Wednesday, 13 December 2006

Bangladesh: We kept our promise

Sometimes, even with our best efforts, a commitment can't be fulfilled. That is what happened with our Bangladesh Team 2006 during its November distribution of 8,000 bedkits to the children of Bangladesh.

Due to erupting political turmoil that occurred after 5,499 bedkits had been distributed, the team was forced to stay in their residence. After a few days with the conditions remaining unsafe the Board of Directors decided to bring the team home.

What about the 2,501 children who had been promised bedkits? It wasn't fair that they should be disappointed. What about the bedkits in storage? Would they be safe during these unsettled times?

The Dhaka Lions Club, who had spent so much time and energy working as our overseas partners on this distribution were quite concerned. If we could not return in short order, there would be costs to them for storage, security guards, and possible repackaging to protect the bedkits from the elements. And what about the children who had been promised a bedkit?

It was decided that we would return to Bangladesh the moment that the blockades were removed and peace and order restored. We decided to send one SCAW volunteer to supervise this distribution with monumental assistance from the Dhaka Lions Club members. I was the lucky volunteer and I was thrilled.

We kept a close watch on the political situation, avidly read every travel advisory, and stayed in touch with our overseas partners in Bangladesh.

Everything seemed to converge in a positive way on Friday, December 1: my visa arrived and the political parties agreed to a truce. My flights were booked and I left on Tuesday December 5th.

The Lions Club planned to distribute 1,300 bedkits on the 8th, 1,201 on the 9th, leave one day to deal with any unforseen circumstances, hold an evaluation meeting on the 10th, and I would fly back home early on the morning of the 11th.

And that was what happened.

Everything worked out so well. The children were so excited with their bedkits!
The distribution sites were all about a two-and-a-half hour drive from the city of Dhaka. Each day we went to two different sites.

When I arrived at the site everything was in order. The children were getting changed into their new clothes. I set to work confirming that the bedkits were in order as well as setting up to take the photographs.

In order to be able to verify the whole distribution procedure I set up the photographing area in a central position enabling me to see all aspects of the distribution. The excellent volunteers provided by the Lions manned the positions usually covered by the SCAW travelling volunteers.

I missed the fact that I could not personally interact with the children as much as I would have liked but this was the trade-off.

I had previously always wondered why we had a sweater in the bedkit. World weather reports were always commenting on the heat of Bangladesh. Now I understood. It was quite chilly in the mornings. Everyone was wearing jackets, some wearing scarves and gloves. As confirmed by my questioning of the children, the sweater in the bedkit is a very important item.

Children bring out the best in us! We are very lucky!

My report back to you donors, is that the promises that we have made to you have been honoured. The children did receive your precious bedkits!


Dave Dryden
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Bangladesh: Khoda haphes. Abar dakha hobe.

As we pressed on hour by hour over the Atlantic on October 29th, visions of delicious curries, balmy temperatures, renewing friendships, and the smiles of 8,000 children, danced in our heads. Little did we know that a political storm was brewing in Bangladesh.

We arrived to the misgivings of the Rotary Club. There was discussion of postponing the Bangladesh distribution to February, 2007, following the country’s elections. Fortunately, since the political parties had agreed to a period of peace, we were able to distribute to the 4,000 children selected by Rotary, and started enthusiastically into the distribution of the 4,000 bedkits to be supervised by the Lions Club of Dhaka, Supreme View.

Along with the Rotary Club of Dhaka (See Report 6 – Our Rotary OVO), the Lions Club of Dhaka has been our volunteer service club for many years. The chair of the Club, Mr. Hadi, and his wife, Marzan, have fond memories of visiting Murray Dryden in Toronto. Mr. Hadi emotionally recalls Murray laying his hands on his head and blessing him. The Lions are involved in a number of social service activities. They are devoted to the SCAW program and to the children of Bangladesh.

The Hadis, along with their sons, Rahman and Nahian, and extended family members, have faithfully participated in the distributions over the past several years. As the SCAW team watched the unveiling of the sample bedkit, Marzan’s talent for design and colour was immediately apparent in the beautiful outfits for the girls. Rahman and Nahian have grown into conscientious young men who willingly supervise the dressing of the boys and ready them for the photographs. They enthusiastically assume any job that facilitates the smooth running of the distribution. Nahian was invaluable as interpreter during the parent surveys. He also displayed some talent as a cricketer.

Even as Professor Muhammad Yunus, Bangladeshi economist and microfinance pioneer, was being feted for winning the Nobel Peace Prize, political tempers flared and the opposition 14-Party Alliance laid siege to Dhaka City, blocking roads and bridges. Two days into the Lions' distribution, the SCAW Team was virtually grounded.

We waited patiently, but, as the situation demonstrated the potential to escalate, and our hearts heavy with the disappointment of not reaching the last 2,500 children, we returned to the peace and safety of Canada.

We pray that the kind and courageous people of Bangladesh will find peace and prosperity. Abar dakha hobe.

Linda Webb
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Sunday, 12 November 2006

Bangladesh: Bangladesh on the Map

Sunday, Nov.12, 2006

On our Bangladesh map there is an inset entitled "Bangladesh in the World." The tiny red dot appears insignificant in the grand scheme of things but we now know that this dot represents millions of warm, hospitable people, most of whom are struggling to eke out an existence. Often in countries such as this, where corruption in business and politics is the norm, where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, frustrations give way to political unrest. Such is the case in Bangladesh at the moment.

Normal life and business activities have come to a standstill as an indefinite blockade programme, enforced by a fourteen-party alliance, started Sunday across the country. This initiative has brought Dhaka, and the SCAW team, to a standstill. Although it is easy to understand what motivated the opposition to strike, it is difficult to see what will be gained from it.

The hiatus has given us time to reflect on where we have been, what we have done, and on the many fascinating people we have met along the way. We have already written about our volunteer partners and their efforts to help their people but working in Bangladesh are many more folks who have a heart for humanitarian efforts here.

One such person is an obstetrician/gynecologist from New York whom we met on the plane from London. She came to Dhaka to study the work of BRAC, which is the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee. BRAC is recognized as one of the foremost national initiatives for providing aid to rural areas in the world. Small villages have centres where women are taught to use the skills handed down to them to create crafts such as needlework, weaving, pottery, and beadwork.

Outlets for sale of the goods provide income to purchase more materials and support for the women and their families. BRAC also has local schools which enable students to attend at times more convenient to their work obligations while extra help gives the struggling student a chance to succeed. BRAC University takes these young people one step further as they gain education they need to get ahead. Women’s’ health issues are of some concern to BRAC and because of our friend’s expertise she was able to initiate a programme to give local midwives ongoing training which would enable them to provide safer deliveries and to recognize the need to transfer the woman to hospital if the situation warranted it.

Visiting slums and rural homes, hospitals and clinics, she was able to share her knowledge to improve conditions here. Having retired from active practice, she is now planning on using her gifts, along with what she gained from her time with BRAC, to start a similar programme in Colombia. It was a privilege to spend time with this woman.

It has often been said that it is a small world and this has never been more true than during our time in Dhaka. A volunteer in the SCAW office in Toronto has a sister whose husband is affiliated with the British Embassy here. Over the past two weeks she has been most helpful, providing travel advisories and updates and last evening, inviting us to dinner with her family.

A teacher by profession, she told us about a volunteer project which assists girls here in the city. Thirty of these girls are orphans who are learning to sew, with a view to eventually being able to work independently or in the garment industry to earn a living. The materials — including the sewing machines — were purchased by our friend to get the programme started. Successes are celebrated by all involved.

