Mina and I have arrived in Dhaka on a two week trip to visit the various projects supported by the Orphan Trust but also to check out some potential new ones.
It is my first time in Bangladesh. We arrived at 5am this morning and, for me with a little trepidation as to what I might find. I have been to India and was told Bangladesh is similar. It is often described as the poor man's India so I was expecting more of the same - loud noises, lots of people, litter, pungent assault on the nostrils etc. Much less well-traveled than India, it has only taken half a day for me to wonder why. From the get g0, when trying to locate the person picking us up from the Airport, we experienced the kindness of people and the willingness to help us.
Although there is no doubt that the cacophony of noise is an assault on the senses, you keep expecting to see the rubbish and await the smells but they just aren't there. For a city of 22 million people, it is surprisingly clean with much less pollution and detritus
than I was led to believe. Even the Buriganga river wasn't choked with sewage, in fact, nets were strewn across to divide it into sections and it was home to pangesh fish farms evidenced by hundreds of rings in the water made by the fish fighting for insects.
We are very fortunate to be staying with Korvi Rakshand, founder of the Jaago schools for underprivileged children. He and is wife live in Banani and so, after catching a few hours sleep amidst the car horns, Mina and I ventured out into Dhaka this afternoon to orientate ourselves.
Back in England, many of our friends have donated wash bags filled with toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, antiseptic cream and a toy. We took the first batch with us today to hand to street children and soon came across some. Many work or beg but this isn't really the area where they hang out and so I am braced for our trips to less well-off areas. What is striking though is the lack of attention here - you don't get accosted to buy anything or by people seeking help, people are just very polite but busy.
Tomorrow we begin our visits to projects with Ashic Palliative Care Clinic which offers free care to children suffering from cancer. It is going to be a difficult day and I am braced for a roller coaster of emotions. The Orphan Trust pays the salary of one of the doctors in the unit and this is only possible with the wonderful support from our donors. We will take some of the boxes of Lego given to us to distribute so children visiting the hospital have something to play with.
In the evening, we will visit one of Poto Shishu's street play schemes which they run around the city. These invaluable sessions help street children to escape their difficult lives for a couple of hours and just be kids. We will take more wash bags and toys with us and take some photos so you can see the good that you do.