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Day 6: The training was a success!

Posted by: on Apr 3, 2015 | No Comments

Hasan and Catriona.

So the training was a success – hooray! It was well received by the participants and there were no cock ups – result! It was a busy day, we covered a range of theory around play, brain development and communication; we played lots of lively group games and got a bit of practice in as well. The participants worked really hard, as did our interpreters Lubna and Hasan. It’s not easy delivering or attending training that has to largely be translated – but everyone stayed as focused as they could. There were some tired faces and scrambled brains by the end of the day though. Next Friday we’ll meet with the volunteers again, the day will focus more on the practical side of the training. Giving people a chance to practice and develop some of the therapeutic play skills they will have been learning about. One of the participants said the highlight of their day today was learning about, and now understanding, the difference between empathy and sympathy.    There were a number of highlights for me today, but one had to be getting to use a handheld mic – which all day made me feel like I was an MC in a drum and bass rave!!

After the training Khokon, one of the original founders of Pothoshishu, invited us to his beautiful home for another delicious meal. Before dinner we sat in his rooftop garden and met his extended family. Then he proudly showed us his collection of wooden sculptures and carvings capturing historic figures and also his extensive range of post revolution Soviet literature on child development and child rearing, all translated in to Bangla. Another wonderful meal followed, prepared by his wife and sister-in-law. Then it was time to head home for the night.

Khokon bha

Apologies if my contribution to the blog is a bit short, but it’s been a tiring day, I’ve just finished my post training G&T and my bed is calling me. Night night.


By Catriona

Day 5: Training preparation day.

Posted by: on Apr 2, 2015 | No Comments

It was only a matter of time before we were hit by Bangla belly – and in the name of team spirit we’ve all gone down with it around the same time. I hasten to add that this is unconnected to the amazing meals that we’ve been treated to recently at some of the volunteers’ homes, this was a pre-existing condition.

Timing wise it’s not ideal, as tomorrow Catriona and Menna will deliver the first day of the Therapeutic Play Skills training programme to Pothoshishu Sheba Songothon volunteers (and a couple of other participants from other organisations and Dhaka University).

The focus of today has mostly been around preparing for the training and checking the venue, facilities and resources are all good to go tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to seeing some familiar faces tomorrow, as well as meeting more of the volunteers – and hope that our Therapeutic Play Skills training programme will be of help to an already very knowledgeable, talented and skilled group of people.

By Catriona

As therapeutic practitioners we truly believe that ‘sharing is caring’. We believe in this so much that one of us couldn’t bear to fall ill with ‘Bangla Belly’ without kindly sharing it with the other two. We are kindly sorts like that you see!

Our busy day was made ‘slightly’ more stressful with each of us battling sickness, tummy cramps and frequent loo trips (not always easy to find in

a city like Dhaka!) However the British Bulldog mentality prevailed (helped by the many wonderful friends, like Hasan, we have made here) and we battled through, each of us thinking of our beds and showers waiting for us at the end of the day. Bliss! (well, apart from Christopher who has a cold bucket shower and sleeps on what basically is a metal railing – not bliss for him!!)

It made us think of what it must be like for the millions of less fortunate people surrounding us in this ‘full on’ city when they become ill. What do they do? Where do they go? Who looks after them?… A sobering thought and one that made us truly grateful for the comforts we have here.
We were lucky enough to be invited to Hasan’s family home for the most amazing meal and where we were welcomed with the legendary Bangladesh hospitality, and met his siblings and parents.  Thank you Hasan and your family for looking after us so well!

Tomorrow is an exciting and slightly nerve wracking day for us – we present our training course for the first time! 18 months of hard work and planning have led up to this point. We hope we are ‘good enough’!! We will let you know tomorrow how it goes… Night night for now, Nosda…

By Menna

Day 1: Dhaka Play Therapy Trip

Posted by: on Mar 29, 2015 | No Comments


Smooth arrival despite being at the back of a long visa queue and so…. into a very misty Bangladeshi morning we went….

From my room in the Jaago Foundation school I can hear the sounds of Bengali children singing, a few steps down the corridor and I’m in a reception class lesson, 25 beaming 5 year old smiles enthusiastically learning their numbers from 20 to 30! Up the stairs and there are children using algebra to work through linear equations. From the rooftop looking down 5 children are playing a version of ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’ in the courtyard. The children here at Jaago are outgoing and at every turn there is a child offering their hand for a high five! They seem happy and secure and they show this through their play, they have a safe base here. The school works in a very carefully considered and well thought out way with the local Rayer Bazaar community, importantly the school operates morning and afternoon shifts with children completing either one or the other rather than enforcing full time school commitment. This trusting relationship with the local community will create a lasting change.

