Archive for April, 2010

The Colours of Bangladesh


It was during one evening, when we were having dinner with the entire World Vision staff from the Patenga ADP,  that the wife of Dr. Shatadal Dhar, asked me what my impressions of Bangladesh were.  The first thing that came to my mind was the word “colourful”.  Everywhere you look in Bangladesh you can see bright and vibrant colours. Whether it is the flowers on the bushes or the trees, or the flags flying from the businesses, or the clothing of the people, everywhere you look your eyes can be treated to a frenzy of bright and intensely wonderful colours.

All smiles

But it is more than just the environment that is colourful. The people are just as warm and energetic and exciting. They are fully animated in their conversations, and their smiles magnify a warm welcome wherever you go.

So it seemed only fitting that when we had our art and photography workshops with the children that we celebrated the colourfulness of Bangladesh.

We had a couple of “purposes” for our art workshop. One was to help the children realize the importance of community development and progress through their families involvement with the various World Vision projects in the Patenga Area Development Program. The second was to have fun creating art.

I focused on the second one the most. The first just fell into place.

We had a blast creating. We made a community quilt, a mural of flowers using hand prints, and a collage of favourite places within the childrens’ village.

Collages of the children's favourite places

Our Community Quilt

Hand print flowers


Cynthia passing on artistic advice


I could tell the children were having fun just by watching them as they became engrossed in their art work.

But it wasn’t until the day of the art and photography show that I finally understood the full impact of our five days with the children.

A mother told us that the children were always very excited to return to our workshops – simply because they had never had the opportunity to paint, or use pastels, or use colourful paper to create collages, or do any of that creating stuff. Their only experience of art in school was to colour within the lines in a colouring book.

Just hearing that made all the hours spent in the hot classroom, feeling the sweat drip down my nose, very worthwhile.

But rather than attempting to tell you about the workshop and the great times we had, I’ll just tell you in pictures.

Totally engrossed


All dressed up before the show!


Thumbpainting our collage frames


Until next time, keep a smile on your face…


World Vision volunteer

P.S  I’m sorry for the delay in sending this latest blog out – my computer has been on the fritz and I couldn’t download my pictures.  I will be adding more to my blog every other day or so, so please continue to follow along and give any comments.  Even though I’m back in Canada, my heart still feels like it is Bangladesh.


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Coming Home

It’s early morning and I’m back in Canada.  I’m so tired, but I think it is more of an emotional tired than physical.  Even though the flight home was long – one flight taking 19 1/2 hours – along with several 2 hour flights on top –  my mind keeps on seeing images from Bangladesh and I must admit that they are difficult to “resee”. 

Karl found me crying this morning while I tried to eat my breakfast.  I think that while I was in Bangladesh I only cried a couple times because everything around us was “the norm”  Now that I am home, the images I see in my mind are in such a contrast to what I see here at home that it is all the more difficult to see them again.

Like the boy who was laying naked on the street.  He was probably around my son’s age.  Perhaps a bit younger.  Turn the tables.  Make him your own child and see how you react.  It becomes even more painful, doesn’t it?

If there is anything that I have learned from this trip, it is that if I am truly to understand and have true compassion for these people, I must remember that each child is a child like my own.   He or she has the same needs, the need for love, for compassion and for hope in a good future. 

I often wonder if we cope with seeing  the images on t.v. by distancing ourselves from the problem – and the children and families who are affected by the problem.  We think: they aren’t our children, we don’t know them, the world is full of children who suffer like these, what can I do about it?   However, when we do this we deny ourselves the opportunity to feel true compassion and in turn do something to change it.   As difficult as it is to “turn the tables” in our mind, the sense of goodness and fulfillment when we are instruments in making a positve change powerfully overcomes this feeling of despair.

And that is what I must set out to do from this day forward.  I must allow myself moments in which I “turn the tables” and make each child my own.  But in doing so I must also remember that I am capable of creating change in their lives. 

Could you also do the same?

Houses along side of the railway track

A common sight - heavy loads and hard working people.

Taking a break from the noon day sun.

Setting up shop - another new career change.

Thank you for listening today.  I know over the next few days it will take some time for me to adjust.  Tomorrow’s blog will be on a much happier note – I’m looking forward to telling you all about the art and photography show we had to display all of the childrens’ work from the workshops we ran for 5 days.  We had a very wonderful day – and I don’t think I have ever seen such a group of happier children in all of my life.

Until tomorrow…

Donna White

World Vision volunteer

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A Good Story

The other day I wrote about meeting a young girl who spent her days, like so many other children in Bangladesh, sorting through garbage and cleaning plastic bottles. 

