Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bangladesh: CDCs

I've always been intrigued by the theory of child sponsorship programs that help care for children in need through food, clothing, education, etc. It's a great idea, and in terms of strategically applied compassion -- that is, going beyond feeling sympathetic and doing something truly useful to meet genuine needs -- such programs have a lot of potential.

I've wondered, though -- what are they really like? Is the implementation truly strategic? Genuinely compassionate? Do such centers actually bring to fruition what the literature promises?

Mark and I traveled to Bangladesh earlier this year with a handful of others. While there, we had opportunity to visit several Child Development Centers (CDCs) supported through Nazarene Compassionate Ministries (NCM) -- playing with the children, hearing stories of the country and villages and families and individuals, eating and singing together. We had lots of opportunities along the way to talk with a number of program leaders, too, to ask lots of questions and discover what kinds of things they think about as they develop the various programs.

It was amazing!

Tahmina speaks Bengali fluently

These are a few of the sponsored children.
They are learning English, and doing very well!

I tried really, really hard to learn to count to 10 in Bengali.
The kids tried really, really hard to teach me.
Still can't do it, but we had fun.

These CDCs provide children with five meals each week. It's not just food for the days; they study and work to provide nutrients often missing in the children's diets, and teach the families how they can do this, too, using inexpensive, locally available products. This is helping to improve the overall health of entire villages.

Food Security Program

Preparing food for many
Families of many of the children cannot afford basic school supplies, and even young children are often put to work earning money for their families. CDCs provide education to those who otherwise would be unlikely to receive one, including social, spiritual, and cultural activities. This helps not just with their immediate needs but also gives them tools to help their families, their villages, and ultimately their country for many years to come.

Uniformed school children. The school prepared a special
program for us, with dancing, singing, recitations, etc.

School books

The young woman in red performed one of the cultural dances

School children gathered

Some lessons are expressed quite well through visuals!

Music is important in the culture and education

The school children were very attentive...

... and enthusiastic :)

Play equipment

Caring for the physical health of the children is woven through the programs, including stuff like sanitary latrines, sanitation education (e.g., use of latrines, hand washing, etc.), tube wells, medical check-ups, frequent treatment of intestinal parasites (a significant cause of childhood death there), and more.

The well next to one of the schools

Sanitation matters. Even simple latrines save lives.

The programs are run by Bengali people. They know their culture ,
working within it and through it. Here, two actors put on a play to teach
sanitation and other health-related topics in the center of a village.
Advertising not necessary -- when things like this start, people show up.

Music added to the draw and to the teaching

The gathered crowd seemed to enjoy the program

The children are protected, nurtured, sheltered. And beyond all that, they are given love and affection, new experiences, praise and recognition, a sense of belonging, and more. My favorite part of the whole trip -- which is saying something, because I loved it all and was quite impressed by how the programs provide for educational, physical, social, and spiritual needs -- was seeing the leaders' fierce love for the children, and the children's fondness for the leaders.

And there is so, so much more.

It was an incredible experience to see the Child Development Centers in action, not just appreciate the idea in theory. They are created strategically for effectiveness and sustainability, coordinated and run by passionate and gifted Bengali leaders who know their culture and love their people. They're doing great work and doing it in sustainable ways. The world will never be the same. These child sponsorship programs are a phenomenal investment.

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