faraway from the children but sharing a great spirit of solidarity around Maria and her feat, have now during this special time of Ramadan been extended to help organizations other than The Dhaka Project.
So, and going back a little to the previous wee, Solange as usually, has been quite busy in the store, selecting, separating and putting the items in the right places on the shelves, the books grouped by themes, the shoes matched and tied together for the great sale on Friday, all this thanks to the precious help other volunteers,... Cláudia, Nadia, Kate, Fernanda Laco and Luana.
Last week, our volunteers took part in the generosity practised during Ramadan, by using part of the generously donated items and delivering them at "Mall of Emirates" where they will be distributed by those who most need them .
Another way during for the big number of items donated during Ramadan is delivering any amount we wish in the Royal Family space, where it is all very well organized and there is plenty of room.
This delivery is done in appropriate bags previously distributed by who be wishing to deliver donations, and being a boost in helping those who have little is at the same time a way to strengthen the inter-relations among those who are in the solidarity ways.

And the funds raised along the last week are as follows:
13 - 235.00 Dirhams - Solange.
14 - 85.00 Dirhams - Solange, Fernanda Laco, Renata and Marcelo Taborda.
16 - 310.00 Dirhams - Solange... by selling a bed and some cloths.
17 - 190.00 Dirhams - while Solange was tidying some new donations.
19 - 2.083,00 Dirhams - Fernanda Laco, Renata Vonkouh, Nadia and Luana.
And on the 14th, Solange once again, now with the help of Fernanda Laco, Renata and Marcelo Taborda and yet thanks to some precious help come from the building staff, packed all what was available for donating in bags and boxes, all this done from 8 in the morning to 4 PM, and all got such a size that they had to get to a truck to get all ready to deliver at the destination... yet while all this work they sold some items (see 14th).

Items to Dhaka - A new volunteer has joined to the team - A First Officer at Emirates Airline of Brazilian nationality has come forward with his good will to take a bag containing cloths to put in his personal baggage and deliver it in Dhaka in his flight on the following day.
His name is Jorge Alonso Pereira, one more name from among the Emirates' pilots to be joined to the list of who heartedly and dedicatedly are with us, involved in helping the needy by carrying donated items from Dubai to Dhaka.In a different scale relatively to what was possible until a few months ago, now it's only possible to the crew members to take one suitcase with them, and for it we are in need of more volunteers, pilots or other crew members, to take small bags in their personal baggage to The Dhaka Project.
But before they take the bags, Solange selects the cloths or other items and takes precautions to be sure they are clean and smelling nicely, so that no bad effects be felt in the personal baggage of those who take it.
And after days of hard work our volunteers (referred above) managed to get the store looking very tidy, ready to store new donations. (below)
Thank you very much to all, on behalf of the kids at The Dhaka Project, for their dedication, that has been far beyond the expected.
Their massive support has been impressing and has contributed to surpass many of the issues found in the sinuous ways of the solidarity.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RECENT DONATIONS

The Dhaka Project kids keep having the attention and kindness of many people, what is easily checked at our store in Dubai that after being tidy, gets quickly full in a short period of time through the numerous items donations dropped there.
Hard working volunteers tidying our store in Dubai.
And we have been contacted to inform us on a funds donation by Poonam Bhathia from Dubai who kindly deposited 400 Dirhams to assist our children in education, food and medical expenses.
Also many items donators have come forward (some of the them for the 2nd or 3rd time) to deliver innumerable items at our drop-off point. We have been contacted by Andreas Plum to donate used cloths, Laura Arsenie to donate lots of cloths, toys and acessories from her 3 children under the 3 years, Marinda van Niekerk from Emirates International School, to donate books and learning materials and Renjith Krishnan to offer a few items and volunteer work.
Thank you so much to Poonam, Andreas, Laura, Marinda and Renjith for their kindness on behalf or our children at The Dhaka Project, for being worried about poverty in the world and helping us to make the difference!

TANVIR RUNS FOR THE DHAKA PROJECT

Tanvir Shah, the marathoner who ran the Dubai Marathon on behalf of The Dhaka Project kids, having fundraised 1150 USD in this run, is now preparing to run for our kids again and again in the Berlin and Amsterdam Marathons.

The Berlin Marathon will take place on 28th September and the Amsterdam Marathon on 19th October 2008.

He is now seeking support to his hard task by raising funds for these two marathons.
With a great thank you to Tanvir for his kindness and dedication on behalf of our children at The Dhaka Project lets wish him a big success rewarding him for the endless hours training and the drops on the ground for the good.

Thank you Tanvir!

Monday, September 22, 2008

DHAKA SHERATON OFFERED AN IFTAR PARTY TO OUR KIDS

The Dhaka Sheraton Hotel, once again, invited many of our students to a Iftar party in the hotel.
The group from The Dhaka Project had 48 students, and were accompanied by two team members, a Principal and the Volunteer Manager, who really enjoyed their best Iftar during this Ramadan, composed by more than 30 items.
The Dhaka Sheraton Hotel every year invites Orphanages and NGO's students to have an Iftar, and Trevor McDonald, the Dhaka Sheraton General Manager, a long time friend and permanent supporter since the project's roots, had the kindness of providing a dream party for these slums kids under our care, having relied the task of the invitation on Synthia, the Assistant General Manager who made sure that TDP got the invitation on time.The students were very well dressed in their uniforms and nicely groomed, having kindly been welcomed by High Officials of The Sheraton Hotel.

There were 5 other organizations invited to this Iftar at the Sheraton in this night and the atmosphere was very friendly, having been covered by journalists from Alo, NTV and ATN who talked with our students on how they felt in such a fabulous Iftar.
And one of them, Bithi Atker, said "Many of my friends couldn’t come today, hope that they will come next time". Even the chief guest of the program, Chief Advisor Biman, came close to our students and talked with them.

A GREAT AND SPECIAL THANK YOU to our discrete Dhaka Downtown friend, TREVOR MCDONALD, who in his usual kindness, once again brought this unique pleasure to our kids along with all his continuous involvement with The Dhaka Project in so many ways. Also a great thank you to Synthia who has so perfectly taken care of all details, to make the kids have one happy and different night, as well as to all who interacted with them!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

STATEMENT ON THE DHAKA PROJECT

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!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CRISTIANA'S FEEDBACK - (Final)

