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Hard Life

Yes the Project is great, yes we are meeting amazing people and spend some unforgettable time with the children but only those ones who come here know what is the price. The life here is really hard. We work like dogs on the field then in the office. We have to follow up the work of the team as it's difficult for them to take initiative or just because they are not used to. Just an instant example. We are surrounded by dogs, really nice but wilde. A volunteer offered to vaccinate them to be sure they won't carry any sickness. We called the Vet who came but does not catch the dogs and our team was scared so for the 4 first dogs we had Maria and myself to run after them, catch them! Grrrr
I did not wake up a morning thinking I will just move to Bangladesh and be happy! It does not happen this way. Sometimes I wake up so tired that I don't know how I will be able to handle my day. Some days I just want to cry because emotionaly what we are facing is so hard, some days I just want to fire all the team because they don't go fast enough and sometimes like last week, I am ready to pack everything because this kind of comitment is not easy to keep. Our materialistic world is developping our ego, pampering him, filling him. Here, you just have to through your ego to the garbage bin and trust me, it does not happen in one day...
Yesterday night for example, we had a bad storm and at 3am I could not sleep anymore. First quite scared as it was violent but then I realised I was confortably in my bed, in a safe and dry place. What about our families in the Bamboo houses, what about the families living next to the ponds ?.....
At 4am Maria knocked to my door as she could not sleep either offering me to go and check if the near by families were ok. We left the building with our electric lamp. When we arrived there everybody was sleeping and no damage. Thanks god!
Three days ago, I received a call from Maria, she told me she was feeling very sick. I took a rickshaw and went to the teacher's house where she was staying. I arrived there and she was laying in the bed with a big feaver and told me she had a big pain in the throat. Honnestly? I panicked for 5 minutes... A european lady sick in a very poor area of Dhaka especially after having spent some time in the local hospital..... After couple of phone calls I came down and the doctor arrived. He gave her what we call in french a "horse treatment" (very strong ;-)). I prepared the magic potion given by my doctor in Dubai, fresh ginger boiled + honey + lemon. After 2 hours she was already a little bit better so I left. She has been very weak and sick for the next 3 days but she is ok today

04:50 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (1)


New Uniforms

Today was the first day of the morning assembly with the new uniforms sponsored by Emirates Foundation.
The children were so happy! They rarely get new clothes....
It has been quite a "marathon" to get everything done properly.
The trousers arrived with single stiches and no elastics so we had to send them back. The size were not appropriate, They were the wrong T-Shirts, wrong sweaters (thanks god winter is gone!)...
It is so hard to get acceptable quality here! We spend a lot of time explaining what is an acceptable quality and what is not! What a waste of energy, what a lesson of patience......




06:25 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (1)


News from Chika

Yesterday evening, the hospital called us saying that Chika's condition was really bad and that they did not want to take responsability to treat her. By the way that's the same people who told us the same morning that she was not in pain because she had no facial expression!!!!
Maria started to call different doctors and nurses volunteers in order to get advice. She needed to be transfered to a special unit. Finally we found one with a great website telling us it was the ultra modern burnt unit of Dhaka. I was so happy as I could imagine her beeing treated in the best conditions... (western twist of mind!)
We managed to get an ambulance and we went there with Maria and the boys, always with us as a fantastic support.


When we arrived at the hospital, I went through the normal hospital before get to the special unit. I thought I will collapse looking through the doors in the rooms. Common rooms with maybe 12 beds + patients on the floor. Family eating in the middle, dirty cloth and other things I don't want to discribe. I started to be nauseus.

Finally we reached the unit. Oh my god, old curtains dirty covering the windows to hide plastic covered beds with patients waiting in pain. So many people get burnt. In a period of time of 3 hours we saw 5 people burnt and all of them because of domestic accidents. Cooking with wood, mosquito coil set on fire a mosquito net (the 25 years old boy was totally burnt even his face - no more left ear).