A somewhat more ambitious project involves former sex trade workers, some very young, to enable them to get off of the street. Bringing with them a myriad of emotional problems, these young women enjoy fewer gains, but nonetheless the programme continues to give them a chance to get their lives on the right track. All this just for the joy of helping someone, makes this woman a very special woman and a real joy to know.

Murray Dryden was fond of telling the Starfish Story: A young boy was walking along a beach strewn with starfish washed up on shore. As he walked, the boy picked up a starfish and threw it back into the water, repeating this often as he went. Watching him, a somewhat cynical man asked, “What good do you think that will do? There are thousands of them.” The young man bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it back. “It will make a difference to that one!”

Surely this is what SCAW and our new friends are doing. Unable to undertake a project to change a nation, people are being helped one at a time — and lives are being changed.

Ron and Mary Ann King
SCAW Travelling Volunteers

Bangladesh: Traffic in Bangladesh

After two weeks here, we have reached the stage where we are looking forward to sitting in rush hour traffic on the 401.

To distribute the SCAW bed kits, we have to travel to sites in the inner city of Dhaka and in villages — often remote — elsewhere in Bangladesh, sometimes many hours away. We have travelled by boat but we usually travel as a group in a van.

In the city, although the traffic does move, it is amazingly congested. There are more than 200,000 pedal-cabs, a whole bunch of natural gas motorbike-cabs, regular cabs, regular buses, a variety of private buses, large and small (hustling for business) and trucks, trucks, trucks.

The pedal-cabs, and their commercial equivalents: freight rickshaws, seem to be the vehicles which keep things going. They shift people and goods through traffic jams and along sidewalks and lanes. They are pollution free. Without them and the increasing number of natural gas vehicles the air would be un-breathable. All sorts of people — men, women and children, smartly dressed and less smartly dressed — use them and enjoy them, The freight rickshaws carry everything: a complete set of bedroom furniture, bundles of bamboo five or six times the length of the vehicle, huge mounds of produce (often with the owner perched on top), incredibly heavy loads of metal, great baskets of chickens, and apparently tottering (but remarkably secure) mounds of garbage or recycling material.

The regular buses are massively built, un-kept on the outside, generally built by Tata/Mercedes The Tata corporation, originally in steel, was founded in the Indian state of Bengal, much of which became Bangladesh. These vehicles are built for really heavyduty wear and tear. They often operate on rough roads, they stop and start all day long, and they appear to be over loaded all the time with people inside and out. Often, there seem to be as many on top as inside. But they clearly function as a system, shipping hundreds of thousands around and in and out of Dhaka, daily.

What we think of as the private buses range from minibuses to full sized vehicles. They have a hustler, often a young boy, who seems to shout out where the bus is heading and where it will stop for customers who climb on board. These too are filled beyond capacity but fewer people seem to ride on top perhaps because the roofs are less suited for sitting.

The trucks are also often built by Tata. They are tank-like versions of the buses. They also operate grossly overloaded. Often with passengers on top.

In the city, there are sometimes six lines of traffic (there are no lanes) with rickshaws and pedestrians winding their way through. Once, our own van traveled a full block against such a stream of traffic without exciting any more horn blowing than usual. We are told that there are relatively few serious accidents in town, presumably because the pace is so slow.

This does not hold true in the country. The main roads outside the city are good two-lane highways generally built up above the low-lying delta farmland. There are still rickshaws and pedestrians and there are still buses and trucks, as described above. However, here on the open road driving is one great big game of chicken. You put your foot down, lean on your horn, and go for it. Pedestrians and livestock on the edge of the road causeway, rickshaws, and oncoming vehicles are all fair game. You drive on your own side, in the oncoming lane, and on such shoulder as there is – anywhere to keep moving. In this environment, from the vantage point of a minivan, the Tata trucks and buses really do look like tanks with cheering troops on the top, revelling in the speed. Horrific accidents are reported from these roads daily – tens of deaths and scores of injured in a single bus crash.

You would think that you would be glad to turn off some of these highways onto the country lanes that we have to use to get to SCAW distribution sites. These are really single lane roads, generally with a good asphalt surface, again built up above flood level, with narrow foot paths alongside. Again you see rickshaws, which function very well in the villages but with more pedestrians and livestock. A peaceful, idyllic, situation you might think. Not on your life. Anyone with a motorized vehicle, including us, drives as quickly as possible using the horn as a threat rather than as a warning. This is one-lane chicken rather than two. The rickshaw peddlers are hardy souls who love this game. They delight in showing the motor drivers that they control the road – even when the motorized vehicle is coming towards them. On these roads, our van often leans precariously toward the slope leading down into a paddy field, river, or pond.

On these trips, only our leader Ms Linda gets any real sleep. After four SCAW visits to Bangladesh, we guess that it is possible to get used to the traffic.

Peter Adams
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Saturday, 11 November 2006

Bangladesh: Photo Album 5

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Bangladesh November 11

Bangladesh: Children in Bangladesh

People who read the reports of SCAW volunteers or who regularly read items on the SCAW Web site, are used to descriptions of the children who attend the bedkit distributions in poor urban setting or remote villages. The recipients arrive early, by bus, boat, or on foot, often traveling many hours. They are excited and become more excited as they change into new clothes and sit patiently while the bedkits are being given out. Their brothers and sisters come with them and are equally excited and enthralled. These are emotional family occasions.

Also standing around the site, watching the proceedings are children whose families have not been selected for kits. This is a heart-wrenching experience for all SCAW travelling teams. On this trip, we are giving away 8,000 kits but this is a drop in the bucket in a country of over 150 million people in which children abound.

You see children everywhere.

  • The five day old baby in the middle of a large communal bed, lying on a SCAW bed mat from last year. The bed occupies two thirds of a room which is home to eight people: the baby under a net frame like the ones we used to use to keep flies off food.

  • The three or four year old child carrying a doll-like infant, scrambling in horrific traffic for pennies.

  • Boys playing cricket*, with a real bat and a rubber ball, in the only open space in an inner city slum.

  • A toddler playing, and occasionally appearing to plant a seed, in front of a line of family members, many not much older than she, systematically planting a field by a roadside.

  • A child waking and stretching on its sidewalk sleeping mat an hour or so after dawn, watched over by a woman left by a family whose rolled sleeping mats are stored for the day on a wall beside the already incredibly busy street.

  • Children playing cricket* on a sand bank (presumably with a ball which floats).
    Children among the crowd on top of a packed bus traveling at over 100km/hr on a packed highway. (We saw the wreck of a bus which had crashed the previous day, killing fifteen, and injuring fifty.)

  • A little girl throwing rocks at those of her twenty or so cattle which ventured too close to the train track.

  • Six boys under five years, carefully sorting a truck load of garbage.

  • Children playing cricket* in a paddy field, sliding in the mud for the ball.

  • A family, parents, and three very young children breaking up a truckload of bricks — presumably to make gravel — each with a small hammer. (There are essentially no rocks in Bangladesh, which is mainly underlain by the silt of the world’s largest delta.)

  • Small boys being moved on from in front of a store where they were watching cricket on TV.

  • Teenage girls in sari-like school uniforms, proudly going to school.

  • A young teenager peddling a rickshaw piled high with produce, on a traffic-clogged street, with a toddler proudly sitting on top of the load.

This is a country of children. They abound – in the rural areas and the packed cities, by day and by night. In Canada, most of us have forgotten what it is like to live in a neighbourhood full of kids. Even when there are children in our home communities, they spend long hours indoors and in school. We forget them and tend to keep them quiet even when they are excited.

We forget that they are our life and our future, that they are us as we were.

Here in Bangladesh, they have not forgotten such things. While we should never glamorize the lives of children here, no one can deny that they are front and centre in the life of the nation.

