1 million Rickshaws in Dhaka

As soon as we leave the airport I get a flashback, my first impression is the same that I had a few years ago in India. It’s India but back in time… It’s extremely busy and during the drive to the hotel I hold my breath. Dhaka’s infrastructure doesn’t really match with the amount of rickshaws, cars, trucks and people in this city and that’s why traveling from A to B is quit a challenge…. You can hardly find a car that isn’t damaged. Loads of people crossing over whenever they feel like, wherever they feel like and everybody is incredibly happy with their HORN….

The street view is amazing, I could take a chair, sit down somewhere and watch everything pass by for a whole day. Everyday life goes on here.. Rickshaws drop their passengers on the street, an old man is driving by on his bike with his incredible load of freight. Fruit, vegetables, herbs and chickens are sold along the roadside. We are in Bangladesh! You prepare yourself but still it’s overwhelming.

Bike with freight - by Sabina Vis
Bike with freight – by Sabina Vis

After a good night sleep (after being awake for 40 hours) we started the day by visiting the Save the Children head office. We got a presentation about the organization and how they work closely together with the IKEA foundation. Their goal is to actualize children’s rights to a healthy and secure childhood with access to quality education. It’s a lot of information and I’m shocked by the numbers. For example that sexual harassment is so common and that 50% of the disabled children here are abused.

After lunch we visit the Society for Underprivileged Families (SUF) An organization that focus on educational level. This means classes like Bangla, English, math and geographic. After that they prepare the children and young adults on vocational level. They choose a profession like sewing, electronics or IT and when they graduate they get help with applying and getting a job. After a short introduction of the founder and director we get the chance to visit the children and students. Everywhere we appear we get curious looks and waves. My name “Sabina” creates a lot of buzz, her it’s a common name and Sabina Yasmin is a famous singer. Luckily for me they don’t ask me to sing. Or luckily for them I must say…

We meet a lot of happy children. One of them is Tania. Tania is 20 years old, living in Dhaka. Thanks to the SUF she has the possibility to go to school, find a decent job and earn her own money.

SUF Sewing class - by Saskia Rejhons
SUF Sewing class – by Saskia Rejhons

In kids club it’s party time and the kids are happy to ask us for the dance after they did their performance. It turns out we are all naturals and we get a big applause once we are done..

Performance in kids club - by Saskia Rejhons
Performance in kids club – by Saskia Rejhons

Seeing their smiles and the fun and happiness in their eyes makes you forget the terrible numbers that we heard during the meeting and seeing a board on the door above a class room with “supported by IKEA Foundation” makes me feel proud in a way. We make difference.

Supported by sign - by Saskia Rejhons
Supported by sign – by Saskia Rejhons

It get’s a little bit dark already and we are strolling through the tiny little streets of Dhaka. The experience is so different when you walk outside then when you’re sitting in a car which we did so far. It’s warm and the smell of scented come’s along. At the end of the street we arrive at two small houses made of wood and crimp. It’s not much but it’s their home and it feels like that when we enter the small door. We are meeting Iti (18) and Rikka (20) They both were educated at the SUF and thanks to that, Iti has a job as a seamstress now. Rikka is still in school and lives with her mom. I’m really touched by what these two young women are telling and especially how they tell it. With so much pride and so happy to have us in their homes.

A day full of wonderful experiences, emotions and mixed feelings.. The one hour drive over 1 kilometer, stuck in traffic doesn’t bother us.

Rikka and her mother at her home - by Sabina Vis
Rikka and her mother at her home – by Sabina Vis

    Sabina Vis