Chika like many other ladies, one was just there next to her, are cooking bended down in front of a small fire place feeded with wood on the floor. He cloth got on fire but by the time she realised it, it was too late. She could not control or stop it.
We spent 3 hours there facing first the bureaucracy giving us lectures, going particularly slowly and telling us no beds were available. We have to admit that this hospital has 50 beds available for 250 patients. Maria decided to go to check by herself the space available. We went up and honnestly I had to stop after the 2nd floor as I was getting sick. I don't know how she can do it, I guess I need more "Maria's training".....
People and kids in corridors, on the floor, no matress, don't even talk about hygiene.... Maria found a bed and we went back downstairs to check Chiqa. Couple discussions later she was admitted in the treatment room.

That's the best unit of the country but it's a self service hospital meaning that the doctor gives you prescription even for the saline transfusion and the gloves and you need to go yourself to the pharmacy which is an ugly shop outside of the hospital in a dark and dirty alley.....
With all our medic, we came back and then they started to treat her. I had to come out of the room but Maria stayed there and appeared couple of minutes later with an empty pot of cream and gloves on telling me she needed more..... Maria had to show them how to put the cream as they were really hurting her.
You have to imagine that they use cotton to clean to remove the dead skin so it was getting stuck. But they have nothing else. Finally she got ready and then we heard that the bed we thought available was on the children's ward so we could not get it. We had to go to buy floor mat for her and her sister then blanckets and pillows. Maria found a small corner in a corridor and set up a "bed" for Chika...
One of the boy in the patient room dowstairs was really in pain but if you don't have money, you don't have medication.... So we bought pain killers for him and then full treatment as it is just not human to see someone suffering so much!!!

We left after midnight with a strange feeling. It's honnestly a horrible environnment if we think in our "spoiled developped medical way" but the doctors really do miracles with what they have.
This morning Massud went there. Chiqa was sleeping wich is a very good news meaning that she is not in pain. Her parents will come to visit her today. No news of the husband. It seems he does not really care and is sitting at home pissed off because she cannot bring income for a while... Her 6 weeks baby with scabies is being treated now and recovering slowly!

04:20 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Kids discovering hot shower!

A tradition here is to have couple of times a week some kids staying with us in the guest house. They watch a cartoon, play games, put some music. 2 days ago the kids just discovered the luxury of hot shower! A fantastic opportunity to enjoy a fun moment but also to have them cleaned and hair washed with anti lice shampoo ;-)


01:55 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)


Staff Party and Award Ceremony

The day following our visitors ceremony, we decided to have a staff party and award ceremony for the TDP staff. they asked the students to do the show again.
We prepared special certificates for each memeber of the team and Trophies.
One by one, maria called the team members saying a spcial and personal comments of each one.
very intense moment for all of us!


Mister Azad could not contain his emotion

jewel and Nayan won respectively the Heart Giving award and the Long lasting award ;-)

A global award for the teachers

Munna, our office manager receiving the Honnesty Award ;-))

06:40 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)


We have hired a welfare manager who is in charge of meeting all the families and check their status, their income, their living conditions and urgent needs.
Arif came the next morning with a full report showing 20 families urgently in need. We went through each case to see what we could do and what they could do themselves in order to improve their lives. It’s really difficult sometimes as they all want to work for the project. But it’s a no way. We cannot and don’t want to be the source of employment as it’s not going to develop the sustainability. Arif called all the ladies in need for a meeting. They were asking us to admit their babies in the nursery. We said ok as soon as they could prove they have found a job. We have a lot of garments factories in our area so they can work there. But they don’t want because it’s hard work. Maria decided to go to the garments with the ladies ready to work but when we arrived there only 2 out of 10 followed us.
Our vocation is not to make them dependant on us. It’s not helping them at all. We help the most needed ones, the ones who have health problems, the widows, the single mothers with many kids. But those in good health have to go to work out of the project. Our mission is to put the structure in place to help them to do it. The nursery for example. We can even extend the hours of the nursery with special shifts for those who work late but they need to understand the value of working.
We had in the group a very difficult case of this lady who has a physically and mentaly handicaped son about 10 years old. Because of his condition the mother cannot work as she needs to stay with him all the time. She is exhausted and in bad shape. Her sister is the only source of income for the family.
We have decided to help her in the sense to provide her the rent of her house and also a proper bed, mattress and mosquito net. We are also looking for a wheel chair for her son as she is exhausting herself carrying him all the time.
They spent some time with us in the office and we took him in a classroom with boys of his age and he started playing with them. We believe the best way for him to grow his mental status and social abilities is to be with other kids. So we have decided to try something. He will spend three times a week a full morning in the kindergarten. It will be very good for him but also for the other kids to develop support and compassion. The mother will then be able to rest a little bit but also to develop her skills in cooking as she is a very good one. Maria said that she could even prepare some food and sell it outside the school or even to the teachers ;-). Let see how it goes!