Peter Adams
SCAW Travelling Volunteers

Wednesday, 8 November 2006

Bangladesh: By steamer on the river

Dear SCAW Donors,

As Bangladesh is essentially one huge delta, its rivers, fingers of water which are the entry to the sea of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers (Padma and Jamuna in Bangladesh) of India, are the real highways of the nation. When travelling on the crowded highways, you are made aware of this by the frequent river crossings, some of them causeways and bridges more than 10 km long. In the rainy season, you must be even more aware of this when half of the country may be flooded. However, the ultimate way to appreciate the roles of rivers in Bangladesh is to travel on them.

We had been to some of the river ports for bedkit distributions and seen the teeming life in them: ships and boats of all sizes loading and unloading, sometimes with cranes and pumps but most often by means of human labour; men carrying impossible loads of iron bars and huge sacks; endless human chains with baskets of sand, filling an entire ship. At these locations, we also caught a glimpse of the people who live by and on the rivers. They depend on the rivers for everything.

One of our major bedkit distributions was at the ancient port of Barisal, the port where, years ago, the British set up their government, arriving by river from Calcutta. To reach and return from this site, we travelled overnight, around ten hours by steamer. We arrived in the port of Dhaka as the sun was going down on the 6th. We found organized chaos as tens of thousands, like ourselves, were there to board ships for different parts of the country. Some of the ships were huge – three decks like football fields, upon which people sat or lay. Families arrived early to stake out a sleeping and eating area. Where it was really crowded, people sat to sleep. Where there was more room, they lay down. The larger boats must have had many thousands of passengers.

As far as we could tell, our vessel had under a thousand passengers on one and a half decks. You could not walk between people. There were whole families — grandparents, parents, and children — all excited and happy and glad to be going home to their villages from Dhaka.

We set off exactly on time and pulled out into the bustling, dark, river. Around us there were taxi-like rowboats, more large ferries like ours, freighters large and small, with the lights of the city all around. We were able to sit near the bow of the ship watching all of this with the aid of a scanning, probing, spotlight which kept us away from other vessels. The small freighters going by us very low in the water often had families on board sitting on top of the cabin or cargo enjoying the cool evening air. The vessel wended it way through rafts of water hyacinth. Even though still a long way inland, the tides of the Bay of Bengal affected our progress throughout the voyage.

We were fortunate to have tiny cabins, each with two campbed-like beds. There was a shared washroom. We ate in a central wardroom, good Bangladeshi food that we had already come to appreciate. We were also very fortunate in that two of our host Rotarians were traveling with us. They were a fount of information about the ship, the river, and the regions through which we passed.

At dawn on the 7th, we arrived in the port of Barisal: nowadays the centre of one of the most rural parts of Bangladesh. Outside of the port the people live in tiny villages. They depend on agriculture and inland and sea fishing. The family of our host Rotarian had lived in the area for generations. We distributed 700 bedkits during a very busy and exciting day, from the courtyard of his home – but that’s another story.

That evening, just before dark, we returned to Barisal to board our steamer home to Dhaka.

Barisal is not Dhaka: there were several large ferries and many boats, but nowhere near the overwhelming sights and sounds of a great city. As we waited for our ship to arrive we watched others boarding theirs, buying provisions for the trip: bananas, cooked nuts and beans, Bangladeshi pancakes, and the like. We also watched people who lived on and around the dock settling in for the night. One lady with two young children was staking a section of a walkway (which would be deserted once the steamers had left) for the night. There were groups of very young children – four whose leader was a girl of no more than eight years who lived on the streets around there. The girl had an open ulcer on her foot. We were a great source of entertainment for them.

When our ship arrived, it was a paddle wheel diesel, built in the 1920s. Its first passenger, we were told, was a Governor General of India. Queen Elizabeth (perhaps the Queen’s mother?) had travelled on it. It was smaller than our previous ship but equally crowded, this time with people travelling on the roof, as people do on trains and buses here.

We had smaller cabins than before, leading off a smaller “state room” which exuded ancient splendour. There was a key for the washroom – that is to say one key between us – which was some distance from where we slept with the intervening space often occupied by sleeping people. We were served traditional British food on the tiny foredeck – excellent fish and chips.

We came up to Dhaka at sunrise and saw the great river and its banks through the mist. Hundreds of craft, large and small. Banks lined with factories, brickyards and ship building and repair facilities. At one location, we saw around 12 ships in drydock (at the upper flood level) each at a different stage of construction. Although it was barely light. Everyone was hard at work: the welders, the gangs loading ships, and the boat taxis.

At the harbour — among tens of passenger ships, most larger than ours — we again saw the extraordinary bustle of life of this great port city. Amidst all the bustle there were people, children, adults, families, still fast asleep in corners or on passageways where people walked round them or stepped over them. One young girl was fast asleep lying face down of a huge sack of something – total unaware that thousands of people were passing by. We saw one person who had died in the night, picked up by men with a freight rickshaw.

We were home in Dhaka, ready for the downtown distribution of 226 bedkits. One of the recipients was a blind boy, another was a little girl who was sick to vomiting but did not want to leave the line, yet another was a tot who was very upset because she had lost sight of her mother who was too shy to come forward. This is why we are here. This day we reached 4,000 bedkits for Bangladesh, 4,000 families touched with hope, but yet so few in the great scheme of things.

But, as Murray Dryden said, "You help those you can, one at a time."

Peter Adams
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Bangladesh: Photo Album 3

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Bangladesh November 8

Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Bangladesh: Photo Album 2

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Bangladesh November 7

Bangladesh: Chakhar, Barisal

The gate was draped with brightly coloured bunting displaying a welcome to all. It was truly a festive occasion — certainly long anticipated. Everyone in the village was there. When we arrived following our steamer ride, at seven thirty in the morning, the children were already lining up.

Captain Moazzam Hossain had opened his ancestral home for the distribution and had erected a brightly coloured canopy over the courtyard. Families crowded round the edge to catch a glimpse of the proceedings as we readied the bedkit for the photos.

Seven hundred area children received their gift, the first in their area to have done so.
The last bedkit was given out and the whole group gathered. Dignitaries thanked the SCAW team. Those who had organized the distribution were acknowledged. The entire Rotary Club of Chakhar was in attendance.

What followed was a display of folk dancing which was truly amazing. A beautifully costumed young girl twisted and twirled, the bells circling her ankles keeping the rhythm of the dance as her feet slapped the ground. Traditional Bangladeshi music played as our host quietly translated so that the story of the dance would become clear.

Dressed as a young women, and looking very much the part, a boy took centre stage. Again our appreciation of the dance was enhanced by the translation as the young man told a story of looking for water. These dances have been passed down for many generations, and are obviously still cherished by the Chakhar villagers.

Captain Hossain treated us to a tour of the village and, as always, we had a large following. The village, we learned, is truly special. The population is about 40% Muslim. Hindus make up 20% and the remainder is a blend of Christians, Bhuddists, and other faiths. The wonderful part of the story is that they celebrate their differences. All the villagers celebrate the festival of Eid along with Christmas and others as they occur. They live and work in harmony, a model for villages the world over. Captain Hossain obviously cares about those folks who live and work on his estate, striving to improve their standard of living by developing market gardening and operating a feed lot, to name a few of his initiatives. He is truly loved and respected. It was a pleasure for us to get to know him just a little and enjoy the hospitality he and his family offered.

There is no doubt that Chakhar’s first SCAW distribution was much appreciated and they expressed hope that SCAW would return next year.

As the daylight waned and we made our way back through the “City of Rickshaws,” we had time to reflect on what was, indeed, an adventure. The Ostrich, a 1929 paddle steamer, took us on an overnight journey back to Dhaka, where we would complete the last of our Rotary sponsored distributions.

