There are a number of projects that need major investment and sponsorship, and we would love to hear from anyone who is interested in any of the following projects. We can provide an outline and budget for each of these on request.
Although education is free in Bangladesh, many families do not have sufficient income to buy uniforms, books or other learning resources. The temptation is therefore to take the children out of school and put the older ones into work.
Working with char communities
The Sreepur Village runs a support centre in the Kurigram/Chilmari region of northern Bangladesh where climate change is threatening the lives of women and children living in 'char' communities. It is estimated that 600,000 people live in the isolated char communities of Bangladesh. These communities lie on the eroding sandbanks of the river delta are at constant risk of flooding; they are amongst the poorest in the country. In 2014 the Sreepur Village decided to introduce an outreach project in Kurigram, northern Bangladesh. In the last twenty five years the majority of destitute mothers that have come to Sreepur Village have been from this district, in particular from one of the poorest areas of Bangladesh, Chilmari. Most people in this region are landless and because it’s a riverine and low lying area land forms and disappears. During the monsoon, for months each year, most land is under water. Many young mothers are left destitute; men leave to work in cities and often do not return so there are a large percentage of fatherless families with no land and no income. Many mothers are very young themselves as early marriage is very common in this area.
We found that the majority of mothers we have helped, from this district, are from one small ‘char’ (unstable river island) where word about Sreepur Village (known locally as SPP) has spread by word of mouth. We then visited other similar ‘chars’ and found many women with children who met our criteria and who hadn’t heard of us and are desperate for some sort of support.
We opened offices in this region and have 2 local social workers working in these poor communities reaching out to women who meet our criteria. In the first 7 months as a result of our work in this region 70 mothers were referred to the Sreepur Village. These mothers and their children will stay at the Village for a period of time (where they will receive care, education and livelihood training) or if appropriate we will work with them and offer training in their local communities.
Project for Street Children in Tongi, on the outskirts of Dhaka
Some years ago, we were approached by one of our UK donors who wished to gift a large sum if we would start to work with street children in Bangladesh. As a result of this meeting, we found a small building by the railway station in Tongi on the outskirts of Dhaka. Transport hubs are a favourite place for street children as many of them catch rides on the trains to other parts of the country, and also there is normally work available for the older children gathering plastic and rags.
We opened a drop in centre offering snacks, toilet and washing facilities, a TV plus toys and basic literacy and numeracy classes. The centre was open from 8:00am to 4.30pm under the terms of the lease. We now see upto 100 children each day and support between 250-300 children each month, we are able to refer them to other NGOs in the area if they need medical or nutritional help. We have also been able to expand the hours, for boys only, to overnight. We do not have sufficient room or suitable staff to offer this to girls, but we are hoping to be able to do this in the future.
Some of the children have a parent or parents who also live on the station platform, and some children are alone.
Several of the younger abandoned children were keen to leave life on the streets and we therefore rented a nearby building as a residential unit, where these children live with us while they learn how to behave in a family unit and with other people. This has had mixed success as many of the children are not able to cope with any rules and have stolen items and run! However, having a residential unit also means that the children who do stay have an address and can therefore enrol in school. And each child who spends time in school while living in the residential unit is a great success for us.
We arrange day trips for all of the children....to the zoo, to landmarks in the city, and also to Sreepur where they join us for the children’s annual picnic, and they were part of our 27th anniversary celebrations on 7th February this year.
We have recently completed the purchase of a plot of land by the Tongi railway station where we will construct a purpose built drop-in centre and overnight shelter for both boys and girls. The land has planning for a 6 storey building, and initially we will build foundations for six storeys and construct the ground and first floor. This will enable us to offer toilets, showers, a games room, and dining space for the children who visit us during the day, and separate overnight accommodation for boys and girls.
One of our best loved programmes at the Sreepur Village is the girl’s cricket team. The importance of cricket in the lives of our disadvantaged girls cannot be overestimated; it’s a tool for empowerment providing girls with a sense of self worth and confidence; teaching vital life skills as well as being a great source of joy and fun. Our long term vision at the Village is to create a centre of excellence where girls and women can play and develop their talent in a safe and secure environment. We feel sure that one day some of our most talented girls will play for their country.
Support for Victims of the Rana Plaza Building Collapse, Savar, Bangladesh
On 24th April 2013, 1127 people died when the garments factory in Rana Plaza collapsed. More than 2000 people were injured, and 291 were never found.
The Sreepur Village immediately set up signs offering help to women and children affected by this tragedy. We stepped in for the interim period to support the education of 200 children orphaned by the tragedy, while our staff on the ground worked hard to ensure compensation money reached the children affected by this tragedy.
For 2 years we supported the education of the orphaned children until alternative help and money became available. Although our support for this project has now come to an end we will always fight against the injustice of poverty and the exploitative working practices in Bangladesh that trap so many women and children in dire poverty We believe every child has the right to an education and every mother has the right to work in a safe and secure environment and receive a fair wage for her work. At the Sreepur Village we work with ethical employers that pay our mothers a living wage, we are also proud to sell our own fair trade products that provide a livelihood for the women at Sreepur and the surrounding villages.