This article was written by Ludivine, a volunteer from the organization Missions Etrangères de Paris (Foreign Missions from Paris). She is living in Mymensingh and working with the Taizé Brothers for two months.
We left for three days with about twenty very poor children from the Mymensingh Rail station, our destination was a beautiful village a few kilometers away from the town of Haluaghat, north of Mymensingh. Let me tell you, this group of children was ecstatic to be going on this adventure! With no luggage to be found, not even a little sack, they arrived with big smiles on their faces. Having left behind their little houses and their burlap bags, normally used for picking up paper found on the streets in order to resell it, they were ready for a new adventure.
After an hour of driving “Bangladesh-style” (that is, ridiculously fast and laying on the horn the whole way), we arrived alive in the town of Haluaghat. From there, we continued our journey in a “tempo”, a very bumpy type of minibus, which is always overflowing with an unimaginable number of passengers. Once again it was a wild ride, and quite the adventure! Every five minutes or so around 10 children would get off the tempo to lighten the load and push the vehicle through the ruts and over the bumps of the virtually destroyed road. But even that could not dampen our spirits! A few hours later we had finally arrived in the little village where we were staying the next few days. We were hosted by a wonderful family of farmers, friends of the Taizé Brothers, and members of the Garo indigenous group.
The program continued with regular dips in the cool waters of beautiful ponds, sessions full of songs, games and drawing, strolls by the river and finally a large work site, the “tree plantation.” Thanks to a great idea by brother Guillaume, we were going to plant a hundred saplings. Now this is not an easy task, but for a group of courageous, brash, young children, with no worries in the world, it is but a challenge to be overcome. There again I underestimated their remarkable creativity and ability to do whatever it is they want. Some of these children are no more than three feet tall and yet there they were, digging, planting, and clearing the field as if they had been doing it all their lives.
Apart from their incredible ingenuity, it became obvious that these children were no angels! Like many Bangladeshis, it is unbelievable how easily they become angry and hot under the collar. At the slightest provocation between the children, without a moments delay, a fist fight would ensue, because after all that is how problems are solved, a lesson these young children have had engrained in them at a very early age. At times it was necessary for us to intervene and calm the childrens nerves; brother Guillaume noted quickly that I had picked up the most important phrases for solving little fights among the children; phrases such as “choop koro!”, which means “be quiet!”, or “eyta bhalo na!” to say “that’s not good!”.
We had a wonderful three days together. Everyone returned exhausted (both the children and the volunteers), but we were all so happy! For me, I really appreciated the opportunity to get to know the children a little bit better during our time together, and it was so fun to be able to put names to the faces of the children at the station. I have been able to better understand the children who live in such poverty by the Rail station, and I hope I can help them more in the future, and be able to understand a little bit more about their daily lives.
This article was translated from its original French, any mistakes in translation are my own.