Ron and Mary Ann King
SCAW Travelling Volunteers

Bangladesh: SCAW Bedkit Questionnaire

Dear SCAW Donors,

In an effort to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the children, SCAW is conducting surveys during 2006/7 distributions.

We displayed a bedkit and asked five parents to examine the bedkit items and make their comments from the questionnaire. On this particular day, there were four mothers and one father.

The Bangladesh bedkit is a generous one. In addition to the basic items of mattress, bedsheets, pillow/case, mosquito net, and blanket, the bedkit also contains two sets of clothing, a school bag, water flask, drinking mug, lunch box and a wool shawl to wear during the winter season.

We asked each parent individually to make their comments as to:
  • the usefullness of the items,

  • which items they valued the most,

  • which item they valued the least, and

  • what other items they would like included.

As we neared the end of the survey we had generated a large group from the village! The Bangladesh people are very friendly and are naturally inquisitive!

It was indeed a wonderful experience for me to talk with the parents of children receiving a bedkit. All the parents were united is expressing their thanks for the bedkits and said, "Please come back the Bangladesh."

It was interesting to note that they valued the entire bedkit way beyond the actual cost of $30.00 CAD. This suggests that our Rotary partners are doing a good job of seeking out the best value for the best prices. It truly was a special time that will stay with me forever.

As one member of the Rotary Club of Dhaka said, "We can all rejoice in knowing that, as each child opens the bedkit, they can look forward to a warm and cozy sleep and attend school: the basic right of every child."

Norma Fenner
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Monday, 6 November 2006

Bangladesh: Our Rotary OVO

SCAW's Overseas Volunteer Organization in Dhaka

For the third time this week we wound our way through Dhaka traffic to the Retired Army Officers' Welfare Club where over five hundred kids waited patiently for their turn to receive a bedkit. Again our Rotarian hosts had arranged for these children to be brought to the site by bus from various outlying areas. Pictured here: (Left to Right) Rtn. Mirza Hossain, Chair of the SCAW program; Rtn. Khandker Hasan, President; Rtn. Rafiqul Rowly, Past President; Rtn. Taherullah, Sgt-at-Arms.

We are constantly reminded of our partners' commitment to SCAW. The Rotarians with whom we are working here in Dhaka have virtually put their lives on hold during the distributions. Making sure that the children, the bedkits and the help required to keep things rolling all arrive at the site is a Herculean task.

Add to this months of preparation with Rotarians travelling to all parts of the country choosing locations and registering children, and you have an idea of the cost in time and money for these folks. As a team we are so grateful for their care of us.
We have been thoroughly spoiled as our hosts have personally provided for our safety and well being.

The SCAW programme is only one of many projects sponsored by the Dhaka Rotary Club. They also sponsor: a literacy project, a weekly free health clinic, a medical boat, a microcredit programme for women, and a polio vaccination initiative. Our hosts are a dedicated group striving to help their people.

The SCAW system only works because of the teamwork involved and our partners here are only one group of many commited partners who enable SCAW to complete the process of the thirty dollars becoming a bedkit in a needy child's hand.

To our Rotary hosts and to all of the partners with whom SCAW works in many countries go our thanks for helping to make Murray and Margaret's dream -- and that of our many, many donors -- a reality.

Mary Ann King
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Bangladesh: Photo Album 1

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Bangladesh November 6

Saturday, 4 November 2006

Bangladesh: Dhaka Distributions

Today we had a bedkit distribution in the city of Dhaka. The site was the retired officers’ club (RAOWA), under a huge bamboo tent structure which had been used for a wedding celebration for 1200 people. The shade provided by the beautiful wedding canopy was most welcome but it was somewhat disconcerting that men with bare feet were climbing around the bamboos, taking the pavilion apart while we were in it.

The distribution went well – over 400 bedkits. This was the first day when we knowingly presented kits to HIV/AIDS children. Our partners, the Rotary Club of Dhaka, had contacted a local care group to select the children.

During the distribution, a young woman from Vancouver came in to introduce herself. She had been walking by and came over to see what was going on. She was as surprised to see us as we were to see her. We were sorry that we could not be more sociable but the flow-through of hundreds of children is like a tide which cannot be stopped.

It is quite rare for bedkit distributions on this massive scale to go off without a hitch. The hitches are not overemphasized in these reports but they are a major feature of the daily team-sponsor critiques. This day, we had trouble with the cameras which are a vital part of the SCAW system. The heat and humidity got to our main camera.

This was the day of the weekly Rotary meeting. We were invited by our hosts to attend. This was a very pleasant and informative occasion. “Ms Linda”, our leader, is very well respected here.

Peter Adams
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Friday, 3 November 2006

Bangladesh: Bhairab and Hobiganj

Today, the 3rd of November, was the official deadline for the Interim Government of Bangladesh to demonstrate that it is operating in a non-partisan fashion. The deadline was agreed to by the major parties as a device for ending the riots of a week ago. This made us tense when we left at 7 AM for the three-hour drive from Dhaka to Bhairab for our first distribution of bedkits of the day. In any event, in part because Friday is Prayer Day, the city and the countryside were calmer than usual although large numbers of police and troops were present in the city.

Bhairab is a bustling river port even on Prayer Day. All sorts of produce and construction materials were being loaded and off-loaded to and from small and large boats and ships. The cargoes included a large number of our bedkit children and their families who had travelled several hours by river to be with us. When they went home some hours later, they needed one extra craft as their incredibly loaded vessel could not contain the bedkits.

We distributed 600 bedkits which included two sets of clothing to 600 children using the “group method” – ten children being photographed at a time. Our depot for the bedkits was a government warehouse which usually stores grain for use during food shortages. The grain comes from the hinterland of the port which is extraordinarily productive delta farm land. The children who did not come by boat came from this region which appeared all the more rural to us by contrast with the teeming life of our base city, Dhaka.

We then drove for a couple of hours to Hobiganj for our second distribution of the day. The entire route was through rural Bangladesh including an extensive tea plantation area which was the only part of our route that was more than a metre or so above water level. This region must be quite different during the rains.

At Hobiganj we distributed more than a 100 bedkits to local children in the enclosed courtyard of a home belonging to the father-in-law of one of our host Rotarians. This was a great contrast to our morning in the port of Bhairab. The home was part of a region of small, often very small, rural settlements — very self-contained and pleasant. Our hosts family had lived there for generations.

As we started our drive home at dusk, we saw one of “our” children walking proudly through her hamlet wearing a dress from her bedkit.

We returned to Dhaka in the dark, by a devious route, because our host Rotarian thought that it would be safer than the direct route. And so to bed after a great, successful, SCAW day in Bangladesh.

Peter Adams
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Bangladesh: First Day of Distributions

Greetings from our fearless leader, Linda,
First-timers Norma Fenner and Jill & Peter Adams, and
Second-timers Ron & Mary Ann King:

The Bangladesh 2006 adventure continues to unfold, leaving us all much food for thought. Two very busy days have left us tired, but have nonetheless affirmed our commitment to SCAW and all that it stands for.

On Tuesday, our Rotary hosts arranged a visit to the homes of families who had previously been given bedkits. These folks live in the slums of Dhaka, home to hundreds of thousands of families, many of whom are the working poor. Entering from a long narrow passageway, we observed our first family: three generations sharing a room about ten by twelve feet. Serving as the bedroom, living room, and dining room, the area was clean and well-organized -- every inch of wall space being used for clothes, cooking pots, and whatever else is required to maintain the group. However, these details were only noted after we had greeted the newest member of the family: the beautiful five-day-old child who lay under a netting closely watched by a very young, unsmiling mother who was no doubt apprehensive as to the purpose of our visit. The love of her family, so evident in each of their faces, would ensure that this tiny child, so lacking in material wealth, would indeed be treasured.

