Robin Cappuccino is currently traveling to all of the Child Haven homes – here are some thoughts from road.
Salaam Alaikum from our Child Haven Home in Chittagong, Bangladesh, with 69 children, and 20 staff (including teachers and part-time tutors). An additional 27 children from the surrounding community come during the day to attend our Montessori preschool and elementary school which runs through Grade 4.
I was reminded what an enchanting place Bangladesh is on a rickshaw ride to some friend’s house in Dhaka soon after our arrival. They live in a residential area served by a flurry of rickshaws carrying passengers and just about anything else you can imagine. It’s astonishing to see what’s conveyed by peddle power, everything from steel pipes to hundreds of chickens in cages, often dwarfing the peddler.
The sound of the rickshaw bells, (bicycle bells basically) hurrying each other along, passing, arriving at intersections, was mesmerizing. Each bell with a different tone and pitch, rung with varying degrees of urgency, together creating a captivating chiming melody accentuated by vendors singing out their wares, baskets balanced on their heads or on opposite ends of shoulder sticks.
A highlight of our arrival at the Home was meeting three new children who had moved in since my last visit. Shorov’s father has been missing for the last 4 years, both of Mustafa’s parents are disabled, and Rozena’s parents make their living as beggars. Their families were no longer able to provide for their needs, but will keep in touch. Another little girl came to the Home several days after we arrived through one of our board members who is also a board member of a local hospital. He referred her to us after her father died. Her mother suffers from epilepsy and didn’t know how she’d be able to manage. The little girl was understandably teary on her first day. It was very touching to see the other kids comfort her, and show how things work in the Home. Nokia, who is several years older, took her by the hand and joined the line to get a squirt of skin oil, which she then rubbed on the little girl’s legs and arms. The next day her grandfather came to take her home. I guess the separation was hard on everyone and they will try to make things work out.
As is often the case, we were welcomed with a cultural program put on by the kids with help from the staff. Dances, songs accompanied by the harmonium, and poems made up this show. The dances and songs were taught by our dance and singing tutors. The climax was the bamboo dance, a traditional dance of Bangladesh’s tribal community which is well represented in the Home. The dance involves jumping back and forth between pairs of rhythmically clapping bamboo poles held at ankle level. One of our tribal care-givers Zainam often leads a group of kids in singing a song to accompany the dance in one of the three tribal languages spoken at the Home. The dance and music programs reflect a desire not to “westernize” the kids, but to celebrate their cultural heritage and identities. In this Home Muslim, Hindu Christian, and Buddhist practices are all encouraged and engaged in depending on the child’s religion when they came.
All of our Homes depend upon the dedication, hard work and love for children of our staff. The photos show Rahman, making one of two soy milk batches he makes twice a day with our soy milk machine, Zainam serving soy milk to the kids, and Monir pumping water for hand-washing. It’s the diligence and caring of all our staff, with the encouragement and guidance of Home Manager Saiful, and the support of our Bangladesh Board that makes this a vibrant and loving Home.
When the kids aren’t studying, there are board games, playing in the yard, and as always I am impressed with how easily the kids make up imaginary play spaces. Ones I saw here utilized bits of leaves, recycled paper, little stones, and there seemed to be a premium on sand sieved through a small piece of screen into a coconut shell the significance of which I didn’t quite catch.
On the day of our departure from Chittagong a transportation strike was called by one of the opposition political parties. Such strikes are enforced with petrol bombs thrown at any motorized vehicle on the street. It was good day for rickshaws. Fortunately we were able to obtain the use of an ambulance for the hour-long ride to the airport. While the flashing lights and siren thrilled the kids in the Home as we pulled out, the eerie wail drowned out the melody of the rickshaws and cast a melancholy pall over our journey. May cooler heads prevail. We’re on our way back to Nepal.
More information on Child Haven is at www.childhaven.ca
Until next time,
Robin Cappuccino for CHI
Stay tuned for more ‘thoughts from the road’ as Robin continues his journey through the CHI homes in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet.