Seeing The Person, Not The Disablity

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September 30th 2012
Published: August 9th 2017
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After Volunteering, I now feel that I have contributed to the enjoyment and happiness of some of the people's lives I have met and it feels hugely rewarding. Even though I may not be helping them physically or financially I know that, as Brother Jean Jacques had pointed out, that even turning up and showing a presence has more of a positive impact than you would think.
As part of our experience in Bangladesh, we had the privilege of helping out with disabled day cares, disabled adults and street kids.
On the outside some of these people are very poor and neglected, left to the streets, this is the way of life in Bangladesh. But on the inside, a group of amazing people have come together to help create change, give hope and give these people a second chance. A second chance where you can see some incredible talents and pure gentleness and love these people have to offer.

On our second day, after shaking off the jet lag blues, we visited our first inspirational place called "The Women's Club" a small club with physically handicapped women who are putting their talents and skills to the test by creating hand sewed products such as school bags, purses, table and bed covers.
These products are then sold at PCC (Prothibundhi Community Center). At the PCC which we visited afterwards they also have workshops there for the disabled adults who also come from L'arche. Here they contribute by making cards, bracelets and candles all to be sold in the showroom where the money goes straight back to the community center. There are also two talented guys, one who is deaf and another in a wheel chair who create beautiful things from coconut shells.
Also at PCC lies a guy called Bimol who lost both his arms when he was young by picking up live electricity wires. Since then he has adapted by using his feet for almost everything, including eating and also painting in which he is extremely talented at. The detail in his paintings is amazing and all his paintings are beautiful. He came first in a competition which sent him to Singapore and even better was that he got married and had a child.

The second half of the day took us to "station club" a club where street children and children from extremely poor families who live in tents at the station and resort to collecting rubbish all day long just to be able to feed themselves.
This club is open to any child that wishes to come and gives them an opportunity to stray away from the depressive side of life and get involved in group activities such as playing games, drawing, dancing and singing. We helped out on three different occasions, helping them draw and play games with them, although most of them didn't know English. After a while bonds started forming which was great but horrible knowing that soon we would leave and not be able to continue to increase the bonds made, especially as we had some favorites.
One of the times we took them to a restaurant as a special treat and the kids loved it.
Some of these girls were especially talented at dancing and it's not nice knowing that they don't have the money to be able to get lessons which could lead to great opportunities in life.

Here in Bangladesh, sometimes a disability is not understood by people and at the Choto Tara day care centers, run by some amazing individuals, together they help educate and involve the parents or carers in helping their child.
We would go quite frequently to the day cares of which there were several scattered around Mymensingh. Here we would be involved by playing games, singing and drawing with the kids.
Some are very cute and a lot of fun. During our time at the day care we went on a picnic an hour out of Mymensingh on the egde of the Madhupur Forest where we played games among monkeys. We also attended a gathering of all disabled children and their family which was great and even amazing when it was a gathering of three different religions, Christian, Muslim and Hinduism.

L'arche is a special organisation close to Anna's family and it is amazing that there is an organization in Bangladesh formed 10 years ago, which comprises of three houses which house and take care of disabled adults through full time carers and volunteers. They were basically neighbors to our apartment. On occasion we would divide our time between the houses, having dinner or breakfast there.
We attended a birthday night at one of the houses for Pinto and Shoag and were joined by Brother Frank and Jean Jacques and followed by a tasty birthday dinner.
We also attended a monthly meeting for everyone which also included a quite long (630 photos, mostly all talked about) but still interesting photo presentation of a carer at one of the houses called Israfeil who had the opportunity to visit France for two weeks. Of course we always seem to forget about the culture shock from poor to rich. To Israfeil there were so many new things, including traffic lights, having cat's and dog's as pets, clean and even empty streets as well as different food that doesn't include rice. And not to forget about the price of things compared to Bangladesh, I am sure it would have been as hard for him as it was for us to adapt to a different way of life.

The effort and dedication that some people have put in to some of these projects has been extremely inspirational and touching. It just show's how giving back to a community and helping others becomes so rewarding.
Just seeing the amount of things that we throw out can make someone in a disadvantaged country happy and in a place like Bangladesh even $50 can last a long time and make a huge difference to many people.
For me, knowing that I made just the smallest difference to someones life is very self fulfilling. It was an extremely rewarding experience where I met some of the friendliest people around.
I hope I get the chance to do it more often.

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