In each of the other seven rooms along the passageway, this scene was repeated. In the common kitchen, young women smiled for our cameras as they prepared dinner for their families. We left with no doubts about the suitability of the bedkits, as each had served the families well. The group was strangely quiet as we wove our way home through the indescribable Dhaka traffic.

Wednesday saw us starting our first distribution within Dhaka city. Children had been gathered from communities, many outside the city, to a central location. Happily, the children, for the most part, appeared healthy and well cared for. We can't say enough about the quality of the bedkits: each contained almost twenty very useful and well-made items.

Our first-time team members now have an idea of what we have all been talking about. The beautiful smiles and the shy thankyou's made their day.

Before returning home we were treated to a visit to a factory where the backpacks were made that are contained in the bedkits. The word "factory" creates a certain picture in our minds, but the reality of a factory in Bangladesh is very different. A narrow alleyway leads from a very busy street to a climb up three flights of dark, narrow stairs to the room that is the factory. In this room, lit by two lights and cooled by two windows and a single ceiling fan, two shifts of fifteen men cut, assemble, and stitch (on old treadle machines) a variety of different bags, earning about eighty Canadian dollars a month. The owner provides food for the workers, who eat, sleep, and work in the factory. The quality of the backpacks is good and only points out that they are made with care by men who strive to produce quality work.

If only we could magicly transport each of you, the donors, to share just a few moments of the Bangladesh experience. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the shy smiles, have all all meshed to provide a memorable beginning to the Bangladesh 2006 SCAW distribution.

Mary Ann King
SCAW Travelling Volunteer

Monday, 30 October 2006

Bangladesh: The SCAW Team Arrives

The SCAW Bangladesh 2006 travelling team arrived in Dhaka at 3:15 AM Dhaka time and spent last night safely in the comfort and caring of the staff of their lodgings for the duration of the trip.

Members of the team are (Left to right) Peter Adams, Jill Adams, Norma Fenner, Linda Webb (Team Leader), Ron King, Mary Ann King.

There have been a few apprehensive moments for the team because Dhaka was paralyzed by a hartal or general strike. Following a few hastily called meetings between the SCAW team and members of the Lions and Rotary -- our Overseas Volunteer Organizations -- it was thought that the distributions might have to be held off for a couple of days. (You can check news sites on the web to find out more about the current political situation in Bangladesh.) However, a crucial meeting of political parties was held on Monday. They have come to an agreement so the hartal has been called off and life is back to normal in Dhaka for now.

It is Tuesday there now and the team will be going with the Rotary and Lions to see this year's bedkits -- an important part of the job of the SCAW team on a distribution.

Bedkit distributions are planned to begin on Wednesday as scheduled.

Friday, 20 October 2006

Bangladesh: An Introduction

Here are some brief facts about this country from Virtual Bangladesh.


The People's Republic Of Bangladesh


Latitude between 20 degree 34' and 26 degree 39' north. Longitude
between 88 degree 00' and 92 degree 41' east.


144,000 sq. km.


Bounded by India from the north, east and west and by the Bay of Bengal
and Burma from the south.


Main seasons : Winter (Nov - Feb), Summer (Mar - Jun), Monsoon (Jul
- Oct). Temp : Max 34 degree Celsius, Min 8 degree Celsius.


Lowest 47" and highest 136"


Dhaka (Present area 414 sq. km. Master plan 777


Total estimated population 130 million.

State Language

Bangla. English is also widely spoken and understood

National Days

National Martyrs Day - February 21 Independence Day - March 26 Victory
Day - December 16

Principal Rivers

Padma, Meghna, Jamuna, Brahmaputra, Madhumati, Surma and Kushiara

Principal Crops

Jute, rice, tobacco, tea, sugarcane, vegetables, potato, pulses, etc.

Important Fruits

Mango, banana, pineapple, jack-fruit, water-melon, green coconut,
guava, licis, etc.

Major Industries

Jute, sugar, paper, textiles, fertilizers, cigeratte, cement, steel,
natural gas, oil-refinery, newsprint, power generation, rayon, matches,
fishing and food processing, leather, soap, carpet, timber, ship-building,
telephone, etc.

Sea Ports

Chittagong and Mongla


Zia international airport, Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet, domestic
airports at Chittagong, Jessore, Sylhet, Cox's Bazar, Rajshahi and Saidpur


220 Volts A.C. in all cities and towns

Tourist Seasons

October to March

Main Tourist Attractions

Colorful tribal life, longest sea beach, centuries' old archeological
sites, home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, largest tea gardens, interesting
riverine life, etc.

Wearing Apparel

Tropical in summer, and light-woolen in winter


The unit of currency is the Taka. Notes are in denominations of 1,2,5,10,20,50,100
and 500 Taka. Coins are 1,5,10,25,50 and 100 Paisa (100 Paisa = 1 Taka)

Sunday, 1 October 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 7

Honduras: 5,000 Bedkits Delivered

Hello All,

Hurrah!! The Honduras 2006 SCAW distribution is complete: 5,000 bedkits to 5,000 needy children. We were in Villa de San Francisco just a little south of the Valley of Angels yesterday. We gave out 380 bedkits which completed our commitment and then another 54 bedkits over and above that were donated by the Rotary Club of Tegucigalpa. It was an emotional day, saying goodbyes to our friends that helped out with the distributions.

On the way home we stopped at the Valley of Angels to do some souvenir shopping. I had the pleasure of Marilyn Waring's company. She was such a good wheeler/dealer that she got me quite a few discounts. Marilyn said she didn't like doing that, but boy is she good at it! Several Lempiras lighter we headed back to Tegucigalpa, had a little rest and went out to dinner at -- you guessed it -- Charlotte's Restaurant.

It was early to bed last night since we were all tired and ready to crash, hence the tardiness in my daily report.

Today we are all busy getting our newsletter articles done up and Laurie-Beth is anxiously waiting for Jenny to type up the report that will be presented to the Rotary Club members at 1 PM today. It has to be printed and photocopied so we have to get out there and get that done also.

It will be sad leaving after spending ten days here making new friends and leaving behind all those needy children. But we did make 5,000 children's lives a little bit better and brought a smile to their faces.


Harry from Barrie
Reporting and signing off from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Saturday, 30 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 6

Honduras: Last Tegucigalpa Distribution

Good Day,

Today was our last distribution in Tegucigalpa. Tomorrow we are off to El Zamarano to finish off the last of our 5000 bedkits.

Our distribution today was at the Reino Paises Bajos School in Tegucigalpa where we delivered 766 bedkits, 40 singles and 726 groups. Considering the large number we finished relatively quickly and were done by noon. All those happy children make what we do very worthwhile.

After a quick lunch we went off to a short presentation about the Healthy Schools Program (Programa Escuelas Saludables). All the team members were presented a certificate of gratitude from the First Lady of Honduras for our support of the program for the girls and boys of Honduras.

We went back to the hotel and relaxed a bit and went to dinner at Charlotte's Restaurant across the road. This has become one of our favourite eating spots while in Honduras.

We then got together for a team meeting to discuss different aspects of the 2006 Honduras distribution. This will be presented to the Rotary members on Sunday in order to improve the service that we join in together to make the children happy.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Friday, 29 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 5

Honduras: José S Azcona Hoyo School

Good Evening,

We had an excellent distribution today at the José S. Azcona Hoyo School in Tegucigalpa. All the pictures were groups, so it went a lot quicker. It started sputtering as we were setting up, so we decided to set up in one of the classrooms. It never really did rain, just a few sputters, but we did all are pictures indoors.