Period: 21st Jul - 4th Aug, 2008

Nursery

There are kids from 6 months to 4/5 years old in the nursery. There is a menu elaborated by a nutritionist on the nursery's board indicating a varied kind of food along the week. But the reality is that the kids everyday eat the same kind of food at a given hour. Soon in the morning they are given milk and bread, in the middle of the morning bread and banana, at lunch time white rice cooked with vegetables, and a snack around 16:00 of bread, banana and milk.
I had the care to turn up there everyday at a different time and realised that they didn't follow the menu on the board, the same menu published in the Dhaka Project Webpage in which it says that 3 different daily meals are served accordingly with the nutritionist advice.
Once I used to pass by there at different days and hours I always saw the provided snacks of bread, banana and milk and at lunch rice and vegetables, and when I asked Tamana, the Nursery Manager, why they didn't follow the menu on the board and published in the Project's Webpage, she said to me that Nayan, the Shopping Manager, never used to get all the items ordered by the nursery. All months, there were missing items from nappies to milk, so I asked to see the list and to go shopping with Nayan but didn't show him the proposed list I had taken with me. And I confirmed that the list I had with me had many more items than those we really bought. I questioned him about it and showed him the list with all the items requested from food, nappies, little towels, shampoo, soap, cleaning products, machine washing power, all necessary items to keep the nursery running nicely. Then Nayan assured that there was no money and that the Staff in the Office just gave him a very limited amount for all what Tamana had ordered, and that it wasn't possible to buy all the products.
But as a volunteer for The Dhaka Project, I just began to question everybody because in my first day in the nursery I realised that the kids' cloths had a bad smell and were dirty, then I talked with Tamana and said that I wanted the kids clean, there was no sense having the kids not well cared once there was lots of donated cloths and a washing machine. She said that she would take care of it, but on the next day everything remained in the same state, then I asked what were they doing there if the kids not even got clean and at that point she said that they hadn't had washing powder from a few days then. I asked to see the store and all the products in stock. And I felt surprised because the nursery was in worst condition relatively to the previous year, when there was no lack of food, though they didn't even had a menu, but the food was varied from day to day and there wasn't lack of anything, even with a very small budget. Tamana showed and I saw it, that there were no nappies for longer than 2 more days, powder milk for only 4 days, few detergents, lack of shampoo from several days then, no toilet soap equally from some days then, she ordered some soap from the Office and they sent her around 20 units, prety dry and dark due to the storage, she told me (and she was right because I saw them) that she wouldn't wash the kids with that. In the middle of the talk she let out that in July, the month before my staying in the project, there had been no milk for 2 days and when she asked for some from the Office, a volunteer named Kate said that she could feed the kids with water with sugar from time to time,... I felt with no words.
When I asked Tamana how the community was reacting to the lack of milk, she replied that the parents left their kids there to get them fed, and if there would be no milk they would stop leaving them in the nursery. Whenever I asked her how many kids were in the nursery she used to give each time a different number, never the correct number, what I couldn't understand because if the Dhaka Project takes care of the community's children, provides them with free food, why were the kids missing? They didn't know how to answer, giving the usual excuse to this type of questions, "they have gone to the village to spend some days with their relatives and some won't get back".
And I ask to myself, if I had no food or no job, would I move to another place?
Would I stay in the city where it is easier to find a job and where my children could have education and food for free, or would I move to the village, to the fields with no job and no food??
I, who am not Bangladeshi but have been there twice, think I would prefer to stay where I was.
As I couldn't get to know how many kids were there, I said to Tamana that I would take pictures from them one by one and I would like to have them ready on the following day, at what they replied: "No problem because we have special cloths to visitors...."
I said I didn't understand and if she could show me what cloths she was talking about and she showed me a few closed bags containing beautiful and almost new cloths, to dress the kids when they know that there will be volunteers visiting the project... And so, they were dressed in their new cloths on the following day, to the ''party'', and one day later everything got back to the normal state, I don't understand.
But why have Cristiana and Pedro seen all these problems and the other volunteers show us a wonderful and pink scenery ? The time along these 3 weeks in Dhaka became it very easy to answer to this question; in the streets of Dhaka near the Project there is an extreme poverty state, you can see kids almost nude, starving, hanging around in the streets doing nothing, alone,... and then you get in the nursery, even if they are eating bread with banana and milk, in tidy rooms with plenty of donated toys, any common citizen concludes that the project is a wonder and everything runs fine. And if the volunteers inform previously they are going to visit the Dhaka Project, with the volunteer manager, Jewel, the kids will be carefully dressed in their "visitors' cloths" for the 'party' days, and you will see a magnificent scenery. Then the volunteers get in the nursery, somebody inserts a CD in the CD player, Jasmine, the most alive girl, starts dancing and incentivates the little colleagues and all seems paradisiac in the Dhaka reality.
And why don't volunteers realise about all the rest not working such as it is carefully shown in the website ? From what I've learned, most of them if not all, make a visit to the project as visitors and then begin teaching in the EK School at their own option and little is the number of who return to the nursery or some other places of the Dhaka Project.

Another problem I saw there was a weak level in educators' skills in the schools. There are dozens of books in the nursery to help learning English, stories and several books dedicated to children at these ages, that are never used.
Not even using the books to make drawings in them, for which it's not needed great skills to develop such activities. There are also activities' plans defining hours for everything, eating, sleeping, playing, painting, watching TV, watching movies, learning English and games, and once again they don't implement it and during 3 weeks I didn't see anybody from the Office controlling this. If the Nursey Manager, who was paid for that, didn't do it, if the Office didn't control it, and if there are managers for all and everything else why wasn't the nursery running in good condition ?

Is it Maria's fault?
Is she,... who goes there from time to time and sees that all what she has imagined is not being run accordingly, and that she tries to reimplant each time she goes to Dhaka but that only works with her pressing all and everybody, and as soon as she turns her back on, everything stops working correctly... who is the faulty person to be blamed?

Notes:

  1. Tamana and Nayan have been fired.

  2. Maria is known for being like a 'German Matron' and totally zero tolerance when kids get neglected. Although staff moan and cry on volunteers' shoulders and sometimes volunteers feel sorry for staff, the kids come always first.

EK School

Here, Pedro and me, had a short meeting with one of the school directors and she told us that the school had 22 teachers paid by The Dhaka Project, 4 teachers not paid who had asked to give classes there and the volunteers. Along the 3 weeks I have been in Dhaka, at least 3 volunteers were doing full time teaching in the college. The director also said that there were 6 cleaning staff for the inner space of the building being there while the school was open, 3 doormen, and 3 street cleaners.

Relatively to the staff, any one even without knowing Dhaka, soon realises that all is always dirty, and concludes that 6 cleaning staff, 3 doormen and 3 street sweepers is truly an excess. But after all these huge staff numbers, one would feel rewarded by seeing a clean school, but it's not the case, you could see banana skin on the classrooms' floor, the corridors are dirty,... how is it possible that Maria, or any other human being, in a non governmental organization that has as the main target to take children from the streets of Dhaka and provide them education and food, to pay to 12 cleaning staff and not even getting to see a clean school?
Once again, I don't understand.

Also here in EK School the number of students provided to us by the director doesn't match with the reality, because Pedro and me have been in all classrooms, took notes about all students and teachers, and questioned about the missing students, if anyone knew where they were, why they were missing, if they could be ill, if the families had took them out from school, or simply tried to know or understand the reason that caused them to be missing.

There was a total of 374 students attending school and the director had said that there were around 427, this means that 53 students had disappeared, or nobody knew nothing about them.

