Behind Kawran Bazaar is Dhaka’s main railway station. As well as a bustling train line it’s also home to hundreds of families who live by the tracks in their shanty dwellings. This is life in the raw.
Often the only way a woman can feed her family is by selling her body for sex. The litter is collected by children and sold to the guys at the nearby rubbish dump. Walking in this area is not easy and I say that because for one thing it is filthy but for another it’s the sheer abject poverty that you see everywhere especially as there are so many babies and young chidden living in these conditions. I can only imagine how tough you have to be to survive here.
As we were walking along a women touched my arm and beckoned for me to stop. I asked our guide what she was saying and basically she was inviting me to sit with her and have a cup of tea. Honestly I felt very humbled. Here here was this woman who obviously had so little who was offering me a drink. I asked Obaidul to thank her for her hospitality. It was a while before I could take any more pictures in fact I was very aware of intruding into these people’s lives so I didn’t take very many.
After leaving the train station we headed back to our car and were dropped off at Dhaka’s famous Hindu street. By now we were used to the hustle and bustle of this vibrant city. Hindu Street is narrow, full of people and motorbikes and street sellers and a couple of tourists i.e. John and I trying not to get run over! I loved the guys at the end of the street who posed for my camera as they were filling up their water carriers.
Then it was an interesting rickshaw ride to the Sadarghat boat station for a trip across the river.
After our boat trip we took a rickshaw, joining the manic traffic that is everyday life here and went for lunch.
A delicious lunch of Bangladeshi cuisine, a look around the area and then it was time to head back to our hotel. We went via the National Parliament Building and then it was time to say goodbye to our excellent guide Obaidul. We wish him well in his new tour business.
7.00pm and the car with Obaidul our guide is just pulling up outside our hotel. It’s an early start but we were heading first to the bustling Kawran Bazaar which trades most of the night and finishes around 8.30pm. No time to lose if wanted to get pictures of all the activity.
From the time we got out of the car it was like a complete assault on our senses! Lorries piled high with the most cauliflowers I’ve ever seen all seeming to reverse into us! Porters everywhere with their baskets over-flowing with vegetables deftly manoeuvring through the stall holders and street sellers. This market is HUGE and bustling with life and not a tourist in sight apart from John and I.
Of course I kept stopping to take pictures which meant Obaildul had to backtrack to make sure I didn’t get lost. And how fantastic that so many people wanted me to take their picture! I was having a great time.
This market is teaming with life and what a privilege to see at first hand how hard these people work to scratch out a living.
Pat told us that assembly on a school day is at 8.30 am. After a tasty breakfast which included a delicious fluffy omelette we made our way to the grassy area, armed with my camera of course. The children standing in lines listened first of all to one of the teachers making a few announcements before they began to sing the national anthem of Bangladesh. We felt quite emotional listening to the singing as the children sang with such gusto. All too soon assembly was over and everyone dispersed to go to their classrooms.
The school in Sreepur Village covers pre-school, kindergarten and primary classes with the older children attending the local village schools for secondary education. Academically bright children are supported through further education and university. Most children however learn practical skills in the village and some through work experience with local ethical companies. Apprenticeships are available too.
John and I spent our remaining time in the village having fun with the younger children in their creche and re-visiting some of the workshops. I also bought handmade cards from the shop, a scarf and a few gifts then all too soon it was time to say goodbye.
I am so grateful to Pat for giving John and I the opportunity to visit the village. It is an inspiring place and so uplifting to see the difference this project is making to the lives of destitute mothers and their children. I am proud to be a supporter of this charity, long may their work continue.
Sreepur Village has a superb website which explains what the project does and why and when the charity was set up and lots more. Please have a read because it’s so interesting and very heartening. I could be tempted to ‘lift’ some of the information and use it here but it’s better if you read about Sreepur Village written by people who know much more about the project than I do. Basically the charity offers a safe haven and life skills and training to destitute single mothers, abandoned by their partners and provides a wonderful life for their children. You only have to be in the village a very short while to see they achieve their Mission Statement every day.
What I do want to mention however is one very important person …Pat Kerr. Pat was instrumental along with support from British Airways and a charity called ‘Families for Children’ in building a village complex outside the capital Dhaka. This children’s village in Sreepur was the start of the project.
By 1989 Sreepur Village was ready to accept the first group of children; some orphans and some who came with their mothers. Over the last eighteen or so years the project has grown and developed. Today with Pat who lives at Sreepur there are eighty staff, over 150 mothers and more than 420 children plus street children in Dhaka helped by their city project.
With Pat at the helm, Sreepur Village under her leadership has enabled hundreds of children to look forward to a better life and once abandoned women to return to their communities having learnt skills to enable them to live independently and support their families.
More pictures to follow in the next Blog! Meanwhile if you would like to support this very worthwhile charity just click on the ‘Donate’ button on the website.