On our last day, we visited Save the Children’s implementing partner the Bangladesh Protibondhi Foundation (BPF) in Mirpur, Dkaka. Their main objective is equal rights, opportunities and dignity for children with disabilities and disadvantages.
As soon as we arrive, we get a warm welcome from the children and the team with lots of flowers and handshakes. I don’t think I’ve ever met so many nice people in one week. Over 460 children go to school here; 350 of them are disabled and they all have a buddy who supports them when they all gather in the hallway. Time for their morning exercise and sing their national song. The building that we are visiting today was built in 2009 and funded by the government. It is fully equipped, and we get a tour through the whole centre after an explanation of the organisation from Shanim Ferdous, the executive director.
In between tea is served, without cookies like we are used to but with guava, cucumber and aluchop, a small snack with potato and vegetables. Everywhere we go, the people put so much effort in their cooking. Rice, fish, chicken, lots of vegetables—I can’t get enough of the food here. During tea we meet Sukana, the founder of BPF, 86 years old. She still visits often to meet the children.
Before we enter the classrooms, we walk down the hallway where mothers are waiting in line with their children. All with their own story. The children are tested here on neurodevelopment, psychological, intelligence and mobility.
In the room we meet Kamroen Nahar a senior psychologist. They are testing Ciam. Ciam is two years old and has multiple disabilities. Her mother receives instructions that she can apply at home. After three months, she will come back here to create a follow-up plan. Ciam is in good hands. It’s also good to know that nobody will be rejected, even when the families are not able to afford it.
All the teachers, staff and children are proud, and they want to show us every part of the building and with what kind of materials they are using. There is even a cuddle room, a space where objects, images, colours and sounds tickle the senses of the children to make them calm and put them at ease.
In one of the last classrooms we enter I meet a girl. Even though it’s in sign language, it’s quite easy to communicate with her. She is making a drawing and explains to me what she has drawn and that she is so happy to meet me. After a great performance from the children, all the pictures have been taken, hands have been shaken, hugs have been given and it’s time to say goodbye. When I take a last look, I see her blowing me a hand kiss.
I can’t believe it has been the last visit; it all went by so quickly. It has been a great experience, and we met a lot of amazing, powerful and inspirational people. Their strength and perseverance often made me feel small.
One last visit to the office of Save the Children, where we have a debriefing to discuss and evaluate the week. I think I speak for the whole group when I say thank you to everybody who participated and shared all those unforgettable moments. Bangladesh and the people we have met, you have captured our hearts.