This table shows the numbers we got in EK School

After having taken the pictures we concluded that there are 15 classes to 22 teachers, plus the 4 teachers who are teaching for free, and not taking in accounting the volunteers who almost all prefer teaching, what almost all the kids love and learn far more from them, because they feel much more motivated and the fact of willing to learn English represents a lot in this motivation.

We took pictures of 374 students, separated them by their respective classes, with the number of the classroom and the number of students for each class. On the first day when requesting authorization to take pictures of all students, we have been asked to wait because they wanted to give notice to the teachers. All would appear normal if there hadn't been teachers and attendance books up an down... I found it strange the attendance books not being with the teachers in the classrooms. And then they called us and we started from the top floor, knocked the door, introduced, and Pedro who felt keener on speaking English, explained what we were going to to, then he asked the teacher how many students were there. Here we began to get that things were really bad, from the teacher saying that the class had 32 students, normal, then when questioned about the number of presences, most of them didn't know how many were there at the moment, or if they answered, and we started counting them "one by one", once again the number wouldn't match with the number of students in the room.
Pedro and me looked at each other, stopped, maybe frightened, feeling fool about all we were witnessing without understanding how that was being possible, teachers not knowing why their students were missing, we found it bad but not concerning, but not even knowing their students' first names... we found it really concerning.
While walking from room to room, with Pedro talking with the teachers, asking them about the number of students in a class, how many were in the room, how many were missing, we saw and heard to the most absurd and weird things that we could imagine coming from a teacher in a classroom.
With no exception, all classes attendance books had always more than 30 students in them, numbered in a page, where the presences were noted in the same page by month, and in the next month they had written the name of the students in the same book, the number of the students had changed and the way how they wrote the names were different from the previous month.
It happened that in a classroom the teacher said that the presences were 24 and there were 9 missing students, I said that 9 students missing in one room were too many and with more than a half of our task done in that room I asked her how could it be if with 9 kids missing we found only 4 empty chairs, and she replied that some of them had been moved to another rooms...
When Maria has turned up in Dhaka we went to EK School and entering in the teachers' room we found lots of stationary and toys packed in a cabinet that should be in the nursery, and found a hidden box containing ID cards of kids who were no longer in the school. What they were doing was replacing students who left school, without nobody being able to explain why they left, by new students to fill the gaps.
This appeared confirmed when we took pictures and asking why some of them didn't have an uniform and an ID Card and the students answered they had been there from one month or two weeks then and they hadn't been given an uniform or ID Card yet, and when we did the same question to teachers they replied that those students had lost their uniforms or ID Cards.

When talking with the kids in the classes 5 or 6, some of them speaking good English, they confirmed that they didn't have computer classes or any other kind of activities in the school after having finished their holidays in June, the teachers and the directors once again said the opposite, saying that the kids were being taught all the classes. But the true is that they weren't attending extra activity classes because the timetable showed the working period to be from 9 to a half past 3 and Pedro and I went to check at that hour, witnessing the kids hanging around in the streets or in the school without any kind of support, classes or teachers to help them.

Also here, what has been described in The Dhaka Project Website doesn't match the reality, where it is claimed to be providing 3 meals a day to the students, it's not true, the school not even has a kitchen or a canteen, and there is nobody providing lunch to the kids. This is the lunch provided to the kids in EK School.
They just eat bread and banana in the morning,the students who were in the TDP School and are now in EK School go have lunch at TDP School and in the afternoon around 3 PM eat bread and banana again.

The students in EK School don't eat any kind of meal, some don't go home for being too far from school and don't have lunch, how can these children learn while starving?

The only extra curricular activity given to some of the children is provided thanks to a group of rich teenagers from Dhaka, The LEO Club, who go at TDP to teach dramatic art, dance and representation for free, which I saw twice in parties organized by this group in the school.
In one of these parties were all the volunteers present, the Office staff, the teachers and many students, but not all from the school. The second party organized by LEO Club was to celebrate the Educational Director's birthday, but this time and strangely, you could only see some 30 students in the assistance, not more, the Office staff, all the teachers, the group of students played their role, all have performed very well, the kids who are part of the group, like it and get deeply involved in these activities. When their play finished, the ''Happy Birthday to You" was sung to Firoz, the birthday cake was shared with all, and then the teachers sent the kids out, remaining only the volunteers, the Office staff and the teachers in the room and "when the zone got rid of students" they took the food, but at this point as I didn't like this, I went out, I didn't understand why only 30 students had been there and not all, not equally appreciating them sending the kids out after the cake so that they wouldn't eat, and got out with them.

While talking with the kids, one of them introduced himself as school director's nephew, as being there 3 months then and who used to have lunch at TDP School everyday such as the kids who were in the project before EK School has opened.
This wasn't the only case because some of the teachers also have their children studying in TDP, when we introduce the project as an organization that rescues kids from the slums of Dhaka, yet once again I can't figure out why the nephew (above) and the teachers' children are in EK School...

After having left Dhaka I met one of the kids in the internet and of course I felt glad, finally the kids are having computer classes and looking at the hour in Dhaka it should be around 5 PM and so they might be having extra activities, but he answered that he was at home... And I asked ''if he had computer in his house?"... and he answered "yes and I have internet...?" All I can do is feeling happy for him, the kid has a computer and internet at home, but isn't The Dhaka Project supposed to only help the street kids?


Sewing and Karchupi

In comparison to the last year the sewing centre has been moved to another place, before it was in the building where are the TDP School, the dentist and the doctor, now it is in the same building as the nursery. It has been asked from Pedro to work on Sewing Centre matters by making calculations of all costs and perspectives of sales for the following years. The first thing to do was to make an inventory of all materials in stock and the total expenses with staff and shopping.

In the list given to us we could read the following:
Furniture:............................................... 10.000 Taka
5 Sewing Machine......... 3.500 Taka = 17.500 Taka
3 Embroidery Machine... 3.000 Taka = 9.000 Taka
2 Cotting Machine.......... 2.500 Taka = 5.000 Taka
22 Frames Karchupi.......... 400 Taka = 8.800 Taka

Costs:
Expenses with premises:
Rent....................................................... 4.000 Taka
Electricity Bill - not known - same
bill for sewing centre, nursery
and building's owner
Gas Bill...................................................... 400 Taka
Designer.................................................. 6.000 Taka
Karchupi instructor................................. 6.500 Taka
Sewing instructor.................................... 5.500 Taka
5 sewing trainees.......... 2.000 Taka = 10.000 Taka
10 Karchupi trainees..... 2.000 Taka = 20.000 Taka

These are the costs that if one read about in the blog would find fantastic, the kids in the nursery, their mothers in the school getting skills to go get work, having a wage during training period, but the reality is slightly different. I have visited the sewing centre with Pedro and alone on different days and there were some details not definitely matching the shown above; the real number of the karchupi ladies having train was 5; this is the average number of ladies checked by me at random occasions, the number of ladies who are being trained there.