I’m staying in the room with a young English volunteer, Josh who has completed a Masters in International Development and who has done research on ‘street kids’ in Rio. He stresses the importance of first building relationships and trust before embarking on rehabilitating ‘programmes’ and cites Brazil and Rio’s governance as a very poor example of this. Before the world cup, laws were changed to allow police to take children away from the city centre, the city centre was where NGOs were based, had built relationships and were delivering change. Police took children away from this safe base and ‘stuck’ them straight into drug clinics and attempted to rehouse them. The result of this poorly planned, reactive strategy where time was not taken to build relationships, trust and a safe base caused children to run away, disappear and sadly lose any trust previously built up.



So, our first day in crazy, chaotic, beautiful Dhaka city is coming to a close.

After a journey of 4965 miles, a brief stop in Istanbul, many movies watched, pages read, and the slowest visa queue known to man -we arrived!

Wisdom has dictated that ‘it’s about the journey, and not the destination’ however when we landed in Bangladesh I had to disagree. Arriving at this destination is the beginning of a whole new journey and adventure in it’s own right.

Everything is bigger, louder and more overwhelming here. From the continuous sound of bells and horns, traffic chaos, glimpses of extreme poverty and suffering, and the friendliness and hospitality from everybody we have met so far – Bangladesh certainly packs a punch!

What stories we will be able to relay over the next 12 days ahead of us…. We look forward to sharing our adventure with you all.


We’re staying in Rayer Bazar – in the middle of a lively food market district. Which means stalls and stalls of beautiful brightly coloured fruit and veg, punctuated by the occasional stall of goats heads and bloody insides (slightly
less appealing if you’re a vegetarian like me…) It also means loads and loads of people and loads of rickshaws and loads of noise!

It felt like we had properly arrived in Dhaka once we’d all had a cup of hot, sweet chai and then piled in to some rickshaws. Me and Menna squeezed in to one with Theresa, the German volunteer we’re sharing an apartment with. Amongst the many rickshaws that filled up the streets, we were the only white Western women riding in a rickshaw and needless to say we drew a lot of stares. Some of the younger men driving rickshaws looked quite wide eyed and envious of our rickshaw driver having us in the back. However I’m sure they were less envious when they saw what hard work it was getting us three up a slight hill! Even our driver had to give up and push the bike for a bit, which made us all feel really bad and really fat… We wanted to get out and help push but our driver wasn’t having any of it.

Our apartment is opposite a massive outdoor play area – which is perfectly placed for Menna and me as play therapists! It means we can very easily observe how some children play here. It’s mostly boys playing cricket and the occasional game of football, it’s all child led with very few adults around and there’s very little conflict within or between the groups of children.

Talking of football I’m very pleased to report that the only football shirts I’ve spotted being worn here so far are Chelsea and Man City shirts. Some of you might believe this is a result of successful marketing campaigns in Asia by the two premiership clubs, however I think it’s more to do with Dhaka residents having excellent taste in football teams…


Posted by: on Mar 18, 2015 | No Comments

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Posted by: on Dec 12, 2014 | No Comments

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Sometimes I hate Bangladesh

Posted by: on Nov 22, 2014 | No Comments

Three years ago I found out about a little girl who was chained to a railing by her mother and pimped out every night.

The girl is mentally disabled so she cannot speak or defend herself. A local charity said they were trying to free this girl from her mother. Today when I met the charity I enquired after the girl. Apparently she still there!

Very happy boy receiving the Green Dragon Washbag

These people claim to be powerful and have connections and they can’t stand up against some little old lady and free this girl. What is the point of having all these groups about if they can’t help someone knowing they’re in that much danger? I just feel so awful and helpless. The girl is mentally disabled and so no orphanage or Children’s Hospital will take her. I really don’t know what to do. I really hate this place.

It doesn’t help the way I am feeling very much but today I continued with handing out the wash bags. As you can see, the street children really appreciated them, in particular the George the Green Dragon one featured in my blog before we went. The little boy’s smile helped to take away some of the demons going round in my head.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a little less traumatic.

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