06:33 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Big time for the project

We were expecting the visit of big potential sponsors at least 48 hours after the opening of the school. But after our “cleaning session”, Maria receieved a message announcing that they will come next morning at 10am. Oh my god! But no panick! We will do it. The biggest challenge will be the keep the school clean while welcoming the 450 kids quiet with a proper behavior but also get the special show prepared for them ready!
Next morning, everyone thrilled by an amazing amount of adrenaline took care of his part of the job. Everybody was ready when the visitor told us there were a misunderstanding and they will come only in the afternoon! WHAT A CHALLENGE.
We had to send the kids back home and call them back at 3pm. But keeping them in the school with proper behavior has been the biggest challenge. We don’t even talk about cleaning the bathroom 30 times as they don’t even know how to use them properly!
And the weather started to be really bad with heavy rain and wind. Anyway, nothing can stop us so ;-)))
5pm they arrived and Maria started the visit of the project by the 2 rooms were the project started, then the nursery and pre school. We took their car as it was raining like mad and trying to get in the small path where the new school is, the car got stuck in a drain. Big adventure for those guys but they are used to it as both of them have been working in the humanitarian industry for years.
We ended to the school by walk. Maria introduced them to the team, then showed them the classroom with the new kids. Finally we reached the roof top where the show was taking place.
This show has been prepared by volunteers students from the best school in Bangladesh. They have trained the kids, done the costumes etc…


Difficult to describe as beyond the beauty of the songs, dance, make up, acting, there were this beauty of the pride of the kids. You could see in their eyes joy and happiness! The show started with the traditional prayer then dancing acts mixing tradition on contemporary music from well know Bangladesh singers.

They prepared a very modern act showing that any one dream can go through if you believe in it,

very intense moment followed by a choral singing “Imagine all the people” and a famous Bengla song.

All the assembly was standing up even our guest screaming their enthusiasm.

The last act was a fashion show showing different aspect of Bangladesh and their costumes from the rural people to the young students, the religious one and the established couple! Just EXTATIC



We left the school while the kids and team were partying to have a meeting with our visitors in their hotel in order to discuss the next step. We reached the Westin with our feet full of mud and totally rinsed by the heavy rain but it did not matter.
2 hours of interesting and animated discussions in order to see how we could collaborate together keeping the spirit of the Dhaka Project but putting together some “institutionalization” to be able to duplicate our way of doing things in other parts of the country and why not abroad!
We came back home totally exhausted but the heart full of joy and pride for the team and the children. Proud also that big organizations are looking at us as “diamonds” as they said! Ok they add that we will need to polish the diamond and we agree, we are still a diamond ;-)

06:05 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (1)

Getting ready

So many days without writing, we know it’s a shame for you who are following us but we have been caught by so many things.
The major one has been the opening of the new school. It happened 2 days ago. 450 new kids to admit, put them by class with a new teacher. It seems easy in any organized environment but here, it is not. Some of them come from the local schools and some of them have never been to school at all. We have decided to follow the Cambridge curriculum but in order to do it, we need to level the children first. So, for the next 4 months, all the kids will follow a fast track learning process in order to be ready in July to join the normal school calendar. Fast Track means they will have special classes where the teachers will be able to evaluate their individual abilities, they will also learn English. Then, per age and level, they will be assigned to the class accordingly.
If you could see the difference between the kids who are already in our project and the new ones, it will amaze you. The new ones are not groomed, are wild without any discipline or proper behavior. We know it’s a hard time for the new teachers but when we tell them that the TDP students who are so polished now were even worse than those ones, they keep faith.

