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The Road to Sirajganj continued…

Posted by: on Jun 26, 2018 | No Comments

On the bus to Sirajganj we chat and laugh…

There are frequent stops for snacks. We share shingara’s (Bengali pyramid shaped vegetable samosa’s) and potato crackers (Bangladesh branded crisps). The journey takes 5 hours and we travel on a single main road that is still under construction so it is a bumpy ride.

On arrival we sit at a chai stand sipping on tea while our host arranges our return travel and transport to our hotel which is a short distance away on a Rickshaw.

We arrive at a tall building set back through an alley way off the main village street. There is confusion as without the address you would not know that there is a hotel at this location. Our host demands that the rickshaw walla takes a large suit case carrying 25kg of clothes we have taken to Sirajganj for distribution. The rickshaw walla tugs at the suitcase which causes is to wobble back and forth but doesn’t move.

I look at him more closely for the first time and notice how thin he is. It becomes obvious to me that any attempt on this man’s part to lift this suitcase would probably result in him snapping in half.

The girls step in.

Myself and Brishti take a trolley suitcase each and Mohima draws the short straw and gets the large suitcase. Inside there is more confusion. People who live in the building do not know of the hotel. Finally a guys comes downstairs and confirms we are at the right locations and leads the way.

Our expectations for this hotel are not high but i don’t think anything could have prepared us for what came next…

By Mohima Shamsuddin

Day 2 – Journey to Sirajganj

Posted by: on Jun 25, 2018 | No Comments

Breakfast was followed by a car journey to the bus stop, two rickshaw rides in the monsoon rain to organise and exchange our cash and a two hour wait for the bus to Sirajganj…

Finally we are on our way. As we drive out of the inner city area, the air and humidity seem to lift, although I maybe confusing this with the luxury of the air conditioned bus that I am not usually accustomed to travelling on when abroad.

During our wait at the bus station Khokon Bhai, our host and founder of Shudha and Smiling Rainbow Foundation talked about the hindu village communities in Sirajganj.

They were brought to Bangladesh by the British when the subcontinent was under colonial rule. They were used to undertake jobs that nobody else would do.

As I reflect on our conversation I feel eager and curious to meet the people. They are most familiarly referred to as the untouchable race.

By Sofena Choudhury

A harrowing reality. Nightmare, doom and release.

Posted by: on Jun 23, 2018 | No Comments

We arrived in Dhaka at 17.30 Bangladesh time.

After the usual chaos of arranging visa’s on arrival and baggage collection we received a warm welcome from our hosts working on the Rainbow Project and who in affiliation with the Orphan Trust have been working on building wells in villages in Sirajganj.

We stepped out of the airport and were immediately hit by the humidity of monsoon season in Dhaka and its oh so familiar indescribable smells. From the aeroplane we witnessed that much of Bangladesh is now under water. Our host Brishti explained that there is much hardship in Sylhet which has been hardest hit.

After a long taxi drive covering only a short distance we checked in to our hotel and were accompanied to dinner at Star Kebab (thank you Christopher for the recommendation). In the CNG on the way to the restaurant Bristi described the work she has been involved with in Dhaka. She casually dropped in to the conversation that only last week she had negotiated the release of three women and their children from a brothel in Dhaka. The women have now been safely re-homed with their children and have been given some money to help them get on their feet.

Combined with the shock of the speed at which the CNG driver was aggressively accelerating towards oncoming traffic, the constant horning of drivers at one another and what we were hearing coming out of Brishti’s mouth, we pressed on with the conversation in pursuit of what we had aimed to accomplish on our mission in Bangladesh.

We were surprised to learn that the cost of releasing these women and her children amounted to less than £300! Volunteers on the ground in Dhaka build relationships with these women, and provide the long term counselling and support required to get them out of these situations. Many women are unable to leave for fear and judgement of the outside world, the ones who are brave enough are unable to because they are indebted to their captivators for rent and maintenance.

Dinner lived up to all our expectations, though it was somewhat confusing. The restaurant which is laid out over 5 floors has a beef restriction on floors 1, 3, 4 & 5. Women who are very well looked after in Traditional Bengali culture, as we have been since arriving are given special areas in restaurants. Unfortunately at this particular establishment the ladies section is located on floor 5 so we just had to make do without our sheek kebabs.

Over dinner Bristi explained that girls ages between 5 – 9 who find themselves on the streets, sometimes through the marital breakdown of parents, when the mother remarries and the step father does not wish to take on the responsibility of children from the previous marriage, are commonly raped within 3 days of being on the streets, which is followed by the doom of living out their remaining lives in a brothel. This is hard to imagine, but over the next 3 days we will meet the people who’s lives are so tainted by prejudice, that this type of nightmare can quickly become a reality.

After dinner we completed a hat-trick of Bangladesh modes of transport by travelling back to our hotel, 3 people on a cycle rickshaw.

So much fun. Watch the video.

By Sofena Choudhury

Orphan Trust video

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