We started shortly after 9 AM and we were done by noon. We had lunch provided by the Rotarians at the distribution site and then headed back to the hotel. Some of us went shopping at 2 PM at a multi plaza mall. It was so much like the malls back home -- including the prices. This is not what we had hoped for. We wanted some local products and souvenirs to bring back home with us, not things that we could as easily buy back home. Oh Well!

On Saturday, on our way back from El Zamarano, we are supposed to stop by the Valley of Angels which has all sorts of tourist artifacts for sale.

The distributions are getting to be second nature now and by the time we head home we will be very proficient at it.

This evening was down time for most of us just sitting around relaxing and watching TV for the most part.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Thursday, 28 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 4

Honduras: Oswaldo Lopez Aurellano School

Good Day All,

Another successful distribution has been completed. This time we were at the Oswaldo Lopez Aurellano School in Tegucigalpa. Things went smoothly. We started at 9 AM and we were finished by 1:15 PM.

The team is getting quite used to their positions now and things are speeding up. We rotate positions every day.

The positions are:
  • Children Line-Up
  • Label Puller and Initialler
  • Stamper & Take Children to Label Counter
  • Label Counter
  • Handing out bedkits

And, of course, the Team Leader takes the photographs. Meanwhile, Dave Dryden is interviewing mothers of the bedkit recipients to find out which items are most important in the bedkit.

On our return to the hotel after the distribution, Jenny, Elaine and I went for a walk to do a bit of shopping. There are armed guards and policia everywhere in this city. It is a bit overwelming at times.

Tonight we were invited to the Rotary Club Meeting. At the meeting Laurie-Beth gave a brief talk about the SCAW team and how much we appreciated the Rotary help during our distributions. Then Rae Waring (pictured at left) gave a small talk about his involvement with the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club today and 15 years ago. Dave Dryden then got up and gave a presentation on Sleeping Children Around the World. He had assistance earlier in the day to translate his presentation into Spanish and to put in some pictures from the 2005 Honduras distribution. He was able to give the presentation with the assistance of a translator.

After this the Tegucigalpa Rotary Club presented us with an award for our excellent collaboration in their Sleeping Children Around the World project.

After a very late dinner we thanked them and headed back to the hotel for some much deserved rest.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting live from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Wednesday, 27 September 2006

Honduras: United Nations School

Hello All,

Today we distributed 619 bedkits at a United Nations School in Tegucigalpa. The drive up to the distribution site was very steep and uphill for quite a distance. There were a few frazzled nerves during the ascent and descent.

Once again the children were there and waiting for us when we arrived at about 8:30 AM so we hurried to set up and were taking pictures by 9 AM.

The gratitude of the children is readily apparent in their smiles and muchos gracias.

We finished the distribution around 1:30 PM and then headed off to visit some homes of bedkit recipients before we went on to the hotel. We visited two families and in both cases were quite touched by how little they have and how they sleep in such cramped quarters. There are photos of our visit in Photo Album 3 below.

The first house was a single mother with six children and they lived in a small one-room apartment about 12 feet by 12 feet. At night they would lay down the mattresses on the cement floor for three of the children and the others would sleep with the mother on the bed.

The second family lived in a similar aprtment that was slightly bigger: a mother and four children. Again the poverty was quite evident. What an eye opener and how we are so well off in Canada.

We have reached our half way point and are really eager to continue handing out bedkits. What an experience and what a learning experience. The warmth in our hearts in being able to help some children have a better night's sleep makes this trip so worthwhile.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting live from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 3

Honduras: Desarollo

Buenos Dias,

Well, another early start and another distribution. This time we stayed in the city but went to Desarollo on the outskirts of Tegucigalpa. We had 744 bedkits to distribute in one location for five different schools. Things got off to a slow start but sped up as time went on. We started shortly after 9 AM and we were done shortly after 2 PM. All went well. We then had a bite to eat which was provided by the wives of the Rotarians. We had a chance to chat a bit with all those that had helped out with the distribution and got to know each other a bit more.

We then were off to the hotel to freshen up. At 6:30 PM we met in the lobby and went out for supper at a reataurant across the street. We are certainly eating well.

The others are playing cards tonight while I am writing this report. I think most of us will be off to bed early tonight. Once tomorrow's distribution is finished we will be at the half way point.

Until the next email,

Harry from Barrie
Reporting live from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Monday, 25 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 2

Honduras: Manzaragua and Guinope

Good Day,

I haven't been able to get an internet connection in the past two days. We have been on the road and have now just returned to Tegucigalpa. We completed two distributions, one in Manzaragua and another in Guinope.

We left Friday morning for El Zamarano which is an Agricultural University about 45 minutes from Tegucigalpa. We stayed there in the student living quarters (Hotel). We were given a tour of the facilities and told about this unique form of education. The students actually work in all facets of agriculture and produce products which are sold locally and in some cases internationally. Their products are sold under the name of Zamerano and include items like jalepino sauce, hot sauce and ketchup.

Jenny is shown to the right at our first distribution on Saturday morning. It was in Manzaragua, located about one hour from El Zamarano on dirt roads full of potholes and ruts from the heavy rains. The road was uphill for a few thousand feet. We handed out 393 bed kits, had lunch, and then were off to Guinope which is back in the direction of El Zamarano but forking off in another direction. It took about 45 minutes to get there on more rough and bumpy roads. We set up and gave out 384 bed kits and were on our way back to El Zamarano.

Sunday morning we went back off to Guinope to hand out bedkits again but this time in groups. This was a bit quicker process and we gave out 733 bedkits. It is always a wonderful sight to see the joy and excitement in the children's faces. It is a huge gift for them and they are extremely grateful. The members of the Rotary club and others involved in helping out certainly make our job a lot easier and it could not be done without them.

This afternoon we headed back to Tegucigalpa and checked back into the hotel we were in the first night we got here, the Honduras Maya. Tomorrow we are starting distributions in the city and surroundings and will be doing so until next Saturday.

I will send another report tomorrow.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Saturday, 23 September 2006

Honduras: Photo Album 1

Honduras: SCAW Team Has Arrived

Hello All,

We just got into Honduras today. Here are some pictures. We had a great day. It started at 1 AM for me. I had to get up and get transportation to the airport at 2 AM. There I met up with the other people travelling: seven of us including Dave Dryden.

We left Toronto at 6:30 AM and arrived in Houston at about 9:30 AM (all times Toronto time). We left there about 10:30 AM and arrived in Tegucigalpa at around Noon.

The Tegucigalpa Rotarians met us at the airport and we proceeded to our hotel to freshen up. We walked around a bit in the afternoon and then tried setting up the bedkits the Rotarians had left for us -- getting ready for our distributions.

At 6:30 PM the Rotarians picked us up for supper and we had quite a feast.

Tomorrow we are off to an agricultural college about an hour and a half from Tegucigalpa where we will start our distributions on Saturday and Sunday.

I will get an email out again whenever I can.

Harry from Barrie
Reporting from Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Thursday, 7 September 2006

Tanzania: The Last Distribution for 2006

We woke up this morning to the realization that this was our last distribution in Tanzania for 2006.

There were mixed feelings in our group. We were happy because by the end of the day a total of six thousand Tanzanian children will have received some much needed help for themselves and their families. We were also sad because it was our last distribution and we would soon be going home. The day began later than usual as we would be in the Vigina Cultural Centre in Dar es Salaam so did not have far to drive.

The children who are to receive bedkits today included albino children, some severely physically handicapped children, children who have HIV/AIDS or have lost their parents to the AIDS virus, some blind children, and some who are just needy.

The day started slowly and progressed slowly as the children came in small groups from different schools. We had some breaks when there were no children available. Apparently some of them were writing examinations which had to be completed. This was our longest distribution as it was not completed until 3:15 PM.

