Tag Archive: World Vision Bangladesh

Former sponsored child reflects on fulfilled dreams

By Xavier Sku | 23 March 2017

Rongdi Jib, now 40, saw his life transform when he was sponsored through World Vision (©2015 World Vision/photo by Xavier Sku)

As a child, Rongdi Jib, now 40, faced a life with few prospects.

In the mid-1970s, Bangladesh was a new nation. Once under the rule of British India, the country formerly known as East Pakistan emerged in 1971 after a war of independence that left 300,000 civilians dead.

Life in the wake of such upheaval was difficult for the many people in Bangladesh living in poverty — including Rongdi, who is known as Biswajit. “I was born in a low-income family, so my life was very uncertain,” he says. “My father was a day laborer. It was very hard for him to provide even daily meals for us, so it was an extra burden to pay my basic educational expenses.”

Biswajit’s family lived in Durgapur, in southwest Bangladesh. The town sits amid a tangle of rivers and tributaries, all of which empty into the Bay of Bengal 50 miles to the south. The low-lying land is prone to natural disasters like flooding and cyclones.

After his eldest sister married, Biswajit moved in with her because she and her husband could provide enough food for him. That was where he grew up. “The turning point of my life was when World Vision registered me as a sponsored child in 1981,” Biswajit says. He was in first grade.

Another milestone came in 1984, when his World Vision sponsor, a doctor, traveled to meet him at the organization’s national headquarters in Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital city. “As I was a young boy, I was excited to meet my sponsor and get chocolates, toys, and several drawing books from him,” Biswajit says. “He took many photos and sent them to me later when he got back to his country.”

His sponsor’s visit sparked an eagerness to learn and stand on his own two feet. “People used to ask me what I dreamed of being,” Biswajit says. “I answered that I wanted to be a teacher, although I knew it would be tough for me. But I think it was God’s plan that made my dream come true. Many people’s lives have changed through World Vision’s programs, not only mine. World Vision taught me how to dream.”

After graduation, Biswajit followed his dream of a career in education. Today, he’s a teacher in an independent high school, where he is a popular staff member, sports coach, and cultural events organizer. In a country where nearly a million children aren’t in primary school, he’s making a difference in the lives of his students — as well as his family. Biswajit and his wife, a nurse at a hospital, have two daughters, both of whom are in primary school.

In 2015, World Vision phased out its presence in Durgapur. The local community was ready to sustain the work World Vision began many years ago: agriculture and husbandry training; workshops on nutrition and cooking; women’s savings groups; midwife training; educational support; and more. Sponsorship, the bedrock of change in Durgapur and other communities, has a lasting effect in Bangladesh through the lives of sponsored children like Biswajit.

“My family will be forever grateful to World Vision. I will always cherish World Vision in my memories,” he says. “May God always use this organization for the welfare of poor and vulnerable children.

Support children like Biswajit, who deserves the opportunity to live healthily and to realise their dreams they never thought of. You can help turn a child’s life better and fill it with so much hope by Sponsoring A Child .

Marriage later, studies first

By Gloria Das
World Vision Bangladesh

In a Bangladeshi village, a group of school girls trill a little melody inside a classroom. They are celebrating. The marriage of their friend, 15-year-old Suborna Khanam, has been annulled.

The young girls who gather in this classroom are the members of a children’s group that works with World Vision. Suborna, a sponsored child who lives in Maksudpur ADP, who is among them, and is in Grade 10.

Suborna

This youth group is one she helped start, along with her friends, so that she could become more engaged with social and development work. Little did she know that she would one day need their assistance.

“The Child Forum’s collective are sowing seeds of change. There are weekly meetings where we get together in a safe place to learn, have fun, and talk about what is happening in our communities. We learn about the links between teenage pregnancy and high rates of infant and maternal mortality and all the other adverse health effects of early marriage. The members are sensitised about their rights,” Suborna says.

The group has been working with World Vision since 2010. Such collectives are part of child-focused interventions of World Vision Bangladesh to boost the confidence of teenage children and to fight child marriage – a practice that continues across the country, particularly in rural communities, despite a legal ban.

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Suborna is in a red headscarf

“World Vision has changed my life,” Suborna says.

Recently, Suborna’s father came to the school. He had decided to take his daughter back home, as he arranged a partner for her. A groom with a plot of land of his own and with a little dowry was found. Suborna’s wish of continuing her education was considered a luxury that could hardly be afforded. The family did not have the spare money for the additional expenses and reasoned that marriage was the better option.

“When my father told me I was going to be married off, I felt my life had been ruined. I visualized a life like that of my mother—marriage, lots of children. Full stop. All dreams shattered,” Suborna says.

She immediately protested. She told her friends in the Bandhan Child Forum. When the group learned about Suborna’s situation, they immediately intervened and contacted her parents.