She has been on my mind ever since.

I spoke to the chairman of the World Vision Patenga Area Development Project about this girl and asked him if it would be possible to get her into the child sponsorship program. 

He asked me if I could direct him to where I had seen her and to show him the pictures I had taken of her.  He then said that he would find her and speak to her mother about joining the program so that the young girl would be able to go to school. 

I found out that there may be some obstacles to overcome.  If the family is transient then it would be difficult to keep her within the program – although if the girl were to be sponsored perhaps her family would be more willing to set up a home permanently.  Also, the family may not be willing to put their daughter into school since they may insist that she is needed to help provide for the family.  If this is the case more assistance would be provided in the way of covering tuition fees, school materials, and a school uniform.  Her mother would also be able to participate in the business training programs and would then be able to provide a more stable income for her family.

I was assured that World Vision would do their best to get her into the sponsorship program.  When this happens I will find a sponsor for her.

It has been a difficult 2 weeks here in Bangladesh.  The surrounding poverty can be overwhelming.   And the opportunities to help are everywhere – but – one can not do it all.  I couldn’t stop to help the naked boy I saw laying on the side of the road today.  And I couldn’t put money into the hands of all of the children and their mothers who greeted us at the hotel entrance this morning when we headed off to the World Vision office. 

But I can help this girl.

And this is what I will think about before I go to sleep this evening.  You see, the images of what I see every day are there when I close my eyes at night.  But the feeling of hope that I have because of the perseverance and dedication of the people of Bangladesh and World Vision helps me to rest more soundly. 

I will be heading back to Canada on Sunday.  I’ll probably cry most of the way home.  I will miss Bangladesh.  Everyone here has been so wonderful.  I have been very blessed to be given this opportunity to come here.  Thank you everyone at Marlin Travel for sending me.   I think I know why I was sent here.  But that is another story, which I will have to write when I get home.

Donna White

World Vision volunteer

A picture or two…

drying peppers

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She Dared to Dream


Every once in a while on this trip I stray from the usual pathway in search of a story. Today, as we were heading to the WV office, I saw a small boy of 3 or 4 years, walking by himself carrying a sack of twigs and kindling. I was drawn to him instantly. He carried his load with a purpose, not grudgingly, but with determination in doing his job and helping his family. I admired him and I wanted to take his picture. When we turned the corner and parked our van at the office, Alex, a fellow WV volunteer and interpreter came with me to find the boy. We couldn’t find him.

As we started back I looked over at a building that was surrounded by huge piles of plastic bottles. I had to investigate.

We walked over to find a young girl and her mother and brother at work taking the labels off of the bottles and throwing them into another pile. My heart, like yours, had you seen it face to face, instantly ripped. It was obvious that this young girl’s life was not filled with school books, after school chores and time spent playing with her classmates and friends.

I asked if I could take her photo and she smiled. I wonder if anyone had ever asked her that. When I showed her her photo in the view finder she smiled. And then she returned to her work.

And as I walked away – just a couple steps – I met a young girl going to school.

Ten steps between them – one girl sitting on a garbage pile sorting through plastic bottles, the other girl heading off to school.

And that is what it is like in Bangladesh. Sad – and somehow you just don’t get used to it.

If this girl’s family could be part of the Patenga ADP, if she could be a sponsored child, she would be going to school. Plain and simple.

But allow me to tell you another story…

We set off today to visit Gultaz, a woman whose thriving embroidery business exists all because of the assistance of World Vision’s business training program. Gultaz’s life was made difficult when her husband was hurt at work and could no longer support the family. For three years their family barely survived. Until one day Gultaz heard of a program that provided women with training so that they could start up their own businesses. Gultaz was immediately drawn to the idea – but because she lacked any education and couldn’t even write her own name – many people told her that she shouldn’t even waste her time on such a dream.

Gultaz didn’t listen to them. She took the course, got a sewing machine and a loan to put up a shop and she has not looked back since. She now employs 22 people and has just taken on filling an order for 200 saris to send to Germany.

Gultaz, her family and some of her employees

Her shop is appropriately called “Touch of a Dream”.

A woman with no education, no money, no encouragement but loads of persistence and a given opportunity, proved them wrong. I like that. It made me realize that yes, even the most destitute dare to dream. And once given the opportunity, the chance, they only need to apply their own persistence and great things can happen.

If you wish to contribute to this program you can do it through World Vision’s sponsorship program. Or you may go to World Vision’s gift catalogue where you can purchase a no interest rate business loan for a person in a developing country.

Go for it.

