July 24, 2010 1 Comment
Many of you know that I work at a nonprofit simply because I often ask for donations of items for the kids where I work. After seeing street children in Bangladesh and meeting some of the people that work with them, I am once again completely moved.
It took me along time to figure out how to write this post. While I have enjoyed Bangladesh and its beauty, there is also a darker side that greeted us immediately after we left the airport.
We drove by a dried fountain where naked and dirty children were sleeping in the middle of the day. I have not been able to get the image out of my head and it still brings tears to my eyes when I think about it.
Street children are a major challenge in Bangladesh. Some are beggars, some are part of begging schemes, many are addicted to drugs. We found out that some are victims of organ harvesting and trafficking.
Two days ago, we visited a place where street children greeted us with smiles. The significance is that for a brief moment, we were able to see them as children, enjoying the songs and dances of childhood that every child craves. There is an organization that is related to Grameen that does similar banking work in Dhaka (Grameen focuses on villages). The organization is called Padakhep and they also have a program called PCAR-Protection of Children At-Risk.
Here, street children come to live until age 18. They are given an informal education and as they grow up are taught trade skills (I put a few photos of what they have made in the blog). The average age is eight years old when they come to PCAR but some are younger.
Most importantly though, was a feeling of love that can only be scene by symptoms of smiles, joy and an overall feeling of being free. It seems that when a child can have a moment without worry, it is because he or she does not have to think about the food, money or worse that they must earn or do. Instead, someone is taking care of them. I think this is childhood.
The capacity of the location is 40. Right now, 25 live there all of the time while ten children come to stay during the day because their families cannot fully provide for them. The worker that we met has been there for ten years. Like so many of the social workers at home, it is a passion for her and not a job.
I am hoping to find a way that people can send donations to PCAR. After being so moved by the image of the children at the fountain, I found relief in the smiles at PCAR. There is a young man who was particularly passionate aobut singing and dancing. I think you will be able to see who he is.
Learn more at http://www.padakhep.org/