The street children of Dhaka are surprisingly resilient and at the same time, big dreamers. There are many children that run away from home knowing that they will face hardship on the streets with only the hope that their dreams will come alive.
The Bangladesh Restless Beings team set out to ask what some of the street children of Dhaka aspire to be when they grew up; what their dreams are, who they hope to be, where they see themselves in the future if they had the choice.
A few months ago Restless Beings carried out the ‘My Ramadan Resolution’ campaign to give street children Eid gifts (consisting of a meal, new clothes and educational books) at the end of the spiritual month of Ramadan.
It brings us great joy to say we were able to raise enough to buy for all those who frequently use the Centre as well as many more, which was contributed towards the extra food distribution on the day!
The Restless Beings Bangladesh team as well as the children give their heartfelt thanks to the donors and supporters of this project.
Ask anyone and they will tell you; when they were young, all they wanted to do was make lots of money and chase their dreams when they grew up.
Everyone then dragged their heels through school, college and university and then finally when they landed that great job, they moved out.
Some of the children now living on the streets probably had the same dream – except their reasons to flock to the city are multidimensional. And their reasons to migrate are not often because they wanted to, but rather because they were forced to.
The overly congested city of Dhaka, has much in its background. But amongst the congestion, commotion and pollution are the floating population.
There are over 400,000 street children in Bangladesh with over a third of them settled in Dhaka. Living in dense slums, squatter settlements or on the pavement makes them vulnerable to a dangerous concoction of dilemmas - from malnutrition to sexual abuse, force participation to petty theft to substance abuse.
Myself and fellow restless being Foreda, whilst working on another charity project in Sylhet, managed to battle through the crazy traffic jams of Dhaka to make our way to the Restless Beings Bangladesh Rehab Centre and Home in January this year. It was the first time in our two and half years of becoming restless beings, that we were able to go see the Rehab Centre and Home and the amazing team that have been working so tirelessly to bring hope to so many forgotten and marginalised children on the streets of Dhaka.
Having lived in Bangladesh for almost two months prior to our visit, we witnessed on a daily basis the struggle that befalls those on the streets; vulnerable and desperate futures are what lie ahead. The scenes put into context why such acts of young children abusing drugs; taking dandy to escape from the harsh and very gruesome realities of their ‘childhood,’ and relying on gangs and pimps for some sort of familial support and home are so apparent in the lives of street children.
When the street children of Dhaka were asked why they flock to the people who wear the "green hand" and the ones who call themselves “Wrestling Beans”, they all say the same thing – we trust them, they listen, they understand and they care.
On one such day, in early November, the team came across a teenage girl named Kolpona; her name meaning ‘fantasy’ or ‘imagination’. Tragically none of the team could imagine the challenges she has to face.
In the cool month of November the Restless Beings Bangladesh team sip tea with some of the street children. Through these moments the team have come to witness how the children go about their day. Despite facing events and deprivations that no child should experience they have an acute appreciation of the simple things in life.
The team have endeavoured to capture these fleeting moments, insignificant to passers-by but monumental to their make up.
A study reported last year noted that children, as young as 7 years old, make their earnings on the street only to get a total of 20-30 taka per day - not even enough to buy a packet of crisps in UK - with “…almost all of their income…usually spent for food with little or no savings”. Their situation dictates that they must make monetary contribute towards the income of their family, using whatever means possible, enivitably exposing them to an array of illnesses, dangerous and unhealthy conditions from a very young age.
But these are not just the findings of a study; the Restless Beings Bangladesh team have been keeping contact with the street children of Dhaka regularly; building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships. Collating the stories and journeys of the children we meet, we bring to you the tales of some of them.
Since the 100 kids campaign Restless Beings has been working behind the scenes to kick-start the Restless Beings Village.
With the recent implementation of an already “…overly cumbersome and intrusive regulatory process…complicated by delays and hurdles, including non-transparency in authorization of registration by the Home Ministry, the police, or the National Security Intelligence…” – Bangladesh is not an easy country to work with in order to move things along, no matter the urgency.
Nevertheless, our Bangladesh team has maintained contact with the street children of the area regularly; building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships.
We will bring to you some of the stories and journeys of the children we meet.