Donna White

World Vision volunteer

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P.S.  Thanks for being so patient everyone.  We have been experiencing a large number of electrical problems in the past 2 days.  Lack of internet service, room keys not working, power outages etc.  But all is well now – so I’ll work on putting together another blog tonight.  We’re heading off to a sewing/embroidery business today and continuing with our workshops.  Until then, I hope all is well…

Creating collages

For the past couple of days I have had the pleasure of “teaching” art to a group of 16 children, ages 8 to 12.  It is a part of the World Vision Art and Photography Workshops that we are putting on in order to celebrate the progress of the Patenga Area Development Project.  Whether our art lesson has involved painting our hands or creating collages using ripped paper, leaves, seeds or whatever is imaginable, our focus has been on community development and personal dreams.

Building a roof for Sazzid's houseThe children were very eager to help us in putting together a community quilt of all of their favourite places in their district.  Everything from their school to their favourite meeting tree was included.  When the opportunity to create a collage of their future homestead was given to them, they really excelled.  Their pictures were colourful; full of gardens, green trees, livestock, happy faces, and hopeful dreams.

Daring to Dream

It made me think about children and whether or not they dare to dream.  The children at our workshop have already been instilled with the idea that because of the progress and development that has been occurring in their area, they will be able to continue with their education and have a life that is improved beyond that of their parents’.  It is very satisfying to hear children tell of their dreams to become teachers, doctors, and business owners and know that these dreams are closer to being a reality than ever before.

But I wonder about the children whose everyday job is to sort through the garbage to find plastic water bottles to bring to the recycling plant.  What do they dream about?  Or do they even dare?  It is probably easier not to have any hopes and aspirations so that defeat, which is more likely inevitable, has no chance of coming in the first place.  Those who never dream will never be disappointed.

I remember a man rebuking me for believing that poverty could be eliminated.  He was wrong.  The solution for the eradication of poverty from our world exists.  It is possible.  But is it up to us.  Shaking our fists at God for not intervening and not creating a perfect world only takes the onus off of us.  God uses our hands as His hands, our voices as His voice.  Why do we deny ourselves the opportunity to be used by God to help others?

My dream is that poverty will be eliminated and that boys who search through garbage piles on the side of the street will have the opportunity to dare to dream.  But it is up to you and me.  Go for it.

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The Well

I remember several years ago my sister had gone to Indonesia.  She told me that during the first few days she was shocked by the amount of poverty that she saw:  the beggars, the garbage, the smells, the crippled people sitting on the sides of the road with their arms out.  But after a few days, she became accustomed to it, and the things she saw were just part of her every day surroundings.  I didn’t understand how one could become accustomed to seeing poverty so prevalent, but I am starting to understand it now. 

It is not as if one becomes cold and indifferent – no I don’t think that can happen to many people – but one’s perspective changes.  The children who are seen rummaging through the garbage aren’t pitied as before as much as they are admired now.  They are survivors who search for plastic so that they can take it to the recycling plant for a few takas.  And the woman who greets us every day with her outstretched hands and motions to her children and to their mouths is seen as a mother who places her children above herself and dismisses the humility of begging so she can feed her children.

It is a humbling experience when one thinks of how we complain in Canada about the long hours we put in for the wages we make.  We desperately need a good kick in the butt, to put it mildly.

But I don’t want to focus on these things now.  There are happier and more hopeful things to share.

We had several stops today, a Safe Motherhood program that oversaw both pre and post natal programs for mothers, a community based business program that helped women start businesses to improve the livelihood of their families, and, of course, I had a home visit with Ahsanul, a sponsored child. 

But sometimes it is the little places where one strays off the pathway that we find the best stories.

The women at the well

While we were visiting a group of women at a community meeting I noticed a tube well, a simple pump well with a cement base sitting next to a household.  I am always curious to know what organization is responsible for drilling different wells so I asked a World Vision worker from Bangladesh.  He informed me that it was not put in by any organization but that it was bought with the money raised by the women from their businesses they had started.

I have nothing but deep admiration for these women.  They have unselfishly dedicated themselves as a group to improve their community, their households and the lives of their children.

A simple program initiated by World Vision that allowed women to start up their own businesses, built a well, provided food for their families, brought many up a rung from the poverty ladder, gave their children a brighter future – and most importantly – instilled women with the knowledge that they can be the catalyst for their own change. 

And for this reason I am glad for the work that the people of World Vision do here in Bangladesh and all over the world.  I believe that it is in all of us to give.  But it is a responsibility of ours to give so that our gifts are effective.  The sponsorship program is effective.  It does so much more than what we can imagine.  If you are sponsoring a child right now, wonderful.  But why not sponsor another?  What would you be giving up right now?  A cup of coffee a day?  And if you have been thinking about sponsoring a child and you haven’t yet – just do it.  Why put off knowing that you have shared what you have been blessed with and are helping those who bless us with their gratefulness and smiles.  To sponsor a child click here.

