The aim of the Muhibun Nessa Foundation, is to build a school in the village of Baishtila. This will provide the children with basic education and a strong foundation, allowing them to support themselves and their families. It will also decrease the number of children who resort to the dangerous streets for survival and livelihood. Mr Westcott, the CAS Coordinator at ICS told us about their adventure.
“After a long journey to Sylhet we finally arrived to a warm welcome from the villagers of Baishtila who greeted us outside to airport with flowers and hugs. We soon got settled into our apartments and after a brief rest some were ready to take the walk to Baishtila and we soon had our first look at the Muhibun Nessa buildings. They’ve come on a long way over the past twelve months and are finally recognisable as a school. The first full day was spent exploring and mapmaking in the company of local children and we soon had a plan for the coming weeks.
We managed to visit every home in the village this year and students organised Iftar bags for everyone to break fast together. The local councillor organised a boat trip for us to visit some of the outlying communities cut off by flood waters. One such community is called Islampur and at this time of the year is a tiny island between 2 and 7 meters wide and about 100 meters long. Not the easiest place to get to!
Over the first ten days one group of students visited the Lions Children Hospital in Sylhet every morning for work experience. On our first visit we presented a new hospital bed donated by the ICS community. Meanwhile everyone else embarked on a series of interviews and case studies with the women of Baishtila and thanks to their efforts for the first time we have a detailed picture of what skills people have and of what their needs are as well as medical needs. One old lady called Juhura came to see us. All she said was ‘I have a name’. That was it, and it took a moment or two for the significance of her words to sink in.
It wasn’t all hard work and we soon were making evening trips to the local pool, Pizza Hut and KFC as well as organising a football international. Spain lost! We visited local tea gardens, learned how to pick tea and were given a tour of the factory where the tea is processed. One unfortunate student asked the question ‘How many tea bags do you produce every day?’ The response was a steely stare, a long silence and then ‘we don’t do tea bags’. One evening we visited a local fish farm where we all caught our dinner and then barbequed it.
While all of this was going on we also had to organise a wedding. Shumon who is our project manager in Baishtila had been waiting to marry Nusrat for over a year and now was the moment. The girls all bought sarees and the boys ‘punjabis’ for the occasion which was unforgettable.
We made a three day visit to Sremangal, the tea capital of Bangladesh. Once again we were warmly greeted by university students from the Sreemangal Student Society. We stayed in one of the tea resorts, visited three local schools where ICS students presented carpets, ventilators, books and school materials. While in Sreemangal we visited the Finlay Tea Estate and some of the pipe wells we are in the process of installing. A trip to the Madobkundo waterfall was a day for messing about in the river before returning to Sylhet.
The final few days were busy in levelling out the road to the project and resurfacing it as well as painting and building tables with Abdul, a local carpenter. Shumon and his new bride came to visit and we also took a river cruise before leaving for Dhaka.
Dhaka is very different. It is massive and it takes an age to get anywhere. We got to meet up with Lipi Khandker, one of Bangladesh’s leading fashion designers who showed around her studios and invited us to a wonderful meal at her home. Her work is very special as she only uses home spun cloth and she has recently won international recognition for her work in promoting rural women. Students spent some happy hours shopping at Bibiana which is Lipi’s brand and at Aarong, another store which sells Bangladeshi crafts and clothing.
At the end of the trip I hope that students have come away with a new perspective on the world. Grade 12 students will have finished their CAS and our new Grade 11 students will have plenty of ideas for their CAS projects in September. We made so many new friends, enjoyed the CNG rides and learned that it isn’t smart to throw smart phones into swimming pools!”