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