I sit thousands of miles away now as I write this entry today. It has been one and a half years ago when we first started the journey to do the work and being away from there this time has been quite a grueling experience.
The last few weeks there in Bangladesh were intense. There were projects still on going and the works to oversee and coordinate, medical support for the rural schools, as well as the big distributions of meal packages and Aid to the thousands in the villages, both locals and Refugees.
It seems hard to believe that, a miracle actually, that in the one year we were there, we managed to facilitate and help – with support from the organization and also our own crowdfunding, support from friends and people online and support from the several organizations where we facilitated their projects for them. It was tangly and difficult for most of the coordination especially in areas where getting help in has to be done under the radar as well as ensuring safety of all the people who are helping us on the ground.
It’s hard to wrap our own heads around it, even as we look through the many many photos we took while we were there. It’s almost a surreal feeling. We were just two people who wanted to help make some kind of difference and the support we received from friends and strangers alike has been really heartwarming and truly awesome.
Building schools, provided thousands and thousands of meals, blankets, clothes, books, wells, toilets, medical care, medical support, much needed clean water, electricity with solar panels…I call it God’s mercy and blessings and it’s amazing.
We left the place where so many people depended on us…5 schools, 5 orphanages, so many families, the street kids, and the hundreds into thousands in the villages.
The close friends we made, the children on the streets who come out from their shacks, whose faces light up to the brightest smile when we walk with them, who are so much better and don’t beg from us now but just happy to spend a 10 minute walk to the beach with us. I feel happy when I see they can just be and enjoy themselves as kids, trying to converse in the few English words they learnt from us just happy hanging out instead of chasing someone to beg for money.
The time away hasn’t been easy. The people still need help and still contacting and messaging … “No rice, no money”, “my uncle, my baby is very sick”. It’s hard and without us there we find it difficult to channel any funds, aid and support for the rural villages, schools, orphanages and especially the refugee community.
Being on the other side of things and talking about it hasn’t been easy or hard. Some people get it and some don’t. Some say “ahh too bad you don’t get paid for the work”. Some can really appreciate the work and wish they can do it too and some don’t want to try to know. You get mixed opinions.
I think some misconception is we “aid workers” just enjoy time sitting on the beach with kids and taking selfies and travel with organization paying for us. Not work.
It’s hard, to make people see and understand, especially in a world where success is measured by money and materialistic things for people to understand what it is. Even typing this entry I’m silently kicking myself thinking why should I even bother to explain….
We do not sit and smile. Behind the photos and selfies you see, there’s countless hours of typing proposals, emails, amidst flactuating electricity or sometimes biting our nails praying for the power which has been out for 6 hours to come back on as our battery packs drained out so that we can send out a message to try get emergency funding for a community starving, a very sick kid, an outbreak of diseases in 2 schools or unregistered camp, traveling in a 3 wheeler for sometimes a 60km/one way, on a bumpy, bone jarring 4 hour journey in the pouring rain, taking pictures. collecting data and information, not sleeping, typing to people in different time zones to try get funding to feed or medicate or clothe or give help, give water.
The stress level hits high as we Frantically try to get money to the families for Medicine or coordinating late at night to rush a person from camp to hospital 2 hours away, a child struggling to breathe from pneumonia, managing and trying to go around bloody red tape. We hardly eat, on most days we eat only once a day and sick with worry about whether the person will get fed or treated in time before it’s too late. You see the suffering and knowing that you can help.. you cannot turn a blind eye.
It’s quite disheartening when people dismiss and brush the efforts and hard work or the people and communities we help aside.”ehh .. what about this, what about that”. To a point, I feel bad for them, I guess it’s difficult for them to see beyond and the bigger picture. With the work and the thousands of kids and families it’s a matter of survival, life and death. We don’t live in a comfortable detached bubble. we stare at thousands living in severe poverty not knowing if they are going to make it. I’m sad and think of the ones who do live in a tiny bubble, who sit in comfortable homes and pass judgments. It’s just quite sad.
The days you see, touch or sit with a person who’s eyes sunken and ribs sticking out or a bloated belly and knowing that you can get him help, when you get to a shack and see a child emancipated and shaking because of fever with bleeding and weeping blisters and rush him to the hospital because his family is too poor to feed or get him help. When you put children, girls and boys in schools, build schools in rural areas in hope you give them an opportunity and education for their future where it’s hand to mouth existence for their families, when you get to facilitate help to buy food for a family or thousands of families. The stress the worry the amount of work and effort and also the hope they have and asking you to please help them. My God it takes a lot out of you.
We post pictures of smiles of children, of hope and laughter it doesn’t mean it all is. The hard work that pays off in giving and sharing that’s what we share as much as possible in our pictures. We share it with the many friends and online contacts and the organizations that helped make that happen. …. It’s definitely work and it’s from the heart, trying to make a difference in the lives of people who have nothing. At the very least I hope, what we earn in return is heaven’s tokens, if nothing else.