If I am asked if I think that ladies should be paid while being trained, in my country one has to pay to have formation, but in Dhaka yes I agree, it's some more income to the house for the kids. Then I can't get why the accountability refers to 10 ladies learning karchupi when in reality we can find only half of them in place,... I prefer not to think more about this.

Last year there were 3 times more sewing machines in the sewing centre, I asked the sewing manager for the rest of the machines... the sewing machines from the bag factory that has been closed, and the immediate and sincerely tiring answer was, "Maria GAVE them".

When Maria arrived in Dhaka I asked her what had happened to the factory bag sewing machines... she said that she had given some of them to the mothers of her children so that they could work at home not having to come to the factory because some of them lived far... and that the contracts had been kept, the customers who ordered bags from the Dhaka Project would order the bags from them. These mothers received formation, Maria gave them the machines, the customer would supplied the bags and the yarn, and they would sew the bags... I asked if it had worked...
Maria, disappointed, replied that nothing had worked... When they decided to close the factory bag and to propose this deal to the mothers only half of them accepted, the others didn't want any machine, it was too much work for them and they were tired with working, preferring to be at home.

She gave the machines to these ladies work at home, after some time went there to know how the business was going on and see if everything was alright, not even one of them was working, they cancelled the contract with the customer and didn't want to work. All the profit got with the bags would go to them, the Dhaka Project yielded the machines and not even this way things work. All these words to say that if there were around 15 machines in the project, 5 are still there, and Maria gave 5 to these women, what about the other 5 ????
Maria has given 5 and she knows who they were given to, we asked the staff about anything that didn't work, the answer is, "it was Maria", "it's Maria's fault" or still "Maria took it to Dubai".... This is simply ridiculous, what interest does the project's Founder have in hiding things from herself, from her own project?? There may be many volunteers going to Dhaka, many staff members invited to work or staying there, but nobody cares and understands how things work in Dhaka better than Maria.

Whenever Pedro talked with the karchupi manager, Babul, and asked him about the sales from the beginning of this year, his answer used to be "that he had been working in the project only since July, he couldn't answer about what had been done before, he didn't know nothing about it". And Pedro asked who could inform him about it, and talked with all in the office and there were no results provided, nobody knew, some said that they were organizing all, but nobody showed results. And Pedro asked how could we put future sales in perspective if they didn't even knew nothing of the sales in the current year? And we could read from their faces that we were enquiring too much, or suggested us to do anything else. And finally Babul presented an A4 sheet with these written:

Sales since 1st July
1.800 Taka

Pedro and I started laughing and realized perfectly that it was a number to get our mouth shut. And we asked for receipts, if they didn't write the proof of what they sold... answer "NO, because we only sell cloths, bags and other items to flight attendants who visit the project and we raise the prices to make some money."
I saw the cash receipt book last year, when I bought many cloths in the sewing centre to be sold in Portugal and they gave me a receipt and I accounted that income of money with Munna in the sewing centre, so I couldn't accept that one year later someone told me that there was not and never had been a cash receipt book in this centre.

I wanted to do something then I had an idea and pretending to be a customer went to the sewing centre to buy anything. When I arrived there I saw that some products had the labels with the respective price, but most of the products didn't have any label and some were stored in cabinets.

I asked why they didn't have all the products out of the cabinets and properly price labeled so that visitors could easily get to know the prices and buy the products. I saw all the products and said what I wanted to buy, Ratna the shop manager who knew perfectly that I had been there last year, (I had been there many times to remember him to choose different models and colours when ordering those products), began saying that he couldn't sell, that he didn't know if he could sell, used his mobile and phoned to somebody and at the end of the call soon he said yes he could sell. Who has he phoned? And from when is it necessary to phone somebody to know if he can sell the products exhibited, some of them having their prices labelled? I thought it would be a good idea to keep playing this farce and chose two different not labelled products, a karchupi bag and a tunic, the prices were 1.000 and 2.000 Taka respectively. After having listened to the prices (after the phone call) I understood the call...

But as I wanted to extend this farce to its end I bought them and he said the total price and handing him the money I asked "so what about the receipt?" "You're going to sell these two items and then what are you going to write, where to write, how do you report to the office you sold two items at this price?" This caused a total mess, he didn't understand me, everybody grouped around us, and the karchupi instructor talked with him, opened a drawer and took a cash receipt book out. Then I thought "you have the cash receipt book there, don't deliver receipts to anybody, because if we needed all this fight only to remind you about what a cash receipt book is I don't even want to imagine the end of this joke". So they had a cash receipt book and the joke went on, and Ratna said to me "you write" and handed the book to me... I couldn't keep serious for longer and started laughing and said, "but it's you who are the seller, you are the one who ought to write, not me, the most I can do is signing it so that you can prove the sale to the office, done in this day having received this amount in cash, identifying who you have sold it to" and he reacting with a long face and speaking Bangla to the others began filling the receipt always asking for help from the karchupi trainer and I signed, said thank you, and left.

A few days later I asked in the office how were the sewing centre sales, if they were selling or not, and the office staff said "no, they aren't selling anything and didn't deliver nothing here".
By those days Maria arrived in Dhaka and when she visited the sewing centre she asked if they were selling anything, if everything was working fine, to what they answered "yes Maria, everything is running well and as for sales we haven't sold nothing, there haven't been flight attendants coming here..."
Really, I am not a flight attendant, but I left 3.000 Taka there.

And I think that the best thing to do is to close this "parasites' centre" who don't mind if the organization is aiming to help street children, all they are able to look at is their own navel, they don't mind about the kids, for them, the sewing centre is a job as any other else and if they realize you have money they will try to get all they can from you...


Hostel for Girls

The Hostel for Girls has been set up by The Dhaka Project to provide shelter to girls aged 12 years and above, when they begin to be forced to marry by their families.
The girls go to school during the day and return at the end of the afternoon to the hostel, where there are 2 ladies from their family, whose functions are cleaning the house, taking care of the cloths and cooking.

I had been told in the Office that these ladies who worked there were paid by The Dhaka Project, and that they cleaned the house and then cooked for the girls.

I went only twice to visit the Hostel for Girls, the first time with Pedro and Nurul who showed us the rooms, the kitchen... all the house... Each room has 2 beds where 2 girls sleep, I thought they had too little room for them, 4 girls accommodated in a room!... The house itself was dirty, with rubbish on the floor, cloths everywhere, and also the kitchen was dirty.
At the time there were 28 girls living in the house, I found it strange the door to be closed with a lock; we had been told that the house had a doorman, but Nurul had to previous go have the key lock, to show us the house, so if there is a doorman paid by the project, he wasn't there!

Also during the afternoon, when we went to visit it we didn't see any lady cleaning anything, simply, there was nobody in home. We only saw a dirty house with nobody inside.

