Archive for May, 2010

The Rose

On my desk, propped up in my journal, sits a solitary dried rose. Of all of my possessions, I do believe it is one of the most valuable to me. It’s not made of anything unusual or expensive such as fine cloth or gold. No. It’s just a real, red rose that I brought home from Bangladesh with me, hidden away in my journal lest Canadian customs detect it and remove it from my possession. Funny that this rose should mean so much when I don’t even know the name of the young boy who gave it to me. Perhaps it is special because of the emotions it fills me with whenever I look at it.

Allow me to explain.

Everyday, when we left and arrived at our hotel, we were greeted by a beggar woman and her children. She would stand there patiently while we filed in or out of our vans while her children would put there hands out and then touch their lips, indicating that they needed money to buy some food.

Our group, of course, would want to give her money, but we knew that if we did, we would quickly be surrounded by other beggars and the situation could turn ugly. Some of us, however, would discretely slip some money into her hands and quickly hop into the van, without anyone noticing. I know I did on many occasions. In the morning and the evening, with the suggestions of our interpreters, we would bring food from the hotel, leftovers from our meals; rice, pizza, chicken and vegetables, and quickly give her the bags, smile and walk away. In an attempt to retain this woman’s dignity, we would employ her services to help us walk across the highly congested and fast flowing traffic, whenever we needed to get to the stores across from our hotel.

One evening, as I was rummaging through my suitcase, I came across a pair of dollar store sandals that I had bought before my trip to use when I went to the pool. I never did use them, the pool area seemed to be very sanitary and I didn’t need them to keep my feet from contacting anything horrible. But I knew the beggar woman could use them. She had no shoes.

The next day, when we were leaving early in the morning, I gave her the shoes wrapped in a plastic bag, smiled and hopped into the van. I watched as she opened up the bag, and a huge smile grew across her face. She quickly put the shoes on her bare, calloused feet and began to dance. All of us in the van smiled and laughed with her. A pair of shoes, worth a measly dollar, had given this woman more happiness than I had ever seen.

The next day, when we were leaving on another morning excursion, the beggar woman met us again, but this time, her son who she was holding in her arms, reached out to me and gave me a perfect, God created, red rose. I took the rose, kissed the boy on the top of his head, and hopped into our van. Then I cried.

I think that the reason I cried was because I had, at that moment, been humbled in the presence of the most loving and caring and giving person in all of my life. And even as I am writing this my cheeks are streaked with falling tears. This family had nothing and yet they wanted to give something to show their gratitude. But the part that hurt the most for me was as I looked out of the van to see the beggar woman and her children, I noticed that she did not have the shoes on her feet. She had sold them or exchanged them for food to give to her children. I sobbed even harder.

And now when I see this rose each day as I work at my desk I am filled with a surge of humility. One rose given to me by a child and a beggar woman whose names I don’t even know. God forgive me for my pride.

And as I think of all of the good things that are occurring in Bangladesh, in any of the 60+ Area Development Programs that World Vision is involved in there, my only hope for this woman and her children is that World Vision would be able to move into her area and bring the opportunities to these people so that they do not need to resort to the degradation of begging.

Amen

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“A woman’s heaven is under the foot of her husband”

I do believe that the common sayings, maxims, proverbs, or whatever you want the call those little verses that crop up in the odd conversation in a country, are very reflective of the ways and customs of that country.  Take, for example, the common Bangla saying,  “A woman’s heaven is under the foot of her husband”.  It speaks volumes about the ways in which women are valued in Bangladesh, and many other developing countries.  Kept to the confines of their homes, not allowed to work outside their homes or go out during the evening, divorced by simply saying “I divorce you” three times, it is no wonder that manycountries that adhere to these ways are still considered “developing countries”.

But in Bangladesh I noticed a change in all of this.

I’m sure you recall the story of Gultaz, the woman who took the World Vision training program and was able to start up her own embroidery business.  You may even recall that she was told by many that she shouldn’t even attempt to ever dream of such an idea since she couldn’t even write her own name.  And may even remember how she proved them wrong and now employs 20 + women and sends her gorgeous clothing to Germany now.

