Monday, 24 November 2014

Bangladesh: Final Distribution!

Day 10 Maona Bangladesh - Final Distribution Completed

Today we completed the final distribution of 300 bedkits in the small village of Maona at a local school. What joy of clapping, cheering and photo taking occurred as the final bedkit was distributed. We now know that 5000 children are now sleeping more comfortable with their bedkit items. After the distribution was complete, we had the opportunity to visit the home of a child who had received a bedkit at this year's distribution. He was a little nervous at first when we came to his home, but we noticed that the bedkit had been opened up and then securely tied together again. We asked him what was his favourite item that he had received and then after a long hesitation, he picked up the mosquito net. We really think that he liked all the items but had a difficult time selecting only one item.

The second home that we visited was the home of a child who had received a bedkit from two years ago. We were very pleased to see that the pillow, blankets and mosquito net were still in very good condition and being used daily. It gave us a great feeling that the quality of items is still an important factor in the selection of the bedsit items. 

A special thank you to all SCAW donors for making this dream come true. Murray Dryden would be very happy with the accomplishments of the SCAW team members and the Rotary Club of Dhaka our "Overseas Volunteer Partners"

As the team prepares for their departures, they will leave with many lasting memories of the 2014 Bangladesh distribution. Happy Sleeping and Dreams!

Bangladesh Team 2014
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Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bangladesh: Sherpur

Another early morning and we headed for Sherpur to the northeast of Dhaka arriving at about noon. Although we have come to expect bumpy, dirt roads out in the country the highways are not too bad other than the frequent speed bumps. Today, however, we travelled on the old side of a highway being widened and reconstructed, for more than an hour. The potholes were huge and the air was dusty! When we finally got there, the venue had been changed as there were exams being written at that school so, the Rotarians had us wait in town for 45 mins as they got sorted at another school. We wandered around a little checking out a man washing his clothes at the lakeside, the wholesale market and a mother cow and her baby resting near the lake.

The distribution went well again in a very poor area where they are very needy. There was head lice in the majority of the children's heads. Many children were shoeless. One fellow had his photo taken and then hopped out of his flip flops, leaving them in place for the next one. Many wore borrowed jewelry and rusty hair clips for this special day.

The people kept converging on us, sometimes getting a little too close, looking for handouts.
We had to stop giving out our trinkets for fear of starting a stampede.

Once again, and as usual, the joy of handing out bedkits to the beautiful Bangladesh children was overwhelming!

We had lunch afterwards at the local Rotary hall before traveling about 3 hours.

Tomorrow is our last distribution and there is so much more to be done in Bangladesh!

Team Bangladesh 2014
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Monday, 17 November 2014

Bangladesh: Day 8!

We have now completed the second leg of our distributions and have delivered 4300 bedkits. Today found us in our first rural setting where not only children were in attendance but many farm animals.

We knew that the shoes in the bedkit would be greatly appreciated because many children were barefoot and their needs were apparent.

This was the first SCAW distribution at this site and the organization was fantastic. The children were well protected from the sun and the flow of distribution was efficient.

After our day was over we had a treat of fresh coconut milk from nuts cut from the tree that was climbed by a man from the village.

Now for a day of rest before we continue on to our final leg of our mission.

Team Bangladesh 2014
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Saturday, 15 November 2014

Bangladesh: Khulna

Today we completed a distribution in Khulna of 980 bedkits. A distribution this large requires additional planning to facilitate the large number of children. The children arrived at the site in groups at staggered times, so that they were not waiting too long.  It also helped with crowd control. 980 kits were carried into the site on the heads of some strong young men. Without them, our job would be so difficult. We appreciated their reliability and organization.

It is always so wonderful to see the expectant faces of the children, as they arrive for perhaps one of the most exciting days of their lives. Our overseas partners ensure that the children are well taken care of. A light lunch was provided for them because they may need nourishment to sustain them through the day. They are sheltered from the sun with canopies structured on site.

Late in the afternoon, the last three little boys waited in line to get their picture taken. They could see the bedkit laid out and I could hear them chattering away about what they saw. Their smiles grew bigger and bigger as they pointed and laughed. When the photo was complete, they went and received their bedkits that were bundled in the ground cloth that was part of the kit. One of the team members noticed that one of the boys was crying and she went to investigate. He said that he really wanted the shoes. She explained that the shoes and all the other items were wrapped up in the tarp. That little barefoot boy was full of joy and excitement as he left us.

For the love of the children
Team Bangladesh 2014
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Friday, 14 November 2014

Bangladesh: Jessore and Noapara

Today we had two bedkit distributions, both at schools.  The morning was at an urban school in Jessore and we distributed 500 bedkits.  The Bangladesh bedkit includes a ground sheet, pillow, sheet, two blankets, two sets of clothing, a mosquito net, flip flops, a water bottle, a tiffin (lunch) box, and a knapsack.

The children changed into one set of their new clothes, and put their old clothes in a bag.  When asked to set the bag aside for their photo, many children were reluctant to do so, clutching the bag to their chests.  While these children may not have many possessions, they value dearly the ones they do have.

As usual, the distribution began with one of our Rotarian Overseas Volunteer Partners, Rawley, holding up each item from the bedkit. The children cheered for all items, especially the mosquito net and raincoat.  The raincoat always elicits giggles, especially when one of the Rotarians, Baized models it for them!   Rowley’s wife, Gul Ru, has joined us and assisted us getting the children dressed in their new clothes and interpreting when we interviewed families about the contents of the bedkit.

