Lighting the hope for an oppressed soul

DSC 0129Life has always been full of vicissitudes for Abdul Rashid and his family. Poverty, poor shelter, social exclusion and exploitation, threats, injustice and negligence all made his life difficult. Rashid lives with his wife Mosammot Khudeza Begum, daughter Kulshuma aged around 28 suffering from speech and hearing impairment by birth, and two sons aged 19 and 14 respectively. He, his wife and two sons all are day laborers and do various different kinds of work over the year. His daughter, named Kulshuma Khatun stays at home and does most of the domestic chores of cooking and cleaning for the family. She is unmarried and unable to work outside because of her communication limitations. They live in village named Patharia, of Chondigor union in Durgapur Upazila, Netrokona.

They had been living in their small piece of land where they had a tiny little tin-roofed house with an unhygienic latrine in the back. The income they used to generate was never enough for the family to meet all their needs. Moreover, a good amount of money was needed almost every year to repair their tiny little home, especially before the monsoon.

This is how the family lived until 2014 when all of a sudden life turned upside down for their beloved daughter. In late 2014, their only daughter, who is deaf and mute since birth was physically abused by a neighbor and left pregnant. Like so many other countries, in Bangladesh too, being raped is considered a curse for the victim and their families have to suffer the not just the pain of suffering the incident but also the social stigma. Kulshuma and family were no exceptions to this heinous custom of victim blaming and stigmatization.

story 2The person who assaulted her was a powerful man and belonged to an influential family in their locality. Efforts at seeking justice came to no avail. They had filed a case with the local police station against the rapist seeking justice for this crime but unfortunately, could the accused and his family used their money, power and influence to manipulate the entire process. Abdul Rashid, a poor day laborer who struggles to even meet his family’s daily needs was unable to spend extra money to expedite the case. Thus the warped system blatantly denied justice to those that rightfully deserved it, feeding into the hands of the rich and powerful. Soon, by the following year, Kulshuma gave birth to a baby girl who is now about three years old.

 The house they used to live in was made of mud wall and tin-roof. It was dark inside and no sunlight or fresh air could enter, forcing them to live in a damp and unhealthy environment. Moreover, they also had to accommodate their only cattle inside the house which makes the environment worse. They had no tube-well of their own and needed to collect and carry drinking water from far away. They used the pond water for washing, bathing and other regular purposes.Being physically assaulted and giving birth to an unwanted child has brought enormous sufferings for their family. Poverty along with social exploitation, injustice, pressure from the accused family has made their existence even tougher. “I couldn’t sleep in peace as thoughts about our uncertain future and the impending miseries would constantly haunt me. My daughter was constantly left exposed to threats as she would have to stay home alone all day long and the house we live in was not protected,” said Abdul Rashid.

kulsumaHabitat Bangladesh with the special support from 12 Presbyterian Churches in Illinois built a home for Kulshuma and her family. The home is quite unique compared to other Habitat homes. This house has been designed with the toilet and tube-well accessible from inside the and secured with a concrete wall and iron grates to ensure extra security. Their new house has windows that provide proper ventilation. This home has enabled the family to live with a sense of security. “I can’t explain how grateful we are to have this new home and what a difference it has brought into our lives. The most significant change is the safety and security we can now have. We can go about our daily work anytime without any concern knowing that our daughter is safe in our new home. This brings peace into our minds”, Abdul Rashid mentioned.

The brand new home did not only assure a comfortable place to live but also improved their social status as well. They no longer have to spend money on frequent home repairs and this alleviates some of their financial pressure. “The common food we could afford is rice and some vegetables on most days. Sometimes we could buy some fish and lentils but not more than two to four times a month”, Rashid mentioned.

kulsuma2Now they are able to spend a little more on better food, other basic needs and even have the opportunity to sometimes save a little money. This improved shelter has brought a huge difference in their lives and enabled them to afford a better standard of living. The new home ensured enough space for everyone and most importantly they don’t need to accommodate their cattle with them in the same place. Most of all this home has allowed them the peace of knowing they are secure in any situation, including natural disasters like heavy rainfall, cyclone, and tornado among others. “We are so happy that Habitat Bangladesh provided us a new home. It has been a great help to our family. We will not have to think about our safety, especially our daughter and her child when we are away from home. Nevertheless, this would certainly improve our standard of living and the status of our family. This will also save a lot of money which we needed to spend to maintain the previous home” said Khudeza Begum.