“We were sure we’d be able to prevent her wedding,” says a confidence Raihan, the group’s leader. “We talked to her parents at length and tried to make them understand what evils early marriage involves. Finally, we succeeded and Suborna came back to school,” Raihan smiles.

At school, Suborna was performing brilliantly.

“Neither of her parents can read nor write. So, she was not supposed to be allowed to go to school,” explains Suborna’s uncle. “The village (her parents live in) also does not have any high school and she would have had to travel 3km if she wanted to continue her studies. So, I took her with me,” he says. From primary school to current day, Suborna has stayed with her uncle.

But as her uncle is also a landless farmer, like her parents, he did not have enough income to take care of his niece’s educational expenses alone. Soon after Suborna came to live with him, he learned about World Vision’s sponsorship programme from one of his neighbours. Suborna then became involved with Muksudpur ADP’s child sponsorship programme and received educational support, including special coaching classes organised for the sponsored children of the ADP.

Things were passing smoothly. Suborna passed her primary school studies with good results and then was admitted to Grade 6 at a high school in Muksudpur Upazila.

“I was just thrilled with joy when I remember the first day of my new class. I still could feel the smell of my new books. Thank you World Vision, my real friend in need,” Suborna says.

In secondary school, after her parents initially told her she would have to get married and returned to school, Suborna continued to achieve good marks.

“I can remember the day when our class teacher called me and gave me the good news – I stood first in the class,” Suborna says.

Suborna decided to go back home to share the good news with her parents. But Suborna’s parents were unimpressed. Instead, they again raised the issue of marriage.

“I was so unhappy about the marriage. This time I told my mother who also did not agree with me and they locked me at my room. Then I sought help,” she says.

Scared, Suborna made a plan. She pretended to become seriously ill and was taken to a nearby hospital. At the hospital, she snuck out and returned to her uncle’s place. She was safe, at least for the time being.

“From her childhood, she was not like other girls of her age. There was something different in her. I was so impressed to see her strong confidence to stand up to wrong, to care for others and especially for her strong craving for higher studies,” says Helal Qazi, Suborna’s 40-year-old uncle.

Back at her uncle’s place, Suborna immediately contacted with Child Forum members and informed them about the incident. They, in turn, contacted a World Vision child forum coordinator who worked for the Muksudpur ADP.

The child forum coordinator talked to Suborna’s parents and explained the law, as well as other implications, related to child marriage. Finally, her parents gave their consent for their daughter to not get married before she turns 18. However, they also stated that they could no longer afford to pay any expenses related to Suborna.

Finally Suborna’s marriage was put on hold.

To help her earn money, World Vision helped Suborna complete a seven-month Life Skills Based Education (LSBE) course. She now works as a facilitator and coaching volunteer groups to work at the community level. She works on campaigns and teaches rural households about different social and development issues like health, water, sanitation and hygiene, women and child rights, dowries, women’s empowerment and violence against women.. She is now getting Taka 800 (RM34) per session and facilitates 16 sessions in a month.

“This course leads to better psycho-social competence and helps participants to make responsible decisions and build the competency to lead a healthy and productive life. It is also helpful for developing leadership capacity of adolescents. At the same time, I could work for my community’s development also,” Suborna says.

Monika Biswas, the child forum coordinator of Muksudpur ADP, says, “World Vision use a multi-pronged approach for child development – empowering adolescents by forming child forums, building youth groups to work on child marriage issues, Life Skill Based Education courses (LSBE), women groups, children in schools, etc. Along with all this, we aim to integrate a community-based strategy involving village leaders, community groups and government departments to reintegrate children into formal school system. These initiatives became an integral element of our work on child marriage.”

As Suborna’s story illustrates, success stems from this collective approach. She is now a household name in her community when it comes to protesting against underage marriage.

“We decided to join hands and campaign against the evils of child marriage. We enjoy certain privileges like being able to go inside the house and communicate with the women – something men don’t,” Suborna explains.

Suborna’s track record is quite commendable. She and her child forum friends also prevented many other underage marriages in her village. Grade 6 students Kamalika, Chaity and Dipti and Grade 7 student Hena are some of the names who went back to school, thanks to Suborna’s initiative.

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Suborna is in a red headscarf

“World Vision has made my parents to proud of me. I finally made my father understand that his daughters could be his support in old age. And I succeeded. My youngest two sisters are now also going to school,” Suborna says smilingly.

“Now my eyes are filled with new dreams, dreams of hope and aspiration. I want to study more and become a teacher in the future so that I could improve up my community with an education,” she says.

Shahid Fakir, who was once disgusted with his daughter’s obstinacy, is a proud father today. “I was going to make a big mistake, but my daughter stopped us in the nick of time,” he smiles.