The second time was when I got back there, with Maria and 2 journalists from Dubai and Jewel, the volunteer manager at The Dhaka Project, and we felt surprised by seeing a nearly 7 year old girl in the house.
Maria and I looked at each other, and we started talking with the little girl. Maria knew her very well, she is in the project since the beginning, a journalist got closer to her and asked what was her name, if she liked to be living there, the girl said her name and that she liked very much to live there. And then the journalist asked the little girl "have your parents forced you to marry so at that little age?" The girl laughed at her and replied "marry?" "I am only 7 years old, I'm not old enough to be married", Maria was astonished, but she asked the journalist to go on and ask the girls everything she had in mind because Maria was feeling interested to know what was going on.
Then, the journalist and Maria began to make questions to the older girls, those who should be there for having been forced to marry, and asked a group of them for their names and ages and if they liked to live there, all answered that they liked very much to live there. And the journalist asked the girls if they knew why they were living there and not in their houses with their families, and all them answered, "our houses were in very poor condition", and that they lived poorly there, and that their parents didn't have money... All of us felt with no words,... open mouths!

As Jewel was there we asked him why the 7 year girl was living in the hostel and he said that she was a special case because her mother worked and was never at home. And we replied that it was no solution, the most kids at the project doesn't have their parents living together and many live with either with their uncle/aunt or their grandparents. And I asked who had chosen the girls to live there and according to what criteria; Jewel said that it might have been the teachers, but he wasn't sure.

Both the two ladies were in the kitchen, cooking, and Maria asked them if they felt happy for working there, if they liked to work for the project, and also asked why was the house so dirty and why there was nobody in there in the afternoon, and they answered that they had to go out to work...!? We returned ''how out to work ? If the project pays you to taking care of the house and there is nobody here during all the day, you ladies go out to work !?" And half frightened half shocked they replied "no, no, we are not being paid to work here; we go out to work for the day and at its end we clean and cook for the girls here... !"
Again we inquired Jewel, he started to talk in Bangla with them, and simply answered us that he didn't know...
(When they start talking in Bangla it seems they are always having a quarrel, and we keep ignoring if they are telling the truth).
The girls also told us that they didn't like much to be there because at night it was usual boys and men to show up there to harass them and that they didn't feel comfortable with that, but Maria asked the police check it during the night.

In the internet it's said that the Hostel For Girls has been set up to give shelter to girls in their 12-14 years, when they are to be married in Bangladesh, and also because the parents, not having resources, force their daughters to marry very early. After being forced to marry they go to the houses of their "parents-in-law", where they are authentic slaves in those houses, they have to wash, they have to cook, they have to do all the housekeeping, for all who live there.
By reading the website and being aware of this reality, I think it's fantastic the project providing them accommodation, but there, in Dhaka, the girls and all, say that they are there because their homes don't have a good living condition and their parents don't have money; and now the boys also wish to have a Hostel For Boys...
What's going on in there? Who is wrong at this point? Maria, who is working in Dubai and is always searching for new sponsors to finance the project? It doesn't seem so!

When I was taking pictures, the kids at EK School, the most advanced class, in which Mosharof is included, and the class who best speak English as well, all the boys have joined together to ask Maria and me to also set up a hostel for the boys because they lived without any condition at all in their homes and some even have said "if my sister is there why can't we, boys, have a Hostel for Boys?" And then I asked them if their parents also forced them to get married at early age... and all answered they didn't...
Once again I don't understand what's up there, all I could realise that they didn't get the correct concept of the Hostel for Girls and I don't understand who passed the wrong concept to the boys, because it wasn't Maria for sure, but somebody has built it up; they wouldn't all wake one day after having the dream telling them that the Hostel for Girls is for those who don't have a good living condition at home!


Office

The staff in the office began working at 9 AM finishing between 6 and 7 PM. The main difference relatively to the last year was the number of people working there. This year, they were 5 more staff than in the last year.

One lady, who was in charge of answering to sponsors, sending pictures, updating the sponsored kids' files and preparing files of those who are to be sponsored.
Another staff member did his work like this: only answering mails and letters, I think that just one element coud perform both so similar tasks. Other matter that intrigues me is if the project contracted 2 more people only to update the kids' files, to send mails and inform the sponsors of what was going on in Dhaka, why me, Cristiana Fernandes, haven't received at least one mail, one letter, at least one picture of my Tony, who is in the nursery, since last year??

I am with all what is for the good of the project, I am yet more with the best for the kids, but what is failing? I don't know... if they have 2 staff member to take care of this, the funny thing in Dhaka is the whenever they are questioned for any not performed or badly performed task, the is always Maria, Maria said, Maria demanded, while she is in Dubai, not knowing nothing, but carrying all the failures on her shoulders.

Every year a new database is created, containing all the kids of the project, I myself took photos of all the kids last year, another volunteer did the kids' cards, printed photos,... the ID Cards of all students at The Dhaka Project have been done later and we left it all in the Office's computers.

This year, as always happens when there are staff leaving the Office, all had disappeared, and then new databases are needed to be set up and so on. Then I asked directly the staff members who were there last year for the database, nobody saw, heard or knew nothing, until the bright Jewel have said ''Maria took it to Dubai....'' I started laughing in his face, and asked if he was kidding me!!, because I myself had left all the photos with the kids' names, and later I had seen the cards ready saved in the computer; if I hadn't seen the documents in the computer, if I hadn't seen the cards done by the volunteer, if I hadn't taken the photos, what would I have thought about Maria?? I would think what they would like me to think about her, but I can't.

Another big difference from the last year, was the mattress on the office floor, for my first days in Dhaka when I entered in the office and saw the staff reading the newspaper during working hours, initially they used to rapidly get up, but then they got used to my presence and didn't feel they should make that effort, keeping as they were before...

When I questioned the office staff, wishing to know what was the purpose of the mattress on the office floor they answered that it was for the meetings, allowing them all to feel more comfortable.

There wer daily meetings, from 9:00 to 9:30 AM, with all office staff attending, initially when I entered there while a meeting was taking place I didn't know what to do, as they never said anything about or didn't invite me to take part, I waited for the end of the meetings to start working with somebody who was in the meeting. Initially it didn't seem strange that they didn't say nothing about it to me and Pedro, because only the staff and the long time volunteers took part in the meetings. Until the arrival of a volunteer who would be there for three days but that took part in the meetings, then I asked myself why couldn't I know what was going on in those meetings, once I was by there, I didn't get why we couldn't take part in these meetings. Once again I didn't know why we couldn't take part in these meetings, why didn't the two Portuguese volunteers have the right to be in these morning meetings, as all the volunteers? I thought I shouldn't ask to take part, as all took part but us, I only wanted to help the project, I kept doing my job, what I thought to be necessary.

Talking about the project directors, if we could give them that name, Korvi and Richard, were just Office directors, rarely or never got out from there. I saw them twice, in the EK School party, and in Firoz's birthday party, out of the office during the woriking hours. Also I saw Richard visiting the project with a volunteer who was his friend. Either one or the other ingenuously believe in all the reports from staff, blindly; in my understanding they shouldn't, because the things are not working, as the scenery they are drawing in the site.