We have an amazing team of dedicated people. The majority of them come from very good schools. It’s a challenge for them to come and teach in this part of the city. That’s why also it’s so hard to find people.
Getting good people is not the only objective as it is not enough to work with us. They need to understand the mission and the vision of the Project and sometimes it’s even harder for Bangladeshi people. Our objective is to raise the people from the slums to show them to way to get a better life. But they have always been treated as untouchables and given the most difficult and less rewarded jobs, when they get one. Inside our own organization we are training the ladies more educated to treat properly the ladies from the slums. It’s hard sometimes because in their culture, as soon as they can, they get a servant who is doing the dirty work. We had a big time in the nursery as the educated ladies did not want to change the diapers of the babies and were asking the slum ones to do it. But I think the team has found the best way to change it. Firoz and Shimul, both very educated men went there to talk to them and finally took the babies and changed the diapers themselves. What a shock for the ladies. A man doing that?
This example reinforces the fact that doing things with them will help to change the mentality. Maria and I are always treated like if we should not do any dirty job. No way! That’s not how we have been raised and that’s definitely not the spirit of the project.

The biggest example was 2 days ago when we needed to have the new school ready for opening and also the visit of potential sponsors. They announced their visit 24 hours earlier so we needed to put and emergency plan together ;-). Maria is really excellent in that. She called all the team members from the teachers to the nursery staff including the administration team to the new school.


Then she divided the team per floor and with loud dancing music everybody started to swipe, wash, clean the windows, put the chairs and teacher desk per class etc. How amazing! I think we have learned about the team members in 3 hours more than in 3 weeks. No need here to send people to motivational seminars and team building. We have done it, all in one!

Some ladies after 1 hour were sitting telling me that the broom was hurting their hands. Some were swiping the floor like if it was the most disgusting thing they have been doing in their lives. Some others started to dance together while washing the floors or laughing to watch the men doing it. Amazing time. Really!

A little apple pause before going back to the hard work ;-)

05:40 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)


New Dhaka Project Rickshaws

Transport in Dhaka is difficult. I don't even talk about traffic as you need to experience it yourself ;-). Getting a rickshaw is ok but for the tuktuk or taxi, we need to ask them first if they are ok to go where we need to go. Also yesterday I was really upset as as soon the driver sees me, he increases the price saying that his meter is not working etc... really annoying. So, we have decided also in the process of developping the guest house and start the tourism company, to get our own transport. Yesterday have been delivered 2 brand new rickshaws decorated in the tradition way but with the Dhaka Project "Touch". Next step, the car ;-)))



03:55 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (3)


Blood Collection at TDP


2 days ago, the playground of the actual school has been transformed is a huge Blood collection center.
One purpose of TDP is to create for the children, a database with all their information.
That's why a blood collection has been organised for all the children and the TDP Staff.
It has been organized by the Dhaka dental college sandhani unit through the TDP active supporter Doctor Musa in relation with the fantastic organisation DROP OF BLOOD DROP OF LIFE.
Part of their purpose is to collect, donate and organize blood grouping programs. They also distribute free medication for poor people.
The 12 doctors and dental students have been working really hard all day collecting the blood of 657 children and all the staff members.


12:05 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)


Winter Clothes

Look at their smile following the donation of the winter clothes ;-)))



Look at this cute yellow chick ;-))

06:25 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)


A great surprise for the end of the year

2007 - December, 15th - Today has been a day of surprises and emotions, Maria has given us the task of take all kindergarten children (children whose ages are between 4 and 5 years old) to the Fast Food (Fridays) in downtown! Two vans full of children, teachers and a doctor following them (trying to control children sickness who are not used to travel by car, so when they get in one ...).
d14e6be12c7fae94a32b0afccecf060c.jpgThe kids could hardly believe it. Firstly the excitement for traveling by car, then going and seeing the city (for most of them it was the first time) and finally arriving in a restaurant with an available playground, swings, kiddie slides, little playing houses, ball pits, etc. All things that might be usual to our children, but never dreamed by these Dhaka children. We didn't know who were feeling more excitement, the children or the adults, all playing crazily for hours!
During a play break they had a special lunch: fried chicken with chips and ketchup. All new to them - but a child is a child and they fast surrender to the pleasure - as any child in the world - of tasting a chip with ketchup !


We returned to The Dhaka Project premises around 3 PM, with a few kids feeling sick. As we got out of the vans Maria called us to go to the primary school. When we got there... we opened our mouths incredibly amazed!
They had prepared an end of year party. This had been the last school day of the year, now the IDE holidays have began. And Maria only got to know about this in morning before leaving to Fast Food, she had been informed that this holiday time would only begin on 20th, but as she never thinks twice and makes the things happen, immediately she decided to make a great party in this day, and not having told nothing about it to be a surprise to us.

As always, spite of having been performed in short time all was perfect, a big tent was being set up in the playground, the children were all aligned, girls had had make-ups being still prettier than ever and some children showing big posters with some says (We love Maria; We love our Teachers; Hip Hip Hurra; Sufia and Victor we'll miss you... etc). I don't know if you can imagine the emotion we felt, of having 200 children in front of us crying our names! c2079e31510d9699835474f64214d868.jpg

There was still missing a small thing to begin the party, the commercial power! There was a power cut in this city zone, that lasted for several hours (it's normal in Dhaka, almost everyday they have power cuts that could last from 1 to 12 hours.. i.e., there no lights in classrooms, no computers, email... and the worst, no water! It's not easy to work like this!). But we are in Bangladesh and here everything has a solution. Maria worked the problem out by inserting batteries in the player, connected this to a megaphone from old times, but worked !

e8be1e64136773261d1079ccca0434f4.jpgThe presentations began. Firstly a few Qur'an verses have been recited ( and the first gaffe, with Vítor and Sofia handclaps at the end... this hadn't been supposed to happen...) Then there were diverse role plays, songs, dances, some magic, performed by students and teachers.

There has been still time for a brilliant Macarena performance by Vítor, Maria and Sofia. During the show biscuits and candies have been offered to all children. The mosquitoes have also had their snack, when the evening begins here, they attack... but in this place mosquitoes look like bees, and there is no enough repellent to fight them! Killing them with insecticide? We would need to kill them with a hunt gun! It would be more efficient! :)

Meanwhile the party was spreading to families and local community who were arriving and staying to watch the show.

It ended with the appearance of a group doing awareness against AIDS, who took the advantage of having the community grouped to distribute some booklets and give some information about AIDS.
At the end we felt great emotion with all the children coming to say goodbye one by one, saying tender words, hugs, kisses, drawings and asking for a promise that one day we would come back.
Emotional and physically tired up we went back to the Guest House... and then one more surprise! Maria had organized a big farewell dinner with all Dhaka Project staff... teachers, administration team, security team, rickshaw drivers, etc. All dressing their best suits, the women, prettiest, wearing traditional clothes. Vítor and Sofia seemed to be the poor relatives, in their old and dirty clothes... So, 28 people in 3 minibuses (9 people in a van of 7) set off singing and dancing local songs. We hadn't rested but the joy was fascinating and contagious... all full of energy and even more excited than the kids during the morning.

We had dinner in a good restaurant, for most of them it was the first time, initially they felt a little shy not knowing how to behave, but rapid and diplomatically Maria gave the necessary tips and a few minutes later all were more comfortable. During the dinner, Maria told many jokes making all people feel completely familiar and all of us went to the restaurant disco. All danced, jumped and sang until midnight. The alcohol isn't allowed in Bangladesh, but I assure you that it wasn't needed a single drop to make us totally uninhibited. The sisha (local water pipe) is the only allowed extravagance, it's based on fruits and is not harmful to health.
Men danced with men, women danced with women as traditional. But at the end all of us danced together, breaking the social rules a little for satisfaction of all! 5980c6750295ebc400dec39120178066.jpg
As usual in this type of party, they didn't seem wishing to finish any more! Sofia, Maria and Vítor were all very much tired while the rest of the team was completely fresh, jumping!
We turned back feeling the same happiness we had when we initiated the programme...
Getting up tomorrow will be hard...

06:40 Posted in Daily Life | Permalink | Comments (0)