Kulshuma, the unfortunate young mother now has a beautiful smile on her face. She communicates using signs and her beautiful smile with her parents and daughter. She looked very happy in her new home and expressed her gratitude using signs and tears in her eyes. Her frustration at not receiving justice is also evident in her efforts to communicate so many diverse feelings. There is still a wounded heart which she tries to cover with her beautiful smile.

“We have nothing to demand as we already lost a lot. All we want now is to have justice from the court and a safe and smooth life where we can at least enjoy security, peace and a better livelihood. We are so thankful to Habitat Bangladesh for bringing hope back into our lives. May God bless you all”, Abdur Rashid, Kulshuma’s father added.

Building the foundation for a better future

Bidhan 1Bidhan Dhali, a former bus driver, who lost both his legs 12 years ago is still a young man of about 35 years. He lived in a rented house in Kanial under Birisiri union in Durgapur Upazila, Netrokona with his wife Kalpona and two daughters who are 13 and 7 years old.

Bidhan was a respected highway bus driver. In 2006, an accident took a toll on both his legs. He survived but continues to carry the stigma of that accident. Life became a nightmare for Bidhan after that incident. He lost all his savings on his treatment, had no income and he had to depend on others’ mercy for a long time. He still continues to be assisted by some generous people around him.

Brother Frank, one of the devoted Christian priest from the Taije Brothers community, came forward to support Bidhan and made a small wooden shop in the Durgapur Bazar. Bidhan sold his gold chain and some other ornaments kept aside for his daughter to manage the capital to start the shop. He now earns a living selling betel nuts, biscuits, snacks and some stationery goods in his shop. His wife helps him run the shop. She walks with Bidhan every morning, helps him open the shop and returns again in the evening for closing. Sometimes she also sits in the shop to help Bidhan. The income from the store is not enough to lead a smooth life but they are content with the small things they have in their lives.

During the initial days, Bidhan’s sister had offered shelter to him and his family. After a while when he began earning again, he was able to move to a home he had rented from a local primary school teacher. Living in a rented house was not easy for him and considering his condition, the landlord had generously offered to keep the rent minimal. Although a blessing for Bidhan and his family, the shop was too far from his residence and he needed constant assistance moving to and from it.

Bidhan2Bidhan’s elder daughter studies and lives in Mymensing Baptist Mission Girls Hostel and visits them during her breaks. It was challenging for Bidhan to pay the house rent, support his daughter’s education, and provide for family healthcare and other expenses. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and some other times of the year, sales go down and it becomes harder to meet the daily needs on top of the house rent.

Considering his situation, Habitat Bangladesh with the generous support from the 12 Presbyterian Churches in Illinois built a new home for Bidhan’s family. A generous man from his area had granted a piece of land with at a minimum cost which Bidhan prepared to build his own home on. This place is very close to his store and would make it easier for him to access the bazaar.

The home that was built had attached facilities and an entry ramp in order to allow Bidhan to overcome his physical limitations. It has been built with the tube-well, kitchen, and toilet attached so that the family might have better comfort and also ensuring accessibility for Bidhan.

“The income I made every month was not enough for me to rent a house. But I did not have options. It’s a blessing to have a home of our own which helps us lead a better life”, said Bidhan.

 

Now Bidhan does not need to travel a long way to reach his shop. His wife always keeps the house neat and clean and helps Bidhan attend the shop on time. ”My home is my biggest comfort zone. I live in peace here with my family. It saves a lot of money that I used to pay to my landlord earlier. I can afford better food, basic amenities, education for my daughter and my medical expenses”, Bidhan mentioned.

Bidhan combined1He sometimes becomes ill due to complications from his injuries and must bear additional medical expenses. “Earlier, we had to think twice before spending money on anything, no matter how important that issue was. Nevertheless, this beautiful home has given us the strength and ability to invest our money in potential sectors including medical treatment, our girl’s education or in our small business” Kalpona added.

It is his dream to ensure proper education for both of their girls and let them excel in life. With access to a safe and secure shelter, Bidhan Dhali hopes to regain the life he dreamt of prior to the accident. “I am so thankful to Habitat Bangladesh and the donors for making my dream come true. A home is a place where everyone wants to belong to at the end of the day. I am so blessed that Habitat made this happen for me. I wish them all the best and pray that many people like me will transform their lives through Habitat Bangladesh”, Bidhan quoted. Bidhan has taken a loan after completion of his house to enclose additional space but has not yet completed the brick plastering. Bidhan continues to be courageous in the face of the challenges in his life and with this support from Habitat he dreams of independence and peace. Bidhan’s story is one of the many examples of how Habitat builds strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter.Bidhan combined 2

Peace after the Storm

StoryIf Promila had not received Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh’s support through the project funded by the Abinta Kabir Foundation, her family would still be living in a small mud-walled house, still fearing the slightest change in weather, and having her children be deprived from a healthy and clean environment.

Promila Rani Das is a day labour working in a factory near her small village of Brahmongaon, Kaliganj, Gazipur. She lives with her husband Sandeepon Chandra Das, and two children Sampa Rani Das and Durjoy Chandra Das. They live a simple life on a very limited income. Promila’s husband has a small fisheries business that he runs from Gazipur, where he often has to stay back. Their daughter Sampa is a student of Class 10 and son Durjoy studies in Class 6. Their house had been made of mud walls and a CI sheet roof. It was inadequate in many ways, but mostly it lacked the proper environment for a healthy lifestyle. There was little ventilation and it was dim and dark inside.

Promila“We did not have a latrine or our own water source. The nearest water source was at least a 5 minutes’ walk, but the water itself was not that clean,” Sandeepon says. “Whenever we had to use the toilet, we used to go to the nearby shrubbery.” The house was old and it had multiple cracks. The roof had flown away on many occasions whenever storms would hit with strong winds, especially during the early seasons of “Boishakh” (first month of the Bengali calendar). Promila and her husband had been aware of the support NGOs were providing to people like them living on minimal income who needed assistance with improving their housing conditions.

They contacted the local CBO office and found out all the details pertaining to the application process. They soon applied, and after all the processing was complete, they received news of being selected. The news could not have come at a better time. Just a few days later, a storm had blown away their roof. Abinta Kabir Foundation’s donation towards the cause of providing a house, latrine and tube-well to 12 impoverished families allowed Promila and her family a chance at a new life.

The house not only gave them a place to live in, but it created an opportunity for them to contribute in the construction through providing their unskilled labour. Habitat’s volunteer program created an opportunity for youth with a tenacity for serving the society to be able to work alongside the homeowners, helping them and interacting to get to know about their hardships first-hand.

“Life is very different now,” says Sandeepon. “The most important difference is that we no longer have to feel worried about the house falling apart in a storm. Our children now have a much better environment to study and grow up in.”

Terrors of Monsoon

Story1Roksana's house was a feeble structure made from mud and thatched roof. It was dim, dark and congested inside but it was a place she could call home. The storm in the wake of the 2016 cyclone left her home in ruins. No longer having a physical roof over her head, she remembers going to sleep every night hoping and praying that it would not rain. She was constantly anxious about the weather, struggling to live everyday with barely any roof over her head.

Without a proper shelter, monsoon and winds were nothing short of terror for her and her son.Poor and widowed, she had no one to look to. Her able sons offered little help and she had little to offer as service for a living. She managed to earn just a few hundred takas from working as a sweeper and doing odds and ends at the village market. It was barely enough to sustain her but she also had a son suffering from mental illness to look after. A day without work meant a day without food.

Story2In such state of finances, a new house was the farthest from her mind. Among all her worries she had little she could do to even repair the broken down house she was living in. Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh (HFHB) has been working in that area through local CBOs. Representatives often inform people about any opportunities through meetings and visits. At this point, when she was barely surviving, Abinta Kabir Foundation’s donation for HFHB’s house building project came as ray of hope for her. Roksana was introduced to the project through CBO member Shefali and with her help Roksana applied for a new home. Field staff members from Habitat Bangladesh visited her home and after an inspection and survey, her application received approval.

Roksana now lives in a solid house with a strong roof protecting her from the erratic weather. There is a sense of peace in living in a safe and comfortable home. Abinta Kabir Foundation through their donation has brought some ease into her difficult life. 

A tiny shed; five people to accommodate

IMG 3500aRekha Akhter, a 35 year old single mother, struggling through life. Abandoned 7 years ago by her husband, the only earning member, she was forced to seek shelter with her father.

He gave her a small piece of land and built a small hut in the village Rouhartak at Dhamrai, where she lived with her four children, Dolna (13), Asiya (10), and the twins Dilruba (8) and Md. Halim (8). Left to fend for herself and with five mouths to feed, Rekha worked as a day laborer, washing dishes and utensils at a decorator shop. Work opportunities, especially for Rekha were very limited in this village, and she barely managed to earn BDT 2500 ($30) every month. Her income was so meagre that there have been days where she could only manage a single meal for her family. Even in her toughest days, she was determined not to compromise with her children’s education. All of her four children went to school, the eldest was in class 7, the second daughter studied in class 4, and the twins went to class 1. Through support from relatives and neighbours, she somehow managed to keep them all in school.

Rekha’s parents were the only people to offer the least possible support for food and shelter during her tough time. Her inadequate housing made them vulnerable to rain, storms, robberies and any other natural disasters. The children could not concentrate on their studies because of the congested and unhealthy environment. “I became helpless with my four children when my husband left us and remarried. I could not provide food, shelter or any other basic needs for them. I have faced life’s cruelty with my young children” Rekha mourned, but she never let go of her dream of living happily with her children.

IMG 2156aIn December 2016, a lady from Rekha’s neighborhood who had previously received a new house from Habitat Bangladesh, advised her to seek help for house renovation from the organization. Through contacting her local CBO office, Rekha came to know that Habitat Bangladesh, under its KOICA funded project will be providing low cost houses free of cost as shelter for the poor. Rekha applied for a house and after proper invistigation, Habitat Bangladesh chose her as one of the recipients of a brand new house. In July 2017, Rekha shifted to her new house with her children. On that day Rekha’s face glowed with happiness and she said “Habitat Bangladesh has shown me the way to live life anew and I am very happy. I am no longer sad. I can live in peace with my children. I now have a self-confidence that has been born simply through the work and assistance of Habitat Bangladesh”.

This new house has brought new hopes and aspirations to their lives, which was something seemingly impossible in the past. Her children can now study and live comfortably. They now have the courage to hope that their untold dreams will be fulfilled one day. They rejoice in seeing their mother’s beaming smile, all signs of grief erased. The new home offers them the opportunity to save some money as they no longer have to spend on reparations. Rekha can now grow vegetables in front of her home ensuring greater food security. The new home has brought stability into their lives and has opened new doors to explore the life Rekha and her children can now have.

Rani’s home is her strength

 

DSC 2188

Imagine a day without basic amenities in life. A day without food, shelter, clothes, medical treatment or education. Imagine how challenging it is to struggle for a handful of rice every day. Imagine, you are sleeping in a sack that can fall down on you.

Rani Begum, a 33-year-old young lady lost her husband from blood cancer around 6 years back. She and her two sons live in the village Fuldi, under Gazipur district. Life revealed its harsh reality to Rani Begum and her kids after the departure of her husband who was the only earning member of the family. They used to live in an old shaded hut and could hardly afford food, clothes and other basic needs.  Rani’s mother in law was the only person to offer the least support for food and shelter during the tough time. Due to poverty, her elder son had to leave school and start working as an office support boy to generate some income for survival. Their inadequate house made them vulnerable to rain, storms, robberies and other natural disasters. The kids could not concentrate on their studies because of the congested and unhealthy environment. Moreover, being a young widow, Rani had to experience various socio-cultural threats as well. “I become helpless with my two kids when my husband died from blood cancer about six years ago. I could not provide food, shelter and other basic needs to my kids and I spent sleepless nights from that anguish. I have faced the cruelty of life as a young widow with two growing kids” Rani Begum recalls.

Work opportunities are very limited in the village of Fuldi, more challenging for women. Nevertheless, Rani managed to work as a housemaid for some families and hardly lived from hand to mouth.

DSC 2219Rani Begum heard about Habitat Bangladesh from her neighbors and applied for a home.  After the survey, Habitat Bangladesh built a new house for her under the KOICA funded project.  In August 2017, Rani Begum moved to her new house with her kids. “I can’t express my joy and happiness to have a brand new home for my family. This wonderful home has provided me the blessings to be safe and secured at any situation. My social status has been improved and my kids live in a comfortable and healthy environment. I am really thankful to Habitat Bangladesh and KOICA for transforming our lives” Rani said with a glow of happiness on her face.

This new home brought new hopes and aspirations in their lives which were something impossible and imaginary in the past. Her elder son has started school again beside his work. Her younger son is 13 years old and a student of grade 6, he dreams to become a cricketer in future. The new home offered them the opportunity to save some money as they don’t have to repair the house. Rani grows vegetables in front of her home which ensures some food security. The new home has brought stability in the family and has opened the doors to explore the life of Rani and her sons. 

 

Habitat for Humanity Bangladesh

  Level 3, House # 12, Road # 16/A, Gulshan- 1, Dhaka 1212, Bangladesh
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