Mar 27, 2013

Feeding Our Children

Children of Bangladesh are like children anywhere. They love to play, get in trouble, they learn and they grow up.

My name is Yeob Biswas. I am Overseer of the 2 tutorial centres which started 2 years back. There is a centre at the sub-urban area of Savar in Dhaka and there is another centre at the rural northen district of Lalmonirhat.

These 2 centres serve 2 diverse groups of people. The Savar families are labourers, rickshaw-pullers and workers in garment factories. The Lalmornihat families are farmers, day labourers and and fishermen. All of them are poor and cannot afford to pay school fees.

I have a soft spot for the children of Lalmonirhat. They are quiet and gentle. They come punctually to attend classes and are obedient to their teachers.

The Savar children, on the other hand, were a challenge. If they were not in school, they would be running around in the streets fighting with each other. Parents who put their children with us, do not only want them to learn but also to keep the children out of trouble. So the children come to the tutorial centre with reluctance. At the beginning, I would get calls from our teachers complaining continuously about the difficulty in handling the children. But our teachers never gave up.

The teachers and I continually reminded the children to remember when they fought, they disobeyed their elders with the bad words. We also spoke to their parents and advised them to control their children at home.

Periodically, I would make surprise visits to see how my teachers are coping and teaching. I also take time to talk with the children to get to know them and to see what else I could do to help them. I noticed that my teacher in Savar was reacting to the children’s behavior negatively. I spoke to her to make her realize that the children came from different backgrounds and did not know how to behave. I asked her to be patient and to pray. As for the children, some behaved badly and were very naughty. I had to sit them down and explained to them why they had to come to the centre.

Now, the children are much more affectionate, loving and caring. The teachers, too, felt encouraged, excited in teaching them and more loving towards them.

In January this year, we started to provide whole meals in both our centres in Savar and Lalmonirhat. The people of our communities were very excited as now their children get to learn as well as to eat. The children get to eat 1 whole meal consisting of either rice with chicken curry or with egg or mutton or vegetables each of the 5 school days of the week.

The food was bought and cooked by our cook. All this started when Bettina Marayag, the Director of Please Pass the Bread visited us. She had conducted a City Pastors’ Seminar and through Care Channels I met her. She visited the Savar centre and a couple of slums. After the visit, she immediately asked me to start the feeding program. I remember how thankful I was and how excited I was to begin this new phase in good works.

Today, we have expanded to 3 new centres in the slums of Pabna, a northern district. We feed 100 children with snacks consisting of 2 items – bread and banana or with boiled egg. We are recruiting 3 teachers to teach primary education.

Some of the children from our centres have a chance to enter government schools. Through our centres they would have learnt well enough to take a test to enter government schools. Without education, the children would likely end up helping their parents in the fields, garages and factories and in some cases, hazardous jobs. Seeing the difference learning could make, parents are happier and more cooperative with us. Parents realised that they do have a chance in breaking the cycle of poverty and hardship.

Story by Yeob Biswas and Wong Kah Wei

Bangladesh, Empowering (B), Feeding & Tutorial Programme, Holistic (B), Sustainable (B)