I had a joyful time with the children, so many of them now. It was wonderful to meet up again with old friends, including our three musketeers Ismail, Mamun and Maksud. Ismail and Mamun, who is blind, have come back to assist Faruk as gatekeeper, and Maksud – my first special boy – has a job up the road and visits while I am there. Then, of course, there are many new faces, including a very special boy Rafsan who has the rare Sotos syndrome which causes excessive growth in early years. He also has epileptic fits if parted from his special stick, and needs round the clock care. We hope to be able to keep him.
The great excitement was getting a puppy. Shanta was found by Salina’s husband, who had her given the necessary injections but decided to give her to us. She is utterly adorable and adjusted quickly to being with so many people. Needless to say, the older boys built a very sophisticated kennel for her.
We did all the usual things, including a picnic on Eunus’s farm and an excellent sports day when I finally managed to beat the other women at musical chairs!
The physiotherapy department is working hard, we now have 16 resident and 20 outpatients. Said, who runs the local government physiotherapy centre, came twice while I was there to assess new patients, many of whom of course have cerebral palsy due to protracted labour. I was especially horrified by one dear little girl of 22 months whose mother, at 18, had to wait seven hours after the head had crowned before being taken to hospital, probably by rickshaw. There is such a need for regular physio among these people and I was pleased that a couple of mothers with young babies stayed with us for a few days to learn some exercises.
Zakir’s next project, which has our full support and that of the District Commissioner, is to open a day school for autistic children. Although the incidence of most disability is reducing in Bangladesh, there is a notable increase in cases of autism. I think it will be difficult to find a teacher in Bhola so Zakir is busy learning from the books I took him, and we all wish him success.
Our next construction project, which we hope to begin this summer, is to build a row of ten small houses along one side of our land at Supari Bagan. This will serve as a boundary wall as well as providing accommodation. At the moment our eight older boys are living in a flat across the road together with Surma and her husband and baby boy and a new teacher, Tumpa, with her little girl. Other staff members, such as Masuma when she returns with her baby girl, might also live there and any extra houses will be rented out. Our part of the island, being between the town and the ghat, has become rather desirable and we hope for income.
My visit ended with a wedding! The family of our beautiful slow learner Bithi told Zakir they wanted her to be married and would give a good dowry, as well as build a house for the couple next to their own. Zakir immediately suggested Mamun who thought it was a good idea, and the two families agreed terms on the morning of my final day. The marriage took place soon after my farewell celebration, and both looked happy the next morning.
I miss them all so much, but I know they are all well and happy and looking forward to a visit from Brother Tall, Andrew, at the end of February.