Friday, 24 October 2008
with MRDF in Bangladesh - Day 2
Our second day in Dhaka (Friday) has been as humbling and exciting as yesterday.
We were taken to Sadarghat which is by the river in the older part of the city. We went by boat which was an experience in itself -
crossing the river along with hundreds of small boats vying for space with ocean container vessels into a small tributary which looked like raw sewage watching some boys in their very small craft trying to spear fish. Getting up the slope from the boat was a real test particularly for Amanda and Audrey wth flip flops on.
We were taken to the Children's centre which CSKS own. It was brought through the gift of a minister in Britain. This centre has four floors and all the children were gathered waiting for us in the hall on the ground floor. There were about 150 of them with the boys wearing their yellow tee-shirt and the girls a beautiful selection of dresses. As we arrived we were greeted with the gift of flowers and then the electricity came back on so they could perform their songs and dances for us.
The singing was led by some of the older girls/young women who are in the semi independent group. This is for those girls who have done well in their schooling and in the dress making and are being prepared to leave the centre to have jobs and live by themselves. As we learn more about the project I am more and more impressed. When the children are learning carpentry, candle making, dress making they earn money as I shared yesterday. So all these girls have money kept by CSKS for when they leave.
We spent an hour and half with the staff from the Sadarghat Centre and found some of them have been wih this charity for over 14 years. Each time we ask the question we are told that they do this work because they are committed to all that CSKS stands for in trying to help the poorest most vulnerable children. Many of them work part-time and earn a living wage elsewhere or have a husband/wife who supports them. We shared today that we /MRDF are working with them because of our Christian faith and our love of God. Athough most of the staff are Muslims with a few Hindu's there is real thanks and appreciation for all the Methodist people are doing for/with them.....so thank you from Bangladesh.
We were really privileged to meet with a number of young women who were willing to tell their stories - of how they had been separated from parents, abandoned, lost in an unsafe world.....of the impact CSKS has had upon their life. Two of them who have married (really unheard of for street children to fail so we have fewer pictures and I didn't bring my camera lead.
We took the sweets we had received from the British Airways staff and there seemed enough to go round but some children seemed to get quite a few!
We left the centre and returned on the boat in a little drizzle of rain. As we walk people keep staring at us....not because of my looks or even Amanda but really people are fascinated by Audrey's hair - all her own platted in dreadlock style....one older woman reached out to feel her hair as we passed....and many people are taking photos on their cell phones as they pass.....it's great to be with such a star!
The three of us went to visit Bishop Michael Baroi. head of the United Church in Bangladesh (Anglican, Methodist, Presybterian, Church of Scotland etc...) and we were so graciously received by him and his wife Mary, their daughter in law and grand daughter. We shared together for over an hour about life in Bangladesh, the Church, their relationship with the Methodist Church in Britain and much more. I asked him what he would ask of the church in Britain and he said that first and foremost it is that we remember the Church in Pakistan in our prayers. We prayed together and for one another.
Today is a holiday in Bangladesh, like our Sunday, so it has been much quieter and so when we returned about 5.00pm we decided to go shopping.....for some of the beautiful Asian dresses - it's been hard stopping both Audrey and Amanda from buying in each shop we went in...but so far we haven't made the recession any worse by extravagant over spending!