Who would have thought that a tattered, much-touted and talked-about (by me) little manuscript like A Blonde Bengali Wife would be seeing Bhola’s Children enter its eleventh year?
It’s nearly two years now since my last visit to Bhola, but Dinah (the chair of our trustees in the UK) is just back, and I’m vicariously living her trip. For everyone who regularly asks me how things are going, I’m sharing part of Dinah’s open letter here:
Happy New Year to you all,
I spent New Year’s Eve with the children and we had a great time. The boys decorated their room to welcome me and everyone was in festive mood, with a large bonfire and music from our director, Zakir’s friend, Faisal, and his group, who travelled down on the launch with us from Dhaka. My New Year’s gift was a new auto-rickshaw.
We were a full house of 31 boys and 27 girls - the Dhaka boys, four at the deaf school, four in the training centre, and Hasnur, who is now in an excellent school for the blind, all came home for the holidays. We celebrated gold and silver medals in the Special Olympics, and the boys will be in the finals in Dubai in 2019. It is always a joy to see the older children playing with the young. It reassures me that we really are a family, always our dream.
We are giving a much-needed coat of paint to the hostel building before the monsoon. There has been discussion about the old buildings which are in dire need of repair. We demolishing them, but fortunately had a visit in December from our dear friend Lars-Erik Wallhagen together with a Swedish colleague who had actually been responsible for their construction way back in the early seventies. Kurt confirmed they were in fact extremely strong and well worth spending money on. We have two quotes for repair of each building: one guaranteed to last five years is £5,500 per building. The better but of course more expensive option, which involves reconstructing the roof, comes out at £8,750 per building.
During my visit, kind Eunus – one of our Committee members – allowed us to have our picnic on his beautiful farm and paid for all the food and drink. We also had our traditional excursion to the river bank at Valumia, but this was a bit more of an adventure than usual: Iqbal was only able to find one boat to take all of us who dared and who were not too heavy… I still can’t believe they got me into the very flimsy leaking motorised craft, that we survived the jaunt and somehow they hauled me out. I had visions of the headline “50 protibondi and old white woman drown in the Bay of Bengal”.
Zakir and Kamal have reluctantly decided to stop growing vegetables in Valumia, since they are constantly washed away by the monsoons. Instead we have planted hundreds of lemon trees and hope to sell the produce. Thanks to Eunus, we have been able to rent the triangular strip of land in front of the boundary, which will give us more security and space to grow vegetables.
The physiotherapy department has a new member treating the male paients: Milon is 32, had polio as a baby so is in a wheelchair except when he needs to stand, and was trained at CRP. Milon is very caring of the small boys during their daily outdoor ablutions at the tap and he also looked after our Olympic boys when they were competing in Dhaka.
Our other welcome addition is Ismail, previously our part time accountant who is now fulltime and living in the boundary with his wife Samira and Abdullah, 5 months old. Ismail is a great support to Zakir and the office they share, on a corner of the tailoring building, is a triumph of tidiness and efficiency – the first time I’ve said that of any of our offices!
The children, staff, trustees and committee all thank everyone who supports us, and hope 2018 will be a peaceful and prosperous year for all.
Meanwhile, I’ll be back in February with something more writing-related...