We are immensely proud of Bhola’s Children’s achievements since the charity was first established. Our children and young people are thriving, and have won multiple local and international awards and competitions, including four Gold Medals and two Silver in the 2023 Berlin Special Olympics. On average five of our young adults per year are achieving mainstream employment and going on to establish independent lives beyond our community. Such visible success has significantly increased demand for our services, and Bhola’s Children currently has a waiting list.

For context, Bhola has more than 70,000 residents with disabilities, most of them living in extreme poverty. Even the travel costs to bring a child to us – generally less than £5 – are too expensive for many parents. In order to be as accessible to as many families as possible, Bhola’s Children has goals for four specific, yet interlinked, areas of growth.

At present, we are providing a home, education and training for sixty-plus children and young people. Whilst we already have the residential capacity to expand that to 100 children – our first goal – we need to achieve the finances to meet a substantial increase in monthly expenditure arising from rising food prices and overall inflation.

Our second goal is to further the sustainability of Bhola’s Children. Building on our established tailoring and carpentry skills, we intend to develop more income-generating activities. Producing mats, furniture, organic soap, and other trending handicrafts, for sale locally and online, will have a dual outcome. The profits, divided between the workers and the organisation, will contribute to reducing our dependence on external donations and at the same time provide jobs for people with disabilities.

Over the years, we have identified crucial gaps in disability services locally. The first is an outreach facility to provide education for students with a variety of defined special educational needs who cannot otherwise, or do not need, to be admitted residentially. Having established an appropriate day care service, in 2023 Bhola’s Children partnered with the Indian charity, Mann, which excels in training organisations that work with students who have intellectual disabilities. As such, our third aim is to expand this into a recognised school for children with special learning requirements, including those who are autistic or neuro-divergent, under the care of a specialist educator. Families who can afford it will pay a fee for their child’s admittance, subsidising those who cannot. Longer term, we hope to create a separate campus, eventually leading us to become a sustainable and quality holistic service provider for autism care.

Expansion of local, accessible physiotherapy services is our fourth goal. At present, Bhola Island has a population of 2 million people, with only two qualified physiotherapists – one employed by the government and the other by Bhola’s Children. Furthermore, there is no assistive device centre. We currently provide as much physiotherapy support as possible, but there remains a huge demand for rehabilitation services: for children with disabilities, stroke patients and others who are post-operative, and all those requiring assistive devices (wheelchairs, walkers and other mobility aids). Our ultimate intention is to build a dedicated rehabilitation centre on its own land, sustainable, again, by charging on a ‘pay what you can’ basis, thus ensuring that people can be treated locally, without a long, arduous and expensive trip to the capital city, Dhaka.