I would believe in their good faith if the things were as they are, if they hadn't published all those auto praisal in the site of the project, from the number of the students in the project, the meals, the classes, the qualified teachers; the computer classes and extra-curricular classes don't work, but these gentlemen believe blindly in what they do, and published these lies. They didn't see, just listened to what the staff told them.

Yes, it is easier to blame others,... others not,... just blaming Maria!
One day after Maria's arrival in Dhaka, she visited all the project with two journalists from Dubai and started making questions to Korvi, to Richard and all the office staff and while this was taking place a staff member was writing mails to sponsors, writing that the project had 650 students, that they were providing 3 meals a day and extra-curricular classes...

I don't think this is good faith, I didn't see them willing to work out the problem; only because Maria yelled at them, once nobody was able to find an answer to what was happening, so they think they are doing it well, that their work is perfect and they think that Maria is mad...

On one day, Maria was desperate, all what she had built and in what she had believed, once again was very close to be destroyed, and just said this: "is it so difficult to provide 3 meals a day to my children? Is it so difficult to provide them classes from 9 to 5 and check if they are having extra-curricular classes?" I can assure that nobody, just nobody gave an answer, I didn't know about her feelings, but I myself would feel good by breaking them all.

So, in that same morning she asked the staff to find a small catering company to distribute 3 meals a day to the kids, that only properly fed they could learn, and told them that if until de end of the day they didn't contract that service, they would be fired. And surprise of surprises, nobody moved, nobody took her words seriously, Jewel went to check the mail, then Maria held his arms, shook him and said "get food to my children". So, now based on this small scene, compared with all what was going on in Dhaka, they say that Maria yelled out, that Maria physically hit her fellow founder, Jewel,... this one I confess to have been a good try, once I was present and all I saw was a shake.

I felt very disappointed about all what was happening in Dhaka, and I phoned Maria and said that the project was pretty different from the previous year and she came, and witnessed the same as me, things aren't working at all. But in the site the scenery is being presented in a perfect form.

I don't agree with this at all, with the way the staff is handling the situation, I think that no one of those who work there is worried about the kids, they see the project as any other job, they don't care if the kids are eating or not, if they are having the promised classes, what the Bangladeshis know is that Maria is their gold mine, they also know that she does everything and pays what is needed for the kids. So, whenever she goes to Dhaka, they try to draw as much money as possible from her, and as time goes by, she sends more and more money to Dhaka and the kids' quality of life is worse and worse. Can anybody understand this? I can't, and I can't understand the Bangladeshis' mentality, but as for the volunteers and some who work there , who are not Bangladeshi, how can they let into in this style of life so fast?

The staff members say that Richard has done an excellent job, Richard believed ingenuously in the staff, if all is so good in Dhaka, why do they say that Maria is mad, why do they beg Maria to send them funds and at the same time they suggest that she only should go there no more than twice a year to visit the project ? If I were in staff's shoes, and once they think their job is excellently done, I would ask the sponsors, or even the Emirates Foundation to visit the project? This should have been done as soon as they began to be questioned by me and Maria.
And what have these gentlemen done? They used Maria's contacts to start libelling her by writing pure lies, declaring that Maria is mad!

Is Maria mad only because she sends lots of money for her own NGO and demands the best from her staff to the kids?

But we aren't even talking about their best, at this moment we are talking about the basics, 3 meals a day and classes with qualified teachers.
Do they think it's too much? For me this is the basic, The Dhaka Project has been set up to rescue kids from the streets of Dhaka, to feed them and to educate them.

What happened was that the founder has gone to see her own project, and demanded the most basic objectives related with the target of the project from her staff, the staff composed by dozens and dozens of people who she pays their wages, and whose tasks were supposed to be done efficiently... so, is Maria mad for having done this?

I apologize to all staff, but all them without exception, don't like to do whatever it be, they want to draw the most money they can from Maria, and don't want her to upset them much, better, do not want her to upset them at all, demanding she to go few times to Dhaka and to keep sending them plenty of funds.

If these weren't true, I repeat, the staff would provide at least the basics, 3 meals a day, classes with minimal quality, this would be the minimum accepted, but is it asking too much? So it seems at The Dhaka Project!


Medical Centre

Here, relatively what is presented in the site, it's a total lie!
They claim to have a medical center, to provide assistance to all community and so on. They just moved the dentist chair and all the items related to the dentist, and the medical equipments that were already in the project a year ago in the TDP building, from two separated rooms to one larger room,... if there is something different, it's only for the medicine chest, and they consider there to be a new medical centre set up for the community!!! The project received 30,000.00 USD to build a medical centre, they changed the dentist and the doctor to another room, contracted a new doctor and a new medical center is set up???
Absolutely, it's not like that, and my skills are all but medical related, but I saw the same equipment a year ago, in TDP in another place.

When Maria got to see what they had done with the medical centre, not achieving nothing of what they had promised, she said that she would have to back the funds to the medical centre's sponsor. And we were already in Dubai when she asked for a meeting with the sponsor, I was present too, she told him what had happened, I told what I had witnessed, and she simply gave him the 30,000.00 USD back, he said that she was too much honest and that in the charity world nobody is like her, and said that he would keep the funds to when she got back to Dhaka, or needed it for any other ONG that she might want to set up, wherever it could be, in any place of the world, saying that he would always be with her, that he believed in her work and that when she had news, he would get her new sponsors.
And I still keep questioning... is Maria mad?
Only because she wants to help, feed and educate the street children of Dhaka, is she mad?

Cristiana

Saturday, September 13, 2008

FUNDRAISERS OF THE WEEK !

The Dhaka Project team of volunteers in Dubai are not only keeping but also increasing their activities!
They are a lesson and an inspiration to all of us; some of them have been doing this during years, others during months, but all of them with the same enthusiasm and energy thinking about the kids,... mainly the kids of the project.
So, Solange has been truly amazing and dedicated to The Dhaka Project and comes every day for 7 hours to manage and organize our storage room; she managed also to motivate the volunteers below... When they come to our storage room to tidy up, sometimes some clients show up to buy clothes... and our main garage sale day remains on Fridays.
And these are the volunteers who have been active on fundraising along the week, having achieved the following results :
On 7th Sep - Solange Fortuna, Solange Piñeiro, and Nadia Pereira - 270 Dirhams
On 8th Sep - Solange Piñeiro, Cláudia and Kate - 110 Dirhams
On 9th Sep - Solange Piñeiro - 225 Dirhams
On 11th Sep - Solange Fortuna, Nadia, Fernanda Laço and Solange Piñeiro - 330 Dirhams
On 12th Sep - Maria and Solange Piñeiro runing the Garage Sale - 1905
Dirhams
And what to say about our long time supporters, Sharon and Manuel de Sousa, who fundraised a 3000 Dirhams donation from Duncan, Captain with Emirates Airlines, and Sue Birch.
And here goes our tremendous thank you to all, volunteers and donators, on behalf of the kids under the care of The Dhaka Project.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

