"Safety and security don't just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear."

Nelson Mandela

Help us During Ramadan

Help us During Ramadan

Please consider us when donating Sadaqah or your Zakat.

Remember, when you give someone charity, be thankful to them. You may be fixing their Dunya, but you are fixing your Akhirah.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said ‘Sadaqah wipes out sins like water extinguishes fire.’

Our Mission

Posted by: on Mar 18, 2019 | No Comments

Help us During Ramadan

Help us During Ramadan

Posted by: on May 10, 2019 | No Comments

Please consider us when donating Sadaqah or your Zakat.

Remember, when you give someone charity, be thankful to them. You may be fixing their Dunya, but you are fixing your Akhirah.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said ‘Sadaqah wipes out sins like water extinguishes fire.’

Street Play With Pothoshishu

Posted by: on Mar 30, 2019 | No Comments

Today I joined Pothoshishu on their street play session with the children at Sadarghat, the main ferry terminal in Dhaka.

Hazera aged 9 lives with her mother on the streets

Pothoshishu are an organisation we have been supporting since 2012 that run regular play sessions at various locations throughout Dhaka where there are big communities living on the streets including families, orphans and runaways. Once a week these children take a break from their work or begging to step onto the Pothoshishu mat and be children for a few hours. Whilst they play, draw, relax, the volunteers talk to the children find out their situation, clean their wounds, give them medication and just be with them and love them as children should be loved.

Talking to the children I found out many were born at the terminal and that’s the only home they have known. They sleep on the terminal floor and it even their parents and their parents were born there. It seems some families are trapped in the terminal and have lived there for a few generations. They’ve never known living in a proper home.

Speaking to their mothers, it seems they are resigned to the fact that they’ll be there forever, with no dreams or aspirations of ever getting a roof over heads.

Riad aged 4

The government have centres around the terminal which provide three meals a day for the children and facilities for them to wash. If they wish, they are able to help the children enrol into school. The problem is that the parents need the income from the children and are reluctant to allow them to go to school. There is no desire amongst this group to improve or to move on.

One mother became quite animated when I asked her why she didn’t allow her child to go to the centre for food or enrol him into school. She herself has been brought up on the streets. She claimed the centre was there to drug and steal children for their eyes and their kidneys. She clearly didn’t trust the Government and said “I would rather die free then be trapped in the system where my body parts will get sold off to help rich people”.

Shahejalal, an orphan aged 15

As is usual in Bangladesh, we had a crowd of people gathered around us during this conversation who all agreed with her. It is so sad how apathetic these children are and how they are resigned to their fate. Looking around at these kids some orphaned or accompanied by their parents, they are all ragged with dirty clothes, no shoes, blisters and cuts, but somehow accepting their circumstances.

What do you do when the children and their parents mistrust the system so much? They have been let down by the system and would rather live with nothing, begging, stealing and borrowing, rather than utilise the little help that is available to improve their lives.

This is something we are trying to address by supported projects such as Pothoshishu. In today’s session the children were asked to draw pictures of themselves with their best friends doing a happy activity together.

Khadija aged 8 lives with her family at the terminal

The childrens’ ages ranged from 3 to 15. Some struggled to hold a pencil properly and most struggled to even draw a circle freely. Their hand movements were rigid and concentration tense. That they couldn’t draw a circle freely, or had limited imagination was so sad. Is it an indication of missed childhood, of having to grow up fast as you can’t afford to be a true child when you are living on the street.

These children deserve so much better. Please help us to help them. You can donate here:

 

 

 

 

Habit, an orphan aged 10

Sonia, a runaway aged 15

Rihan, an orphan aged 12

Kushi aged 10

Rubel aged 6

Faisal aged 9

Dilemma

Posted by: on Mar 28, 2019 | No Comments

Since arriving in Dhaka I have had the privilege of sitting with many street children in various locations throughout the city. I have been lucky enough to befriend them, chat and laugh with them, joke and play with them, eat with them and even get cuddles from some of them.

The first thing to note is that I have not seen any girls. In previous visits there were many girls sleeping on the streets. They used to cut their hair short to look like boys to avoid molesters and perverts. Although I have been offered various explanations from the boys, I’m not convinced. I know the truth about where the girls are and why they cannot be seen.

All of the boys that I have met are from very poor backgrounds. They are children of peasants from villages or children of labourers living in city slums. One of the most common themes to our conversations is how the boys came to be on the streets. Most seem to have left home to escape beatings from a step-parent or relative. How severe this violence was is unclear.

