This month's blog is reproduced from KindLink Global's interview with The Orphan Trust's founder, Mina.

What Inspired Mina To Create The Orphan Trust?

Mina had been donating to charities for years. At some point, even that was not enough. She knew of the different causes people are fighting for and as a mother had decided that fighting for the good of children was her calling. She wanted to get involved herself and that is why she founded the Orphan Trust. Her inspiration was to make a direct tangible change to the lives of children, starting in Bangladesh. She knew she wanted to support orphans and prevent them from being abandoned in the first place.

Mina shares that the ultimate goal is to stop children from being on the streets. But she also acknowledges the near-impossible task to get all children off the street. Most children are on the street to escape violence from parents or guardians at their homes. It is important to note that kids in care homes also have a very difficult time.

What Are The Conditions For Orphans In Bangladesh?

The local community is getting together to support orphanages. In Bangladesh, an orphan is a child without a father. Mina shares a story about a boy’s orphanage in Bhola, where storms and rain are heavy and take their toll on the surroundings. Their fathers are usually fishermen, who have drowned at sea. Their mothers are unable to have an income and have no ability to provide them with care. The kids don’t have anything, and their only choice is to go live in the orphanage.

Before the charity had started working with the orphanage, the children were sleeping on battered and broken beds, mattresses were covered in stains and the overall conditions were awful. Power outages were common due to the weather as well. Many nights had been spent sitting in the dark or surrounded by candles, not being able to do much. The living conditions had been incredibly poor. A lot of fundraising and work had to be done to buy new furniture and bedding for the children. The children were also attending the local public school.

However, in the orphanage itself, there were very few staff members and tutors to help provide care and support for the orphans. This required for the charity to chip in. Ever since then the charity has been paying the wages of the new staff members hired to take care of the children. Moreover, a lot of work has been done to make the orphanage self-sufficient and as beneficial as possible to the children. For example, a pond where fish can grow and be farmed was built. After the fish is caught, the remaining fish that hasn’t been eaten is sold on the local market. These funds are then given to the children so that they are more independent.

How The Entire Community Became Reliant On The Orphan Trust

With recent events, the charity has started making campaigns to help provide food for families living on the streets. During the lockdown in Bangladesh, many of the people who do not have an address do not have access to many of the government and NGO programs to help people weather the storm. Due to this, the charity has focused on providing the people not covered by these programs. Warms meals are distributed a few times per week to people in need so that the families can survive the crisis.

Therefore, charities such as the Orphan Trust are increasingly more reliant on digital solutions. The growing of problems and inability to raise funds the normal way makes for a very difficult period for charities who do not make use of online platforms. Having knowledge on digital solutions is key in spreading the message of the charity, raising funds and organizing events. With so many fires that need to be tackled more innovative ways of facing them are required. And this could be the solution to better support orphans in the future.

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Monsoon season has just finished in Bangladesh and has left many people homeless. It was the most prolonged monsoon flooding in decades. Despite the UN lauding its new initiatives for early intervention aimed at preparing communities for crises, by mid-July 550 people had been killed and 9.6 million affected by the disaster. Bangladesh’s ministry of disaster management and relief has estimated that a third of the country was already underwater by mid-July, with more rain expected up to mid-October.

Rezaul Karim Chowdhury, executive director of the Bangladeshi NGO Coast, said the country was far more prepared for flooding than in the past, but that populations in some flooded areas ended up in dire need because of a combination of existing localised and national crises (Covid-19). He said people’s incomes had already been hit by the government’s closure of 25 state-owned mills, mostly in the northern areas that have been flooded, and by the Covid-19 pandemic. Almost a third of the population has dropped under the poverty line. This has a huge impact on food security and purchasing power.

The UN said it had been trying to pre-empt damage to livelihoods by predicting where support needed to be sent ahead of time, using data and forecasting analytics. That had allowed the release of relief worth £4m from its reserve fund for humanitarian emergencies to counter severe flooding over the past few weeks in the form of cash, hygiene and health kits, and equipment to protect farmer’s materials from water damage.

Over 2 million children have been affected by these floods and are now either living on the streets or in orphanages as their parents can’t afford to take care of them anymore. This means that orphanages and children’s refuges are struggling to support this huge number of children and need more funds to be able to function. This means we need your help more than ever, so please donate now. Even a small donation goes a long way.

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The Lancet has recently reported the decision by the Bangladesh Government to charge patients between 200 taka (£1.80) and 500 taka (£4.50) for Covid-19 tests. The reasoning given was to ‘avoid unnecessary tests’.

This decision has understandably affected the poorest and most vulnerable most of all.

Since imposing a charge, rates of testing have fallen to just 0.06 tests per 1000 people during August, with most tests occurring in the capital, Dhaka. In a country of 168 million people, just 15,000 tests are being performed per day. This compares to testing in the UK of around 250,000 per day – a rate of 3.6 per 1000 people.

Bangladesh has now officially recorded around 275,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 3,600 deaths but, with the testing rates so low, these figures can only scratch the surface of the actual position.

The country is also suffering from a lack of trust in the testing system with many scam testers operating now that there is a charge. In mid-July a hospital owner was arrested for issuing thousands of fake test results. Tests are also not reliable with many results not being provided for weeks and some not at all.

The Lancet reports that graveyards are reporting many times the official death rates and with the monsoon and dengue seasons having now arrived, the situation is only going to get worse. It is the poorest once again who are suffering, with Covid-19 believed to be rife in slums and other crowded urban areas.

Even if testing were increased 20 fold and were to be free again, the problem for Bangladesh moves to treatment. Bangladesh has one of the lowest investment in healthcare globally, with just 0.69% of GDP spent. Much of healthcare remains private which once again benefits the rich but not the vast majority of the population.

When the economic effects of the pandemic are added to the pot, it is clear that Bangladesh is in a very perilous position and the true cost to such a poor nation will be difficult to monitor and go largely unrecorded whilst the world battles this deadly disease.

How is the Orphan Trust helping? Well although it is a big problem, we are doing what we can by supporting projects such as orphanages or schools for slum children run by Jaago. We have also distributed food to children living on the streets and aim to provide more food distributions with your help.

To donate, please click here.

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The Orphan Trust is a Registered Charity with the Charity Commission (England & Wales) under charity number 1150742