Bangladesh Adventures

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stout Family Visits 7 Compassion Projects in Northwest Bangladesh

From 17 to 22 Oct the Stout family visited 7 projects in Northwest Bangladesh. Of course, it is always an adventure to travel in Bangladesh but when you add four boys and an Aunt it becomes BIG!

17 Oct, Tuesday: Left the house by van at 7 a.m. The van included Samuel, Program Facilitator for Compassion Bangladesh; Aunt Prova, Nita’s younger sister; Nita, the four boys and I; plus the driver. No main problems going up the road with trucks, buses, rickshaws, people and animals on a single lane road for most of the time.

BD-211 Madisohor Child Sponsorship Project (CSP). This project is in a very remote area of the Noagaon District. The project has 100 children. And has the distinction of the only two story office out of any of our projects. Of course the office is a house made out of mud. The mud is cool in the summer so it was nice to talk to staff in there. In front of the office is a courtyard where the children eat lunch. Chad, CJ and I sat Indian style with the children for lunch. We had Chicken curry, lentil and rice. Nita and the other boys ate with project staff and community dignitaries at a table in the office.

BD-210 Potnitola CSP. This project is a hostel/ orphanage with 148 well behaved, happy, very talented children. They did an excellent welcoming performance of singing and dancing for my family. They sang at the top of their lungs while clapping and moving to the traditional Bengali songs. There was an Art competion in my honor so I distributed prizes to the top three finishers. Plus, they received new uniforms so I distributed them. I called all 148 children by name to come on down to get there uniform and tried to say a little about each child- everybody was laughing including my own boys every time I messed up with my Bangla. We spent the night at the orphanage.

18 Oct, Wednesday: Drove 3 hours to our next project.

BD-214 Sukanpukur CSP. This project has an excellent field near the project where the boys played badminton with the project children. The presentation was nice as all the children at this project are from a tribal background. We had Kichuri for lunch which is rice cooked with lentils and vegetables, very good- Chase ate with me this time while Nita entertained the community people with the rest of the boys. It is my policy to always eat with the children when I’m at the project and to only eat what they eat, plus wash my own dish as they do. Of course the children love this and drives the staff crazy as it is there custom to feed the big person all sorts of food and do all the work for that person and as the Country Director of Compassion Bangladesh, I’m the big person. The best part of this visit was when we went to leave one for the children who is mentally retarded wanted to ride with us. Most developmentally handicapped children in Bangladesh are not allowed to go outside of their house so it was great to see him playing with the other kids. Anyhow, all the children wanted to ride in the van but we only choose him. He was so happy, he was smiled ear to ear, waving at all his friends from the inside of the van. For that brief 2 minute ride in the van he was King of the world. It moved you!

BD-218 Abirarpara CSP. This is a new project for Compassion so the children are very little, between 3 and 5 years old. I gave a talk on Mt. 18:25 that Heaven belongs to children and that adults don’t understand this but it is a privilege for children! We spent the night at this project.

19 Oct, Thursday: Drove two hours on dirt paths (not roads) to the middle of nowhere for the next project visit.

BD-206 Sreerampara CSP. This project has 139 children, all tribal for the Shantal tribe. They are very poor and live in mud houses. CJ spent his time chasing chickens, baby goats, and pigs. Tribals like their pigs, which doesn’t go over big with Muslims. Just to show you how far out this project is: the project Manager pays Taka 200 ($3) a month for rent of his mud hut, which is actually very nice!

We spent the night in Niphamari at the Leprosy Mission Guest House which is part of the campus of the Leprosy Hospital.

20 Oct, Friday: I dedicated a small school for a partner of Compassion Bangladesh. The school was small- 12 feet by 30 feet made out of bamboo walls, tin roof and bricks for the floor. However, the poor children that attend there plus their parents are very happy to send their children to the school. The one room school was packed with children and parents, at least 100 people to hear this foreigner talk. Plus, it was HOT! Anyhow Charles, Chase and Chad where in the middle of it all doing pretty well why I talked. However, when one of the small children threw-up beside him he had to leave. Then, when a spider climbed onto Chase- he was out of there. Chad kept his ground until the end of the program! The Muslim parents asked Nita and Prova many questions about the school and the project, if this location gets a project. Nevertheless, the best question was whether Nita and Prova where both my wives!

We drove three hours to Lalmonirhat to spend the night at a partner of Compassion.

21 Oct. Saturday: Drove an hour to the project we were visiting for the day.

BD-201 Kakina CSP: This is one of our oldest projects in Bangladesh- started in September 2004. They have 197 precious children all decked out in baby blue uniforms (same color as my sister VW bug back in 1970)! The project has 93 Muslim, 38 Hindu and 66 Christian children attending the project. The performance of the children was excellent. They have a dance teacher who is very good with children and it showed! They had a large parents meeting for me- more than 120 parents showed up to listen to me and ask questions. A plus for the family at this project was we know three of the sponsor of three of the children at the project. Nick Forry (my nephew) sponsor Sarifa Begum; Carla and Jared Weaver (I worked with Carla at MEDA) sponsor Flowya Rabi Das; and Brent and Regina Beidler (I served with Brent when I was with MCC Bangladesh 1987-91) sponsor Rania Rabi Das. It was great to tell the parents about the sponsors of their children. Nick’s child, Sarifa parents are weaver so we got to see how they make shawls for the winter season in Bangladesh and of course we had to buy one for Nita and Prova. Of course this worked well since we were going to freezing Darjeeling the next week for holidays. The boys played soccer the whole time with the children about 4 hour straight of soccer, Chad was in his glory running in the dirt barefooted. The boy never wears his sandles.

After Kakina we headed back to Lalmonirhat for the night.

22 Oct. Sunday: This was a big day for me. It went from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 at night with me talking or answering questions most of the time. The project is in Lalmonirhat so we only had to walk two minutes to get there.

BD-215 Lalmonirhat CSP: The day started at 7:30 with church. I gave the morning message. Church went from 7:30 to 9 a.m. From there we went to the project for a performance by the children. After the performance we walked around the project and then at lunch with the children. This time we all sat on the ground with the children to eat. We had vegetables and goat meat and rice of course. Goat meat is my favorite meat in Bangladesh! After lunch, we visited four children houses near the project. At 3 p.m. I talked with a parent group. Then at 5 I had a meeting with the community residents about the project. This meeting went from 5 to 8:30 p.m. I started by explaining Compassion International, then Compassion Bangladesh, and continued with how the local project works on Holistic Child Development with the children. This was followed by a lot of questions- ranging from why the children didn’t get umbrella to when will the project sponsor more children to what happens after the child completes the project. It was a good day but long, and I had lost my voice by the end of the day.

It was a great visit to the projects and the family enjoyed it and learned more about what I do and why. Work with children and projects energies you!

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