A few taxis, lots of rickshaws and buses, horns from everywhere – we were stuck in the traffic of Dhaka which took quite some time. This time we took to observe the surroundings, the people passing by and working on the street. We felt quite safe catching a first glance of Dhaka while sitting in our car. At that time we could not imagine how the people live in the nearby slums. Before we could really think about it we were already in the middle of the slum of Mohammadpur. We walked through narrow streets (without Atik and Masum from Save the Children Bangladesh we wouldn’t find our way out again of that Labyrinth) where families live on a very limited space (5 to 6 persons in one room which is about 6 m2). Even if those people live in extreme poverty they have a positive charisma and we were really touched how they looked and smiled at us with their expressive eyes. We were also impressed how the people, especially the women, were dressed with their colourful traditional clothes.
Lots of the children we saw in Mohammadpur have to work to support their families. In Bangladesh working children are common. 95 % of the working children work in the informal sector. To help those children create a better life and better opportunities for the future Save the Children and its local partners UCEP (Underprivileged Children`s Educational Program) and CDP (Community Participation and Development) run several educational programs and vocational trainings.
We visited one educational program where we had the chance to talk to the participating children. When we have asked them how do they feel about being able to attend the school, they all answered together: “VALO” (what means good in Bengali). It made us happy to see how they appreciate being part of the educational program and being taught subjects like Bengali, English, Mathematics, Science and Religion.
When talking to the children, the teacher and also the parents, we found out that the biggest issue is to convince the parents themselves and also the employer of the children to send the children to school. Therefore the set up of the program is that the children only go to school for three hours per day and thus have the opportunity to follow their work in the afternoon and therefore be able to earn the necessary money for their families to survive.
Beside the school we also visited a few vocational training centers where the children can develop skills for further jobs. We met a few graduates who have now a proper job in the formal sector. They profit a lot from the program; they now earn 450% more than they did before they were involved in the program.
We were amazed by the matured and humble children. Even if they have to give 95% of their salary to their parents, they are proud of contributing to their families’ income.
Overall, this first day was very exiting and educative for us. We were positively surprised how thought through the projects of Save the Children and its parters are. It made us happy to see that everyone was smiling at us and proudly showed us what they do and work on. We were impresses how those people organise their lives on such a small space and how they mange to their circumstances.