The weather was very hot and we were in the sun when the distribution was going on. The temperature in the sun was probably as hot as 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

We were all very tired and worn out when we were finished. What should be a celebration was a bit of a letdown. There was no power when we reached our apartment but we all sat down and had a cold drink, (nobody opened the refrigerator while we were away}. After a cool to cold shower we decided to go out to eat. By that time we are somewhat refreshed and had a good time and talked about all our experiences.

It has been a wonderful experience working with Tom and all the other friends that I have lived and worked with during the past two weeks. I think we have made a very good team and worked together well.

Helen Ruth Brown,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Wednesday, 6 September 2006

Tanzania: SCAW in Mjimwema

Three new items were included in our itinerary. There were the ferry, photographs of multiple groups of children, and a visit to the Canadian Embassy.

Today our team leader, Tom Belton, drove our van on to the main floor of the ferry “Sea Breeze” around 6 AM. We all stayed in the van as passengers stood to the right and in front of us. On our left was a jeep with six men in uniform with “Tanzania” stitched on to the lapels. Within a few minutes we were on our way across the harbour. The ferry was large enough to hold about one thousand passengers on the main level. The ride was smooth and slow. We reached our destination in about 15 minutes.

For the first time, we arrived at our distribution site before the truck which transported the bedkits. Therefore, we took extra time to find the most suitable location for the bedkit display. We discovered a lovely view of the Indian Ocean behind the school. Unfortunately, we could not use that area for the display because there were many trees and not enough open space. A suitable location was found and soon we were ready to say "Yako" as the children were given their bedkits. Tom played a soccer game with a few students while others gathered around to watch with delight, before the school bell rang.

The team members were eager to experience how the photographs of multiple groups of children would work. We completed the sets of threes at about 10:35 AM, then took about one-half-hour break to change the bedkit display and talk with the parents who had assembled to watch the distribution. In the previous distributions, there were ten children in each group photograph, whereas today, threre were two groups with nine children in the photograph, one group with eight, fourteen with six, seven with eleven, one with thirteen, and seven with ten. It was more challenging to organize the children but the team members all worked together to finish the task in record time.

Although we were sweaty, grubby and unkept we headed to the Canadian Embassy. We were going to meet with Mrs Jennifer Wood, the First Scretary (Senior Trade Commissioner). We were delighted! Mrs. Wood was very pleasant and seemed genuinely interested in our organization and what we were doing in Tanzania. She give us good wishes and took photos with us.

Just before we left the embassy, there was a peacock proudly stepping around around the parking area. This was symbolic of the pride we felt: to be Canadians and to have made a difference in the lives of 600 children today.

Grace Wood,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Thursday, 31 August 2006

Tanzania: SCAW in Toangoma

On the way to the distribution this morning at 5:30 AM we were travelling in the dark. There are no street lights and it is almost impossible to see people riding bikes, or deep potholes or "caution bumps" with no paint on them. Driving is definitely a scary experience!

We arrived at 6:30 AM to find the truck carrying the 600 bedkits stuck in deep sand. Rather than unload and reload the truck the volunteers dug down and placed two-by-eights under the rear tires and pushed and pushed until they were able to move it.

Today was the hottest day we have experienced yet, with temperatures reaching close to 46 degrees. All of us felt the heat today but how could we complain when we found out that one hundred children had walked ten kilometres today to get their bedkits! On the way home the empty bedkit truck loaded all of them and their bedkits on the truck and took them home. Smiles all around.

The volunteers from Tanzania are awesome. On April 6th the school had received a well from a church organization and it was great to see them filling their cups and pumping the water -- certainly a real luxury for all of them.

There were so many thank you’s and curtsies when the children received their bedkit.

We came home hot and tired to no power again but most satisfied that SCAW has once again made a difference!

"Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile."

Thank you SCAW.

Gail Duncan,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Wednesday, 30 August 2006

Tanzania: Sunday, Kisauke. Monday, Chamazi.

On Sunday we had big plans to return to Kisauke, where we did our first distribution to see how the bedkits were being used in the homes. This was accomplished by a bumpy ride on the last half of the journey and a meeting with the elders of the community as a courtesy. This was quite an adventure, going inland via foot paths to visit the selected homes. On our way home we visited the first Prime Minister of Democratic Tanzania, Mr. Kawawa. What an honour that was for the Team.

Further on we stopped at a restaurant to have cold refreshments, to beat the heat, and to be treated to a meal of BBQ goat ribs, chips, and bananas. Later in the evening, we had dinner with a Tanzanian family. The home was right on the Indian Ocean, no less. Throughout the day we experienced real Tanzanian hospitality. We had great meals and good fellowship.

On Monday, August 28th, we had the seventh distribution at Chamazi. We were also hosting a guest travelling with us from Togo: Mr. DEKALIKAN Kouma. He is observing our activities as we do the distribution. The distribution went well and as usual the children were very happy to get their bedkits. The smiles on their faces and the many expressions of "thank you" and "asante" are just thrilling.

Each distribution has it own character and we never know what to expect, but we are always amazed by the special things we observe. The children of the Chamazi school keep four cows on premises as a project. It was interesting to see them bring bundles of grass that were laid out in a row for the cows to eat. The cows were let out of the shed and had their grass. They mooed all day so we could not forget them.

We had yet another mother of twins visit. We were delighted to see them.

On behalf of the children of Tanzania, thanks very much to all the donors. We have the wonderful previlege of seeing all the happy faces on a daily basis. This is an unforgetable experience.

Maxene Henry,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Tanzania: Saturday's Distribution

Friday night, we were kept awake until 3 AM by the thunderous vibrations of an outdoor rock concert just a block away. Then, at 4 o’clock our canine friends next door began their barking. Wake up call was at 5 AM! With next to no sleep we set off in the dark for our Saturday distribution.

I was on hand-out duty -- the enviable task of actually handing out the bed kit. After handing them their kit and saying "yako," each one of the children smiled and curtsied and said "Thank you." They are so happy with their gifts that all our donors have given them. I only wish that you all could have the pleasure of seeing their appreciation. But you will with the pictures you receive.

We all want to thank our many friends back home who most generously donated baby and children’s clothing for us to hand out to the many needy mothers in Tanzania. We'll be bringing back photos with us when we come home.

After the distribution, it was back to Dar over spine-snapping roads and through unbelievable traffic. Our trusted driver, Tom, knows the intricacies of managing the roads and he always returns us to our home away from home safely and happily.

We were tired when we arrived back home and slept soundly. Hopefully, our new little friends had as good a sleep as we did.

All for now.

Laura Belton,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Monday, 28 August 2006

Tanzania: SCAW in Mzambarauni

We started our morning at 5:15 AM -- a half hour later than usual. Everyone got their own breakfast, made their lunch and we were off to the distribution site by 6:30 AM.

The traffic was busy but moved right along. The amount of exhaust fumes from the numerous diesel is unbelieveable. The roads -- even the paved roads -- have huge holes big enough to damage your car. It seems that in Tanzania, if you want to avoid the holes and rough areas, you have to move into the oncoming traffic lane when it's clear so that you'll miss the trouble. Everyone seems to take it as normal and slows down or moves over. We have not seen any road rage here. There are also occasional speed bumps -- you must slow right down for these or you may be launched into space.

The distribution was at a school at Mzambarauni which is very close to Dar es Salaam. The schoolyard was rectangular with buildings on three sides. It had many trees with lots of shade to protect the children while they waited to receive their bedkits. The only place to take pictures without shadows was an open area in the centre of the yard. The distribution went extremely well and we finished as heavy clouds started to move in.

All the children were beautiful. Many of the children attending could understand enough English to follow our instructions.

Several physically disabled children received bedkits. Although these children were unable to communicate with us verbally, their smiles showed their pleasure.