And most of all you may recall, that regular custom and cultural practices frowned upon her even attempting to provide for her family, even though her husband, who was injured during a cyclone, was unable to provide for them.

But you may not know about the tears that Gultaz’s  father shed when he proudly told our group how pleased he was with his daughter that it was her strength, ingenuity, and hard work that kept her family fed and clothed and sheltered and given a chance for an education that would see the children leave the poverty cycle.

I’m thinking that the saying “A woman’s heaven is under the foot of her husband”  is going to gradually fade into a thing of the past.   Perhaps a new saying will develop soon:  “A woman and a  man’s heaven is found working side by side in harmony and unity for the betterment of the whole family.”

I like that one a whole lot better.

Donna

World Vision volunteer

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Bangladesh: The Country of Contrasts

My mind slipped away to Bangladesh again today.  So many images from our travels kept coming to my memory.  Some good.  Some bad.  And I got to thinking, which sometimes happens to me, that Bangladesh is a country of contrasts.

There is …

The decadence ...

and the lack.

The glitter ...

and the garbage.

The opportunities ...

and the opportunities lost.

But despite these contrasts I have faith in the people of Bangladesh for their strength ...

... and ingenuity (how many people would think of setting up an outdoor dental shop!)

and their unity.

For this is what will create the change needed to take the millions of Bangladesh people out of the poverty cycle.

It just takes one child at a time, one family at a time, one village at a time.

And so I am leaving this blog on an opptomistic note.  Starting Thursday May 13 the official World Vision interactive blogsite/website will be available to the public.  And that’s where you come in.  If I could ask that you  go to our new site at  https://www.mychildsponsorship.ca/Pages/Default.aspx     it will give you the opportunity to take part in some lively dialogue between our group of 10 World Vision volunteers who visited Bangladesh, sponsors of children in Bangladesh, and other people interested in battling poverty.

I’m thinking that God will be sending me on another trip sometime so I’m not going to be ending this blog anytime too soon.  When I leave on another trip I’ll be sure to keep you posted.  But in the meantime I’d like to thank you for all of your time and thoughts and comments that have kept me company during the last month.  I will always have faith in God and His goodness, but you have renewed my faith in the goodness of mankind.

Forever your Mzunga,

Donna White

World Vision volunteer

 

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No Problem

A  few days ago I received an email from Riton, one of the interpreters on our trip.  As I was reading it, I thought of how well it showed the personality of the people of Bangladesh and I thought you would enjoy it too.  I especially like what Riton says at the end about the common saying in Bangladesh: “No problem”.

I’m going to work really hard on being like that.

Less headaches.

Read on …

I had to go in Chittagong at night 9.30 on April, 09, 2010. Ricky (my brother)

was in pressure will I come on time or not because they need a translator/

an interpreter from Friday for Amanda Berry, Marilyne Hebert & Joyana.

I started my job from next day. Early in the morning at 6.30 am I woke up.

I was nerves. I was thinking will they be friendly or not? Ricky told me I

have to go to Peninsula (hotel) before 9 am. I went there with Andrew da and

others (da means brother for Christian/Hindu, bhai for Muslim). I introduced

with them but I was very quiet.

Then we started our journey to Uttar Bandar, Anowara. My first visit was

with Marilyne Hebert in Urmi’’s house. She was pretty, cute & very smart.

She was not worried. I did not get anyone like her (Urmi) in our individual

conversation. In this way day by day I became a part of that group.

It was our group.

You have visited many areas. You have seen many things. You have taken

many pictures. All were new to you. One time I was thinking why you

are paying attention for uninteresting things. Later I realized it

(passengers on the roof, school children in the case, motorcycle

driving without helmet, and building are making by bamboos)

not a normal/common scenario in Canada. May be I will do same thing

when will I come in Canada with snow!

I have seen how much you were kind for the street children.

April 24, 2010 we (Amanda, Nessa, Jason) had a breakfast with four beggars

and they had to pay almost 2000 taka ($ 25). It was may be a small amount

of money for Canadian but some Bangladeshi garment worker do not get this

amount of money in one month! I have seen Tom, Donna, Amanda & Vanessa’’s

sympathy for poor people. May be others were same. I appreciate it.