TOMOO OKUBO'S FEEDBACK

Hello, I am Tomoo Okubo, a volunteer to The Dhaka Project from Japan.
I would like to share my special experience here in Dhaka for the
supporters and the college students who have interest in developing
economics like me.
I am staying here for two weeks as a volunteer to teach English, Social
Science or General Science to elementary school children.
As I had spent 20 years in Japan, I had rare chance to learn how the
slum was, how the children are in developing countries or how the
schools are. Of course, I did know that I had to something for them, and
I saw a lot of pictures of the school and children smiling to the
camera, but honestly speaking, I thought that those pictures are only a
small part of their life, and the education for children from a slum
must be quite different and difficult.
I really appreciate all the members of The Dhaka Project, (of course
including kids!!) for giving me an opportunity to change my mind.
In this school, every child is really always smiling, curious to talk
with me in English. That's why I really love my days here.
Some one said 'Work Hard, Play hard', but I have never found people
following this quote than the kids here!!
They do not have textbook, what they have is only a small notebook and a
single pen, but still, they try to learn everything from me.
I have one another week to stay, so I am very motivated to teach older
students the basic idea on what is happening in the world, like global
warming, since decades of years later, I believe that they are going to
change the world. For younger kids, I will teach them basic English
conversation for their future and some English songs as well to let them
love English.
The Dhaka Project itself, including education for kids, providing living
condition to families and trainings for men and women are also organized
so well, with the passionate works of the friendly staff here. I have to
especially thank Jewel for always being a help for me as a volunteer
manager.
I will try to find out some ways to help this project even after I go
back to Japan, since I think Japanese people can easily help this
project in many ways. If you are thinking about working in a developing
country to have an new and exciting experience, I do recommend you to
fly here, since all the kids are waiting for you with their lovely
smile.

Tomoo Okubo

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

SOLANGE'S JOURNAL I

I am Solange Barros Piñeiro, living with my husband and my 13 years old son in Dubai, and I have an older son who lives with his wife and my grandson in Brazil.
I'm beginning this first feedback, to report my experience along these few months while working as a volunteer with The Dhaka Project directly from Dubai.

Now a days I dedicate all my spare time to The Dhaka Project taking care of the store contents, getting it tidy, sorting items, cleaning the store, preparing the products to be sold out with Brazilian friends, etc...

We are managing to expand the donations to another countries, Brazil included. Now we have a donation to the Cancer Hospital in Rio de Janeiro-Brazil that will be administrated by Luciana Takagi, who lives in Brazil and who is wife of another captain with Emirates.

I've been dedicated to doing awareness to earn to another places in Brazil that is a very large country and where there are many people in need of help.

I used to help my friends by yielding my garage so that they could sell personal things without their profit, because my garage is very well located in front of poor dwellers' houses what brings excellent results.

Luiz Ogui who got to know about the need of making money with the donations of The Dhaka Project asked me to take some items with Maria on the day before a personal sale. And also asked me to look for all products in big suitcases and organize them the best way. And I found a huge amount of suitcases in the main avenue in Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road and not having an idea on where to start the work I began it with a good sense, good will and good heart. Luckily, Fernanda Laço, also wife of a pilot with Emirates like me, helped me from the beginning to to end as well as her mother Maria Helena who had come from Brazil to visit her daughter during her holidays.

The result of this work was better than the expected and the amount has already been reported. Just to remind I repeat that we reached the amount of 20,000 Dirhams in only two weekends, what means a rate of four thousand items sold because we set each item to be worth 5 Dirhams and considering that each customer bought an average of 5 items we have attended around 800 customers. All was set up in my house; I inspired several Brazilian expats who, due the extremely hot weather were frequently needing a shower and changing their cloths, I yielded my personal rooms and also my cloths so that they could bear along the working day as least tired as possible and best motivated, offering them juices, water, lunch, cake, coffee, etc. We felt very happy about the results and I thought that we would have this level of sales every month, but the government sent three representatives at my house who informed that the sales were forbidden unless we had a license emitted by the Emirate.

I became thoughtful and I've been trying to find a way to raise funds from the received items.

What most has impressed me in these two weekends was when some of who live in the worst condition handed 5 Dirhams from their pocket and donated it to the project without taking nothing with him. I proposed him to choose a shirt and he said 'thank you' but that it was charity and that he didn't want nothing against the money donated. I had never witnessed such a noble behaviour from who has so little but was able to help from his heart so causing tears flooding my eyes and from this new experience on I realised that I could have helped much more than him with my resources of knowledge and I had needed half a century of life to see that most people don't help those who have nothing because they have never had an opportunity similar to this I am having now, in their way; one needs to live literally a heart touching example.

Another example came from a construction worker who handed me 100 Dirhams asking to donate 24 Dirhams, I gave him the change and he didn't take any item with him. I think this amount is perhaps a percentage of the salary, already in set by any religion because we are surrounded by muslims, hindus, etc. religions from all over the world.

At the time we have three stock spaces occupied beyond the allowed space to be used that consequently uses three extra spaces. (The room of Emirates captain Marcelo Taborda's servants, the old CBC that has 40 full suitcases, and the bathroom of the building where Maria lives that kindly I asked the doorman to yield it to us and he heartedly agreed but we don't know until when he can do it); in gratitude I have given him some donated items so that he doesn't feel used once he is a low salary employee with a hard life in Dubai.

On each new day I have a new experience from the behaviour of those who buy, who help, who try to create holes in the way because they don't trust in volunteers' dignity nor in the sincere objective of this project or they haven't been touched yet in their hearts so not knowing how they could help with a simple gesture of not creating barriers not needing even to do nothing to be summed to our fundraising; not demotivating us will be considered as a great help.

Contrasting with the construction worker who donated his sweated little money I have to stand up with Philippines' women most of them trying to steal items and taking advantage when we were doing the sales at our store.
All this is enhancing my knowledge of the behaviour originated from each country's culture. And the Philippines' women are on top of this negative rank so far.

Maria has offered me autonomy at work as the results have appeared along these three months and has acted with much maturity due to her three years of acquired experience in this project. I checked and confirm at each of her procedures that she is prepared and skilled to acknowledge negative people, those who turn up only to take advantage. She has to act very fast and always feeling a huge overload on her shoulders, what prevents her to always be available for the most significant contacts of the moment, that would take her to get funds donations, because the items donations need to be sold in an act that is almost a magic trick because we aren't legalized in Dubai.

I know that Maria needs to be available to get donations because when I arrived in Dubai and having seen notes in newspapers I tried to find her and I couldn't; a volunteer has gone at my house to collect 500 Dirhams as a sponsorship to a child whose file we have, however we don't know nothing about this kid and it has been promised that we would receive a report about his/her life in the project; due to this lack of info I kept trying to find Maria to believe that it was all true but she never met me or answered to my mail. So not knowing how to deliver the money we stopped to sponsor that child!
Because I lived this experience, now I know that most of who look for Maria and can't have a personal attendance end up stopping their donations.

