Sunday, 26 October 2008

With MRDF in Bangladesh - Day 4

We woke up this morning to torrential rain and it hasn't stopped all day. It has been a completely different experience seeing the work of CSKS on such a rainy windswept day. It makes the plight of the street children even worse, if that's possible, as many of them aren't able to work, they are saturated if they are collecting rubbish or running errands and they have nowhere to return to except under a verhanda or in a shop doorway. So once again we have seen how vital this work is in trying to help some of the street children live in the centres and begin to find a place of safety and security.

Our day has been spent in the Sadarghat area whuich we went to on Friday. We went down by the river and saw the huge boats which bring people from different parts of the country . Some of the children carry the large parcels of passangers on and off these huge ferries to earn some money. We were walking in the rain, with umbrellas and getting very wet. People looked at us in a strange way, especially as we were taking photos of the rain!!

We walked to where the small boats to cross the river were and some children were being gathered by the link workers and then getting into the boats to get to the centre. Some children find their own way to the Sadarghat centre but many still need 'collecting' and taking across the river.

As we walked through the flowing water trying to step on hard core rather than sludge down the side of the huge market we saw a couple of children collecting rubbish. This led us to go into the area where they take the full sacks and we met one of the buyers who explained that they recycle the paper, plastic and bottles. The boys earn 30-40 pence for each full bag of rubbish!

We eventually made our way to the centre where we were greeted with cheers, smiles, waving and lots of thumbs up signs from boys and girls once again seated in rows in the large activity hall. We arrrived just in time for the activity slot of stretching, bending and clapping followed once again by singing. Their theme song is 'We shall overcome' which they sing with all their hearts...and it is a moving moment to understand who is singing about 'we are not alone'...and 'we are not afraid',,,,,,,,,,,,

The 150 children/young people were then told to go into their groups........but for the boys this meant staying in the hall for the President's Cup. When we left on the Friday I had challenged them to a game of cricket: England (we three) vs Bangladesh....but the rest of the English team (Amanda and Audrey) let me down and said they had to do some indepth interviews with the girls!! So in the end we played a 7 a side cricket match of staff (including me) and some of their teenage boys. The wicket was drawn in chalk on the wall, the coin was tosssed, we won and decided to bat. At this point the electricity failed...and for the whole of our innings we had to play with the one light the emergency generator brings on. It made seeing the ball difficult but we managed to score 55 runs - I think I made about 14 and was then cleaned bowled. As we were making inroads into their team would you believe it but the electricity returned....and I think this is the only reason we lost!! The boys enjoyed it and it was a deep pleasure to see how much this simple game brought them to life.

After our sad defeat the boys also went into their classes and I watched rather incredulously as the older boys brought out their woodwork which was a double bed!! They are well on the way to finishing this and it will fetch a good price in the market when it is sold.

I spent a time with a group of children who were colouring/doing art and one older boy was on an old computer practising writing the days of the week. I discovered that this set are those children who are at school. As reported elsewhere in the blog about 35 children from across all the centres are in school and come January they hope to have a further 50 children join them. This is such a wonderful outcome. Street children who have no hope, no life, no acceptance are now in full time education. As they went round the children many of the 8 or 9 in the circle had come in the top 20 out of their class/year of 130. One girl is now in grade 5 so in January she will be the first child from CSKS to go into High School, so long as she gets a high enough pass in the end of primary school exam.

There was a group of boys tailoring trousers and jeans....with others learning the basics. Three of these young men (15-16 years of age) have got jobs with tailors in the market nearby and will soon be moving to independent living...finding accomodation in a hostel and earning a living(?) wage from their tailoring. The girls/young women were making some lovely clothes. About ten of them are in full time employment and still living in the centre for the next stage of their transition into society. At the back of this group were a number of girls learning...I discovered that a number of these had been released from prison by CSKS only last week...this accounted for the vacant, lost, bewildered look we have seen in some of the eyes of the girls both last Friday and today.

Our visit to CSKS would not have been so helpful were it not for the staff. I have been very impressed by the quality of the area managers, the teachers, the link workers, the centre mangers...everyone we have met has been dedicated to this 'ministry amongst the most vulnerable'. It is spearheaded by a man of God, the director, Prince. He is so committed to lifting up the poor and vulnerable. He could have been in a job earning lots of money but has chosen to develop CSKS but this is only possible through the support of his whole family and financially because of a legacy left after his father's death. He invited us back to his home to meet his wife and their lovely 4 year old daughter. We shared a lovely meal together and talked about our families and the things that are important to us.

As we said our goodbyes we embraced each other and I asked God's blessing on him. Whatever faith he may hold I have seen the grace and love of God at work here through this caring organisation. So I thank God for Prince, his staff and all the children we have met. Please pray for them that this wonderful inititive may continue to develop and so transform the lives of many more children in the years ahead.

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