It is a suggestions not advice for you /next visitors: Please try to come in

Bangladesh in January/February (winter) that would be more comfortable

(temperature), make schedule flexible (if anyone try to go Cox’’s bazaar/

Shonderban or any other place in Bangladesh)

My observation: Tom: an independent man, Cynthia: She does not care her age,

Marilyne: serious for garments worker rights, Amanda: loves text message,

Kerrie: quiet/was not interest for ask anything, Donna: Is there anyone

(street children) who is looking for plastic bottle/food, Lydia: loves Camera,

Lily: some times good some times bad for sneezing, Vanessa: dosh tami ko ray na/

interest for new language, M.B: Professional

Request: If you know anyone coming from Canada or abroad and if they

need guide/interpreter, please let us know.

It is difficult to say good bye to nearest or dearest person and it was.

It is uncomfortable to hug if you are not used to. I wanted but I could not

(with Amanda/ Donna). Sometimes it is tough to control tears.

Now, when I am trying to write something to all of you, my tears c…………

Because

I like all of you, I love all of you and I am missing all of ……

Thanks

Bye

Riton Quiah

Vill: Gopai, P.O: Sonapur

Dist: Noakhali-3802

BANGLADESH

E-mail: ritonquiah@yahoo.com

Cell: +88019 1177 7711

“”I am not very well in English, if I make any mistake please excuse

me. If you like my e-mail you can post it on your web site””

Popular English sentences: There are many problems in Bangladesh

but Bangladeshi would like to say “”no problem””, and “”hello, how are you?

I am fine, thank you.

A woman spreading out rice to dry

One of the many beautiful flowers in Bangladesh

no problem

no problem !

no problem !!

By the way – a friend of mine is off to Zambia now and has a blog going.  If you would like to follow along with his trip just go to  http://chrismschroeder.wordpress.com/

Until next time, say it with me … “No problem!”

Donna

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The Flag is up on the Mailbox this Morning

Several years ago, when I started volunteering and finding sponsors for children in World Vision ADP’s (Area Development Projects),  I developed a sort of “ritual” each time I sent off a newly sponsored child’s paperwork to head office.  I would put the envelope in the mailbox at the end of our driveway, put the flag up, and stand back and look and smile.

To me, the flag up on the mailbox said more than the usual “Here’s some bills for you to pick up, Mr. Postman.”  It now said ” Here’s some very special cargo here.  It’s a child’s life who has been changed from this moment on.”

I think this morning, however, when I placed an envelope in the mailbox, containing the paperwork for 4 newly sponosored children, I felt a larger surge of happiness. 

The envelope contained the completed sponsorships for Fatema, Habiba and Jisanur, the three children I had met in Bangladesh who I wasn’t able to get sponsors for before I left on my trip.

Although I had not found sponsors for them I was still given the opportunity to meet them.  I spoke to each of them and learned a bit about them:  the games they liked to play, their families, the dreams they had for their futures.

 I played with them, I hugged them and I took their smiles home with me as the best gifts I had ever received.

In short, they became more than just pictures of children on a child sponosrship form.  They became real children with real needs and real hopes. 

It is hard to portray all of that in a child sponsor folder that gives a 2 dimensional picture and static facts like name, age and gender to a 3 dimensional child who is more than Fatema Rashmi Umme, girl, age 8 years.

But that is the joy of child sponsorship.  As the letters between the sponsor and the child are exchanged the child in the picture becomes that real child, with a unique personality, with unique needs and goals.

I have recieved many letters from the children our family has sponsored for the past years.  I remember Desta, our sponosored girl from Ethiopia, telling us that she kept the photo of us in her pocket so that she could look at us everyday.  I also remember Suzanne, our child from Chad, telling us that she asked God to bless us every day.  I remember Blandine sending us some rice kernals so that we could see what the rice in her family’s field looked like after a great harvest.

And each of these comments has made each of these children real to me – even though I have not been able to see them.

Cool, hey?

In closing for today I would like to show you some pictures of Fatema and Habiba .  Aren’t they beautiful?

A hug from Fatema

Habiba and her sister

Hope all is well with everyone – I’ll be sure to write another post in a couple days…

Donna

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