Photo Credit Imran Ahmed
The challenges in recent months have been there for everybody in the world, however for developing countries, especially the slums where we work in Bangladesh, the challenges have been immense.
The year started well, we moved the majority of our students to a new school in Dhaka, with a fantastic reputation and with an array of extra-curricular activities that have never been available to our students before. The students are much so much happier and have a more positive attitude to learn and succeed.
We also continued our internship program, where we bring female students who have graduated high school to find internship programs, many of them paid, in Dubai. It has been a great success helping to prepare the students for Universities and careers outside of Bangladesh.
When Covid-19 hit the rest of the world, the crisis hit our communities in Dhaka x100.
First, business just stopped, this meant that those family members who were working, lost their income immediately.
Then the schools closed and so our students were stuck in their cramped makeshift homes with their families, unable to move about outside.
We have been desperately trying to support the families with food, toiletries and rent, we have had some great support but it has been a struggle to feed hundreds of people and so the struggle is ongoing.
The school switched to an online study program, but of course, the majority of our students do not have access to the internet and only a lucky few with generous sponsors, have mobile smartphones. We went on a mission to provide low-cost smartphones for all students so that they could access their classes and thanks to some amazing sponsors the majority now have phones and access – this is an ongoing project.
We were also able to send some used laptops donated by Du in Dubai, thanks to the amazing support from the UAE Embassy of Bangladesh.
Because of the lockdown, we have had 3 of our young ladies stuck in Dubai, with their internships finished they had no way to support themselves with food or toiletries, although thanks to some amazing supporters in Dubai they have managed so far, unfortunately, they have had to spend most of the money they had saved for University.
Although we have managed to find some solutions, the struggle is ongoing, and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier.
One saving grace has been the ongoing coaching for many of our students from two really amazing ladies. Janine Bensouda who is based in the USA and Corrina Cross in Dubai. These ladies are professional coaches taking time out of their busy schedules to help our students face their challenges and to take positive action to better their lives. This has really lifted the morale and we have seen significant changes and development in the student’s actions and attitude.