One of our favourite moments occurs when we assemble the children for photos in a large group.  The youngest children sit in the front row and we ask them to each hold an item from the bedkit.  These tiny children take this job very seriously!  Often a child will clutch the item tightly, perhaps wishing they could keep it.   They don’t yet understand that just around the corner a bedkit awaits, complete with that item and much more. 

In the afternoon we drove over an hour to get to a more rural school in Noapara, surrounded by large banana and palm trees.  We had quite a welcome, as we were greeted by a student drum band then walked through two rows of older students in blue and white uniforms.  The founder of the school was present, and informed us that the school has a 100% literacy rate. We distributed 180 more bedkits, making a grand total of 2, 920 bedkits handed out so far.  Thanks to SCAW’s generous donors for making this distribution possible. 


Team Bangladesh 2014
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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bangladesh: 2014 Team completes distributions in North Bengal

It is Wednesday November 12th and the Bangladesh team completes their travels in North Bengal. To date we have distributed 2,240 of the 5,000 bedkits allocated to Bangladesh.

We will travel from the north in the morning by air to Dhaka. We will spend the remainder of the day resting and getting ready for our evening flight. The team is ready and eager to continue their travels to reach out to the children desperately in need.

We are looking forward to working with the Rotary clubs of this area to distribute the next 2,060 bedkits. A special thanks to all the SCAW donors who have made this all possible.

Team Bangladesh 2014

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Bangladesh: Day 5

We are working out of Rangpur today. Today we did two smaller distributions. 

This morning, we distributed 340 bedkits at a first time site – Saidpur. Boy, are the local Rotarians there quick learners – it was an extremely well organized camp. Mike, our team leader gave them 10 out of 10! The children were situated under a very colourful tent in Bangladesh colours. After the distribution, we walked a couple of blocks to a thank you luncheon. It was our first real opportunity to walk the streets; we are quite a novelty, especially with children who love to approach us and say “Hello,” and “How are you?” The luncheon had the locals falling all over us with thanks – rather humbling.

This afternoon saw us travel to a repeat site in Dinajpur to distribute a further 220 bedkits on the streetside grounds of a private club. The site was quite crowded when we arrived, but, with the help of the large police presence, the people were quickly moved out to the street, leaving inside the grounds just the children and parents. It is noteworthy that the photo of 51 children was taken with the SCAW banner partly behind barbed wire! The children were very well behaved here, although a little more reluctant to smile than some other places. There seemed to be a disproportionate number of “undersized” children, no doubt a sign of malnutrition.

It was a long day, as we were up at 6:15 am and didn’t get back to our accommodation until 7:30 pm. We have now distributed over 2,000 bedkits – that’s a lot of smiling faces!

Team Bangladesh 2014
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Bangladesh: Day 4

Our day began with a leisurely drive through rice plantations, headed towards our distribution in Lalmonirhat, in the northeastern part of the country.  We missed a turn coming in to the stadium, and ended up going down small side streets and alleys.  We were in awe of our driver's ability to navigate such tight turns.  Finally we pulled up to the distribution site,  a large cricket stadium. We distributed 550 bedkits while a cricket game was going on in the middle of the field! 

Our first challenge of the day was to figure out how to photograph groups of fifty children.  We came up with the idea of stacking some of the bundled bedkits to form benches for the children to sit on, staggering the height so that all of the children were visible. This worked well, and we were able to quickly photograph the children then give them their bedkits.

It was a very very hot day, with blistering sun even at 10am, so we did our best to minimize the time the children (and ourselves) spent in the hot sun.  There was a water pump which several of the children used it to splash some water on themselves to cool off (as did some of the SCAW team!) or have a drink. The bedkit distribution went well despite the heat, and the children seemed very grateful to receive a bedkit.

We finished off the day with a visit to a street tea shop.  Our SCAW team and our Overseas Volunteer Partners, The Rotary Club of Dhaka, squeezed in to a 10x10 tea parlour, and sampled some freshly brewed tea and milk, marvelling at the technique for brewing tea.  A great way to end a busy day, and to remember all of the happy faces and smiles of the children when they received their bedkits today.

Team Bangladesh 2014
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Monday, 10 November 2014

Bangladesh: Rangpur and Rangpur City Distribution

We awoke this morning feeling more rested. Our internal clocks have adjusted and we are oriented to this new time zone.

Today began with a breakfast shared together, and then we went to our first distribution site in Rangpur. Our Rotarian colleagues shared with us the importance of this particular site, as it took place at a school that was named after a famous woman from Rangpur. Her name was Begum Rokeya and she established the first school for girls in Bangladesh in the 1920's. She fought tirelessly for equal rights for women, and for equal opportunity for girls to be educated.

One of the mandates of SCAW is that kits are evenly distributed between boys and girls, and I imagine Begum Rokeya would have been so happy to see both boys and girls being given the gift of a good night's sleep near her own birthplace.

After all of the bedkits were distributed, we had the opportunity to visit the Begum Rokeya Memorial Centre where a statue stands in her honour.

The afternoon distribution also took place in a school setting in Rangpur. We witnessed again how polite and well behaved the children were. They however, still giggled at the bubble blowing, enjoyed the antics of the puppets and sang some silly songs with us.

After delivering 480 kits in Rangpur today we look forward to another full day tomorrow.  We will once again see children receiving the gift of love from our caring SCAW donors from Canada.

Team Bangladesh 2014
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