Growing up, mum would always remind us of the poor kids who don’t have anything and how lucky we are to have the things we have to enjoy a comfortable life. She would say “we (dad & her) provide for you everything…. all you need to do is study and do well”. Or the times when we don’t finish our food she’d again say, “don’t waste… many don’t even have food to eat. ; a toy to play; etc ” those were my early reminders of not to take things for granted and to be grateful for what we have. I’m sure many of us has had that from our parents at some point growing up.
And then you grow up …and then sometimes you forget and you splurge and waste …and then something happens to remind you of all of it again….. and again… and again…..
Many would ask the whys and what brought us here to Bangladesh. Hmm it’s a tricky question to answer coz it’s many things, some with answers +things at different points in our lives that we wanted to do and see etc…
It’s been an amazing journey this trip of ours.. and things we never ever dreamed of doing … well we did dream of certain things and the Epicness of it is , we get to live , do and experience it , .. It is just mind blowing and real eye openers, a truly very very very humbling experience. And at times Andrew will turn to me and say.. “really you can’t just make this up ..” Things just happen, we don’t really plan or have an itinerary for this travel.
How things just flows n happens like the connections in this tangled weave of life, (I’m getting philosophical now bear with me .. haha) … for example like our frequent trips to the beach where we meet many kids ~ I’ve written a lot on our blog page about the Street kids and SeaBeach kids …
… And then you meet a kid like Al Amin, a sweet boy of 12 who sells Cotton Candy on the beach. Always pleasant with a smile as he walks the beach with what he has to sell for the day….
The very fact that he is one of the few kids out there who doesn’t asks or hangs on your arm for money from us but instead walks the Seabeach from 4pm daily with his Cotton candy to sell, is one of the things that draws us to him. His ever smiling face and even weaving through the throng of people, he would stop and try to speak to us for a few minutes or if the crowd is not that many, he would spend time with us or collects shells with me and then skips back to work with a wave and his big smile.
Last week he told us his mom just went for an operation. He communicates in his language with a smattering of English words, ever so polite. He went on to explain that the operation was a C-section and that he has a new baby sister (awww…) and asked whether we would like to visit his home. Of course we would! are you kidding? .. So he arranged to meet us back at the beach on Sunday at 10am and he will bring us to his house. 😊
Today is Sunday. We were running late, 30 minutes late because of another invitation earlier that morning. We rushed on the Tom-tom to the beach and my heart sank a bit when I didn’t see him, all the while thinking he must’ve waited and then gave up with a disappointed look on his face. 😭💔
Then as we approached the sand bank near the water, Andrew said “There he is..”
Oh thank God.
Smiling as he walked towards us, he had a pinkish shirt (well thoroughly worn) and a pair of jeans, shoes and all…. awww…
He asked what the time was and I pointed to my watch and said 10.30 . He said in Bengali n hand gestures: “Thirty minutes late”
~ ouff ..Eek! I know…..awe😬 sorry ..
So we hopped on the Tom-tom and off we went to his house in ShomutiPara, a slum village just at the back of the tourist strip of Cox’s Bazar.*•
We then got down from the Tom-tom and a bit of a quick walk in and we approached his house …
*•ShomutiPara is one of the 3 villages behind Cox’s bazar airport just past the runways. We were told by another one of our friends that the people residing there are mainly from the islands of Moreshkali and surrounding ones. Those islands suffered devastating damage during the 1991 cyclone and many of it’s people came down to Cox and resettled in these Paras.
Back to the story …
We’ve been to a few shacks on our trip before this but this hut was quite something. A low door and front wall build on a clay bank is it’s front foundation , we had to duck low to cross the doorway into the house. first thing as you cross through was kind of a front space area where we would call it the vestibule (?)
There were odds and ends stored there together with the unsold packets of cotton candy from the previous day. Then there’s another doorway to a dimly lit space which serves as a family room which also doubles up as a dining, living and a place where his parents and him and his 2 sisters sleep. His grandmother and uncle greeted us at his home. His mom and dad n new baby sister had gone to the hospital for a post natal check to clean her Csection wound.
Back to the layout of his house, to the left of that living area cum dining and sleep area, there’s a small room with a cupboard and a bed for his uncle n aunt. Back of house is the open kitchen with its clay built oven and another small back utility room. That was it. 8 people in the house.
There was hardly any other furniture sans a few plastic chairs as the father had to sell their furniture to pay for the mom’s operation. I read her medical file from the hospital. She had had to go for an emergency Csection a month before her expected due date because she was bleeding due to Placenta previa ( where the placenta detached prematurely from the womb, a very dangerous risk as it cuts the oxygen supply to baby and mother could die from complications such as hemorrhage)
An hour later, his parents and baby sister came home and we spent the afternoon with the family, who was so hospitable it is so humbling to be in their house. Hardly enough to make ends meet with meager possessions but wanted so much for us to join them for lunch and grandma began to cook in the kitchen as we sat and spend the time doting on his newborn sister.
We sat and talked to his uncle who was the translator for the household and his mom who was on the living room floor resting and you could see she was quite struggling wz the pain from the operation.
As we chatted I asked whether Al Amin goes to school. His uncle explained that he did attend Madrasah but coz of the family’s financial constrains, the family could not afford the school fees and that he has to go out to work instead but his sister attends the Madrasah.
I queried further how much was the school fees for a month. The uncle replied “400 taka” that’s >> 5USD (mind blown, quick count times 12 is = 60 dollars a year)
All thoughts crossed ones mind at that moment. OMG is that what it came down to? A realization that hits you hard that that is what stands between a fair chance in education for the child – and one who is clearly smart , sharp & witty and hardworking and polite – ….is a mere 60$ .
How do one from a better situation than this family, be able to wrap their mind around this? That that for that amount alone I could easily spend it on a pair of shoes or something frivolous. Ouff.
(And again Mom’s words starts to play in my head…)
I asked again if we provided for his fees would he enroll again to school? His uncle said yes.
Well then….. Done.
We told them we will arrange for money to be transferred to our close friend here in Cox for long term plan and they can collect it from him for payment for AlAmin’s school fees. 60$ a year.
You can’t look yourself in the face if you can’t provide at least that. I can’t.
Bangladesh alone has a population of approx 160 million and true some would argue “…Pffft .. Just one, what about the million others like Al Amin or worse. ?”
my answer to whomever thinks that would be this: my favorite story of all ….
We post photos with kids, of the kids, some orphaned, others just victim of circumstances of being born poor and tell stories of our visits and meeting these kids on our trips around Bangladesh coz , as common or as hard as it is, depending on what you think of all the 3rd world problems etc, it’s also a method for us to reach out, so that if anyone feels they would like to chip in, support, or sponsor a child, we can try and facilitate that. And some people have. It has nothing to do about promoting ourselves or our egos.
It’s about how we can tell their story and with it, maybe that which is as small as one child’s situation or a whole school’s challenges like bigger classrooms and strong, safer infrastructure of the existing school, to clothing and meals, everybody and everyone can reach out and help to “make a difference to that one” and to “remind us of the poor kids who don’t have anything “… it may be a very small sum to us, $60 ….but for the children in this part of the whole wide world, it truly does and can make a huge huge difference.
“Even the smallest act of caring for another person is like a drop of water -it will make ripples throughout the entire pond…”
“If you’re giving to get, all you’ll receive is disappointment. But if you’re giving to give, all you’ll receive is joy.
And my favorite of all is….
“We’re all in this together.”
Twitter : @ttravelers2