And now for some pictures of Ahsanul – a child sponsored by the ladies at Marlin Travel in Thunder Bay.  We had a fantastic visit!  Ahsanul was so personable and such a charming little boy.  I cried when I had to say good-bye. 

Ahsanul loved his guitar!

All smiles!

Ahsanul with his brothers and sisters

Eating food Bangali style

Riding a rickshaw on my way to visit Ahsanul

A change in careers

Curious onlookers

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Roaming the streets in Bangladesh and more sponsor visits

Today was another wonderful day…

Reading the community newspaper

Since we had the morning off my roommate Lily and I went off in search of clay pots, linens and other items of interest for our upcoming World Vision auction on November 6th .   It was quite the adventure.  We began by taking a baby taxi to a popular store called Aarongs only to find out that our taxi driver did not understand our instructions and left us just 2 blocks from our hotel.  It turned out that it was all for the best because as we walked down the streets we noticed several shops along the way selling fabric, wicker and other interesting things.

Practically anything goes along the sidewalks of Bangladesh.  There is, of course, the usual shops selling clothing, shoes, furniture, tires, etc etc.  But it is not unusual to see someone getting a shave or a haircut right on the sidewalk – or even having some dental work done.

The white things on the black tray are teeth!

During one point of our walk I noticed a small table with sets of dentures and individual teeth, along with bottles of alcohol and silver instruments.  It immediately caught my eye and I took out my camera to take a picture.  As I began to focus the camera I noticed in the back of the table a man sitting on a chair while another man was inserting a single tooth into his gums.  Lily and I were shocked.  We could not believe what we were seeing.  I tried to find out if the patient was given any form of pain killer before the procedure began – but I don’t think he was.  Sure made me appreciate my dentist back home.

And then there were the child sponsor visits – each and every one of them wonderful, but there is one that stands out above the rest. 

This visit was supposed to be with Tannika, a young girl sponsored by a business man in Thunder Bay.  Tannika, unfortunately,  could not make it to the visit today as she had to go to a funeral of a relative who had passed away in a city some distance from the Patenga.  Her father, Pradip, however was able to come and visit with us.

 I asked him all kinds of questions about Tannika, the usual questions like her age, her grade etc etc.  But I also found out some more personal things about Tannika  like that she liked to dance and that she was a very obedient, hard working and a “religious” girl.  I also found out that Tannika wanted to be a computer engineer – something that her sponsor would be able to relate to.

I opened the packsack that Tannika’s sponsor gave her and pulled out a handmade green teddy bear.  I explained that this teddy bear was made by the late wife of the man who was sponsoring Tannika.  When I passed the bear to Pradip, he took the bear and held it gently in his lap.  He was very touched by this kind gesture, and told us that Tannika had lost her mother 7 years ago and would very much enjoy having this bear to hold.

When we said our good- byes, Pradip offered his hand out for a handshake.  To us in Canada this would be seen as a very normal gesture.  It is not so in Bangladesh.  Men very rarely shake hands with women.  And it is only allowed when the man initiates the handshake.   I was deeply honoured that he would want to shake my hand.

 And humbled all in the same breath. 

I thought very highly of Pradip.  He was raising 3 daughters on his own after his wife had died.  It is very common for the men in Bangladesh to abandon their children in such circumstances, and Pradip did not.  I told him that he was a wonderful father and he responded with a very heartfelt smile.  And that was the highlight of my day.

P.S.  I know many of the sponsors are anxiously waiting to see pictures of my visits with your sponsored children.  I’ve included a few pictures from today’s visit.  I have plenty more to bring home to you.  Enjoy!

tracing Nikhilesh's hand for his sponsor


Nikhilesh with his mother and his new soccer ball - all smiles!


Tracing Tanjida's hand

tracing Tanjida's hand


Receiving a hug from Tanjida to give to her sponsor


Gifts for Jisanur


Jisanur is a young boy of 6 years.  He was so shy – which made him even more sweet.   I wasn’t able to get a sponsor for him before I left so went to a local store and bought him a ball, a car and some art canvas and paints.  He was so happy to receive these little gifts.  But of course he was.  He more than likely had never seen anything like them in his life. 

Mohammed Saidul


Mohammed Saidul with his gifts - "thank you" he said, " please come and visit me"


All is well here – another busy day tomorrow …

Donna White

World Vision volunteer

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