During the last two distributions we have had several albino Tanzanian children. These children have very white skin and white hair. It is difficult to see their eyes as they are always squinting since the sun hurts their eyes. These children face a bleak future as they may go blind and they almost always develop multiple skin cancers due to the sun damage. This condition seems to be very common in this country, much more than we would ever see in Canada. There is a great need for these children to have proper sun glasses, wide rim hats, and strong sun screen, but many of them cannot afford such luxuries. During these distributions we have been able to give some of these children baseball caps. They should have hats with wide brims all the way around but a baseball cap is a start.

All the children were very appreciative of the articles they received. They showed their happiness by their wonderful smiles and thank you's. We feel very honoured and humbled to be able to accept these children's gratitude on your behalf.

Thank you for the support for the children.

Helen Brown,
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Saturday, 26 August 2006

Tanzania: Day 4 in Mvuti

Today we went to a different municipality from the previous sites. We went to Mvuti in the municipality of Ilala. The previous three sites were in Kinondoni. Although we left at 6 AM there were many Tanzanians with the same idea. The vans were packed with twice as many passengers as there were seats and the children were neatly dressed in their clean blue and white uniforms. Some people were wearing laced shoes with socks, slippers, or fancy shoes with one-inch heels -- some were bare footed. Groups of two or more were holding hands as they walked through the grassy fields to school.

We passed a few bicycles -- not as many as one would expect. A few riders had one or two passengers. There were more bicycles carrying coal than there were carrying people. We saw wheel barrows with -- on average -- six white plastic twenty-litre containers of water being pushed through neighbourhoods and along the roadway. One stopped at a school where the driver delivered a container to the staff office. Many schools collect the water from the roof in large plastic tanks. One school had a 3x3x1 metre open concrete tank in front of it. The tank was dry.

We arrived at Mvuti just before 7 AM. The children lined up with their coconut straw brooms in hand and started to sweep the leaves from the sandy ground. They tried to move together as if in a chorus line.

Many children travelled to school with containers filled with water for the trees and plants. This municipality did not seem as dry as the others we visited. Today for the first time during our distribution, it rained. We were delighted and thankful for the cooler moment. It lasted for two minutes. There were sixty children selected from Mvuti to receive bedkits, the others were travelling from other schools in the same district -- sixty from each of ten schools. The truck used for the bedkit delivery was sent to pick up other children who lived too far away from Mvuti to walk and had no other means of travelling to receive their bedkit.

Today was special and heartwarming. There were a few sick children: one very weak, another who left the hospital so she could receive her bedkit, one in a wheelchair, and three albino children with special needs. All the children were delightful. One said "I love you," in English.

All 600 children showed up and each received a bedkit donated by you kind people.

Thank you.

Grace Wood
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Friday, 25 August 2006

Tanzania: Day 3 in Mtambani

On our way to the Mtambani distribution at dawn, we pass many, many people walking on the side of the road. Men ride bicycles with baskets at least three feet wide loaded with charcoal to be sold. Elegantly dressed women in long dresses and head scarves walk with jugs or baskets on their heads.

The dala dala mini buses, which in Canada would hold nine passengers have as many as twenty people travelling to work.

The river beds are almost dry as Tanzania has been experiencing a drought -- so we have electricity only every second day. All of us have to plan ahead for cooking our meals and for hot water for showers.

Arriving at the Mtambani site over very bumpy stretches of road, our first order of the day is to select the best location to take the pictures -- according to the rising sun. Then the trucks with the 600 bedkits are unloaded.

Mama Wandoa's volunteers look after getting the children dressed in their new colourful pajamas and then away we go!!!!

Mothers of the children come to help them carry their precious gift home. Some of the children come from neighbouring schools and have walked up to eight kilometers to receive their bedkit. One mother arrived swaddling 3-month-old twins. She was HIV positive and had four other children as well. Unfortunately, her husband had passed away recently. There are a lot of sad stories -- but many joyful moments as well -- during the distribution.

To all SCAW donors we want to express to you the joy we feel when a child receiving a bedkit says "Thank You" or "God Bless You." We know how privileged we are to accept their gratitude on your behalf.

Gail Duncan
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Tanzania: Day 2 in Salasala

The SCAW team arrived in Salasala shortly after 7:00AM, to a beautiful, picture-perfect, sunny morning with a back drop of the Indian Ocean in the distance. We were pleasantly surprised to see that many of the students were already present. It seems they were so excited in anticipation of our visit. They smiled and and many greeted us very respectfully in English.

In a short while we were in attendance at the morning’s assembly. The students sang songs, ending with the Tanzanian anthem, accompanied by a small band. Then Tom Belton, our team leader, greeted the children in Tanzanian, with the help of Mama Wandoa. The children and faculty were delighted.

When the distribution commenced, it was so pleasing to observe how orderly and well behaved the children were.They waited patiently in line all dressed up in the colorful, new pajamas they were given as a part of their bedkit. Although some of them were a bit shy, the expressions of joy on their faces when their pictures were taken, and when they received their bedkits, were priceless.

The distribution of 600 bedkits went very smoothly. We even surprised ourselves as to how timely we accomplished this rewarding event. We are now getting ready for our third day of distribution.

Maxene Henry
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team

Tanzania: Day 1 in Kisauke

The Flavour of Tanzania 2006
Hello Everyone,

We were up and ready to roll at 6AM, full of anticipation -- a bit nervous, but nonetheless looking forward to the day that lay ahead for us.

With four people who have never been to Africa and with two of these on their first SCAW Distribution, I felt a little apprehensive. It usually takes several distribution days before the team begins to function properly. On this, our very first day, it didn't take me long to realize that we were going to be all right. We have a special group here.

Kisauke School was like any other Tanzanian School. It is located just outside of Dar es Salaam and is a cluster of five buildings, with a square in front of the buildings where most of the activity takes place, and the playing fields behind the school proper.

Tanzania is spending its "debt forgiveness" on education and health care. We could see the beginnings of a new building here as well as a general sprucing up of the buildings.

For a first distribution, it didn't take long for everything to begin running smoothly despite the heat and the unmerciful sun. The temperature was in the low 90s. The sun however, beat down on those of us who were unfortunate enough to have to spend much of the time in it. It was draining; it was tiring; it was strength sapping. I have never drunk so much water in my life. With all the water consumed, one would expect to have to run to the washroom often -- but not so. Your body uses up the moisture at a rapid rate.

The one constant was the children. To describe a Tanzanian child one uses words like: dignified, patient, mannerly, and well behaved. What a delight it was for us to witness their singing of the Tanzanian national anthem with heart and gusto followed by their school song.

I had the privelege of giving a talk in my broken Swahili to the kids, telling them who we were, that we came in peace and love, representing other people in the world who cared very much for them. It was well appreciated judging from their reactions.

This year SCAW has instituted a survey in an effort to find out as much as we can about our recipients' reactions and opinions about the usefulness of our bedkits. I spoke through a translator with about eighty people with a bedkit spread out before them. It was an interesting exchange. I used the opportunity to deliver the message that many of these bedkits were donated by children the same ages as their children, by churches, by service clubs, through "In Memorium," and by the average person. The parents indicated very strongly and unmistakably that they appreciated this help from overseas. It was heartwarming to see their reactions, all the while thinking of those children in our schools who so actively support their own SCAW projects.

We were spreading goodwill and happiness wherever we went and enjoying every minute of this precious time of sharing. Upon completion, we got into our van, waving goodbye to teacher and child, shouting out Kwahari -- Good bye -- to the sea of happy faces that surrounded us.

It is burned in our memories --- and another day is awaiting us with more joy, peace, and love to spread.

Until next time,

Tom Belton, signing out.
SCAW 2006 Tanzania Travelling Team