To add context, it is common in Bengali culture to hit children. A slap on the back or slap to the back of the head is not unusual, in fact it’s the done-thing.

The people of Dhaka refer to a lot of these street children as ‘dropouts’. Whist their parents are at work as maids, labourers or drivers, the kids skip school and roam the streets. They become lured by the glamour and freedom of street life, earning their own money, free to do as they will. This together with arguments with parents or an uncomfortable life at home at the hands of their guardians causes them to run away. 

The move from a corrugated tin hut or a mud hut or a squalor in the slum to a railway platform or a bus station is not a massive change for them. Once on the streets the kids become accustomed to living without rules and become embroiled in the lower echelons of crime. They have masters (known as mash tans) who control them and it becomes difficult for them to return back home.

I spoke to a few children who tried to go back home but their parents no longer wanted them so they returned to the street. They couldn’t hack the rules of home and all the beatings. Some say they checked in to one of the local children centres run by various government agencies and NGOs throughout the city. After a few weeks or months they go back to the street, because they are mistreated or they cannot tolerate the structure and rules at the centres.

So my dilemma is this; by helping these kids once they’ve left home, are we perpetuating the problem? By showing them help, support and care, are we adding to the lure of street life? If we don’t help them, show them love, support and encourage them to return home or stay in a centre, what will happen to them?

I’m full of questions and do not know the answers. What I do know is that all these boys loved every bit of attention I gave them. They took me into their group as one of their own, cared for me, put me on the bus home, insisted I eat and drink with them and asked me to come back to spend more time with them. They seemed so grateful to have someone who wanted to know them.

For a few hours they were normal children again.

Taking 10 Street Children for a Hot Meal

Posted by: on Mar 25, 2019 | No Comments

On arriving at Kamlapur  station it took a while to gain the trust of the children that lived there. First a couple of boys asked for money. I said I wasn’t there to give them money. As the crowd of street kids and curious onlookers grew I tried to find an angle to strike of a conversation. The opportunity came when I found out one of the boys came from my home district. The boys made jokes and banter but once they realised that I was there to spend time with them and get to know them, within about an hour they have become my protectors. 

Bangladesh is a funny place where as soon as people see a new face or something happening a crowd gathers if it is people have lots of time to stand around. there is absolutely no privacy. It took us a while to get rid of unwanted attention and bystanders who when  seeing me  with the boys rushed to my rescue asking the boys to move and stop harassing me. When I explained it was me who wanted to hang out with them, they looked confused and then become cross and asked me my motives. In their eyes why would anyone be interested in these worthless street kids? It seemed the boys business was their business. 

Once we managed to fend off the unwanted attention I managed to get the boys to talk a little about their stories and how they had ended up living at the station. All had run away from home or been abandoned by parents who couldn’t afford to keep them. None had a plan of how they would escape this life. All survived doing petty work for local street vendors, carrying bags for passengers and I’m sure on occasion petty crime (which they wouldn’t admit to me of course). I asked where all the girls were, as on my last trip there were many that lived on the station. They said the station had become too dangerous for girls. They were violated by both the police and other predators and so that simply found other places to stay. 

They were grateful for the wash bags and the Savlon and plasters which they used straightaway on the many cuts sores and grazes they had their arms and legs. One even started brushing his teeth right there in front of me. 

The boys were kind courteous charming. They asked after my family my children and asked if I could find on permanent work. I was struck by their friendship and camaraderie.

It was eight in our group and I said I’d like to take them out to dinner. I said I would take 10 to dinner in the hope that along the way they would pick up a few friends. By the time we got the Restaurant the  crowd had grown into about 20 but the boys were careful to ensure the number remained at 10 even though I said I was happy for all 20 to eat. Although I encouraged them to have what they want (and expecting a few of them to order the most expensive thing on the menu) they agreed amongst themselves to  order a meal of chicken curry, rice and Dahl each. I was so struck by their manners and courtesy. They organised themselves and ensured everyone ate and even organised the bill . In my head I had worked out the bill of £1.60 per meal per boy yet by the time that I got the bill I paid £1.20 per boy. It appears they negotiated the bill down on my behalf too. Then they walked me to the bus stop, made sure I got on the right bus and saw me off.

It was amazing how quickly they had accepted me as one of their family because I took the time to sit with them to talk to them listen to them, to ruffle their hair to ask their names, to laugh with them and banter with them. They are all such beautiful souls and even with no hope of ever getting off the streets they carry on with smiles and camaraderie. Such heroes.