Together, we need Maria can keep acting, by directly meeting people and making awareness of the project, but I still don't know how to make her aware of that once she doesn't like to expose herself to people who make many questions and demand concrete and repetitive proof of the results what is tiring under Maria's perspective.

I am waiting for an opportunity to visit Dhaka.
I am getting ready to know the project in its place as well as the result of our work.

Solange

Friday, September 5, 2008

NEW SHIRTS FOR THE PRE-SCHOOL STUDENTS

10 students from Nursery got promoted to Pre-School!!
The Dhaka Project is running the Pre-School for the last one year. They get a set of uniforms to be worn, at the beginning of school years.
After the completion of a successful year a new pair of uniforms is distributed to the kids to replace the old one.
So at the beginning of this school year, that took place in the last week of February, they received their first set of uniforms this year. And now all the preschool kids have received their new uniforms.
They will no longer look dirty.
And after six months we are still trying to find an uniform supplier.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

RANIA BRINGS BEAUTY TO OUR CHILDREN...

Our long time supporter Rania Turk, who works with Clarins, has just offered a kit of beauty items to The Dhaka Project .

This innovative iniciative that represents the whole Rania's product allowance will permit us to fundraise a beauty(full) ammount on behalf of our children.

This KIT contains a long list of items grouped in four categories and not only these we can see in the picture.

Thank you to Rania for once again having come forward to help us, on behalf of our kids and their needy families at The Dhaka Project.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

PEDRO FEEDBACK (Final)

THE DHAKA PROJECT

OFFICE:
Data: 1 project director; 1 project director assistant; 1 education director; 1 volunteer director; 1 accountant manager; 1 project activities manager; 4 staff members not defined; other (cleaning/door guard staff).

Firstly, the power cuts and the internet breakdowns were, many times, an excuse to do nothing and there have even been cases of people sleeping (there is even a bed in the place).

The number of people in the office seems to be more than the enough, once it is not clearly known what is the duty of each one, and more important yet, what they are responsible for. Much of their time is spent using informatics tools “Facebook”, or on the other side, they didn't even turn up in the office, showing illness as an excuse, “Sick”.

Second, it wasn't possible to foresee the results obtained with the basic needs shop, the clothes shop or the sewing shop once, as we have been informed, these three activities had had their start on 1st July, 2008. Later we came to know that the person in charge – BABU – had assumed his post in the same day and didn't know about nothing ocurred before.

A money sponsorship given to provide food to The Dhaka Project students is being used in the basic needs shop, to implement the “Food For Thought” programme that consists, basically, in the distribution of 20% discount cards in rice, dahl and oil only for the students present in the schools for 5 consecutive days.
It happens that, from the target public (the students and their families), only 50% have joined in the first week, percentage that has decreased along the following weeks. From which we can conclude that the programme hadn's had the desired effect.
(There are 2-day gaps without food).

On the other hand, the people in charge were yielding a discount on the selling price of the products and not on the cost price. This take us to the conclusion that part of the money from the sponsorship would remain in the shop profit so not going to who it should go, i.e., to the students in the form of food.

NURSERY:
Data: 41 kids; 3 educators; 3 cleaning staff

The children were dressed with dirty clothes many times and sometimes had some bad smell.

Washing powder and more missing items filled a long list such as cleaning products, nappies, and the lack of milk powder and baby food to the children.

Nayan, who was responsible for the shopping, when we showed him the list of missing items, said that he had only been in that duty for 11 days and didn't know what had happened before. But when we showed him the items missing he let out saying that the shopping depended on the money received from the office.

Also in this case we didn't realise who were truly responsible but there is no doubt that the kids are who suffer, not having the deserved conditions, the conditions kept in mind by the project and announced to sponsors/donators.

Even after Maria had contracted a nutritionist to build a menu for the children, the lunch was always rice and vegetables.

There are children in the nursery, who are old enough to be in the preschool but this is not cared by who should manage this the project.

PRESCHOOL:
Data: 28 students; 2 educators; 2 auxiliary staff

Generally, there was a permanent concern in keeping the children clean and dressed with their uniforms in this school.

However, when we counted the students to take pictures the people in charge seemed nervous when reporting 26 existing students and they assumed that there were only 23 effective students.

There are children here, who are old enough to be in primary school but it isn't cared by who should manage this project.

THE SCHOOL IN THE HEADQUATERS BUILDING OF THE DHAKA PROJECT:
Data: 136 students; 6 teachers; one principal;
Concerning to the staff we couldn't find out, once we were in the main building.

In this school, the classes took place in rooms where the desks and chairs were very close, preventing the kids to walk easily between them. One of these rooms didn't have a window, but there were empty rooms with windows in the building.

Here, the kids were guaranteed to have their lunch in an improvised canteen having a scanty room to have their meal. The menu was always rice and vegetables. However, classes rarely took place in the afternoon period.

THE NEW SCHOOL:
Data: Students: about 374; Teachers 22 + 4 students teachers; cleaning staff: 6 + 3 street sweepers; doormen: 3; at least one director, one principal, one principal assistant...; 16 classrooms; one computer lab; one teachers room; one director room.

The school opens at 8 AM and closes at 15:30 PM, having a lunch break from 13:30 to 14:30 PM.

This school provides the students with two meals, during two moments, one in the morning and other in the afternoon, and these meals consist in the delivery of bread and banana to each one of the students. During lunch break, the students who leave closer go eat at home, the others stay by the school even without food.

Following an exhaustive identification work with this school's students we concluded that from the 427 students claimed by its director no more than 360 were present, that the teachers don't know the names of the students and, maybe due to that, they've never been able to tell us where to find he missing students.

We found strange situations, for example, while we were taking photos in a certain classroom we found out that one of the students had conjunctivitis, so we thought, but in such a condition that he couldn't open his eyes and he could do nothing but crying. We had to make this student go to the medical centre immediately though the teachers would only allow him to go during next break.

According to books we looked in the number of students enrolled in a class should be 44 but the classroom where they should be, has chairs for only 32, we found small classrooms with many students and large classrooms with few students.

If we take in account that the available classrooms are only 16 we can take the conclusion that there are 8 teachers with no students in a daily basis. This, not considering the presence of the volunteer teachers present daily in the school, at the time there were 3.

CONCLUSIONS:
The human structure of the project direction not only has a great number of unnecessary staff but also works without a sense of responsibility, where the status of the job is considered as the most important achievement. So, there is neither effective connection between the human structure nor efficient control on each one's responsibility.

The vision of the project, providing food and then providing education, appears distorted from the real situation once not all the students are provided with food and the standards previously defined aren't being followed.

FINALLY, THE NUMBERS CLAIMED, SOMETIMES 650, OTHER TIMES 750 STUDENTS, ARE REALLY NOT MORE THAN 579.

(Observed from 21st July to 4th August, 2008).