John Elen, from International Needs Humanitarian Trust (INHT), recently travelled to Bangladesh to see how the funds New Zealanders have donated are making a difference. The visit left a lasting impression on him and he was pleasantly surprised about the lifelong, positive changes this brought to many.
Here is John’s story …
“We’re not in Kansas now Toto,” this line from the Wizard of Oz, is when Dorothy and her dog (Toto) find themselves in a strange and enchanting new land. I have only been to Asia (Manilla) once before and found it was very Westernised. We landed at Dhaka at 1.00 am and we were met head on with thousands of Muslim pilgrims returning home from their recent pilgrimage to Mecca. This, combined with the heat, chaos, noise, music and car horns, made me quickly realise I was somewhere totally different from New Zealand.
We were part of a group that explored a number of NGO projects. Our programme was full, as our guests wanted us to see and experience as much as possible during our time there.
We travelled in the oppressive Bangladesh heat by train, ferry, a three-wheeled bike and, fortunately, by air-conditioned mini-van sometimes.
We visited children’s orphanages, a building project, a village reeling from recent flooding and a slum school that endeavours to educate children as young as six who spend seven hours a day, seven days a week in a welding shop or brick-making factory.
The people of Bangladesh were amazing and everyone we spent time with was gracious, enthusiastic, hospitable, open and welcoming.
The sights, sounds and smells truly made an impact on me.
At the slum school, my wife and I spent time with a six-year-old boy who worked in a brick-making factory. He was so happy to have the opportunity to go to school for just three hours a day. He broke our heart, but knowing that he was being helped by INHT comforted me.
When we arrived at one of the orphanages, Bethany Children’s Village, we were given the most amazing welcome. The children were so pleased to see us and so appreciative of the help they are given. The children we met have absolutely nothing, everything they own fits into a small wooden box, but they are so grateful. Their thankfulness humbled us and there wasn’t a dry eye in our group. It is so sad to think what would happen to these vulnerable and innocent children if they didn’t have the orphanage; there are so many more children who need our help.
Visiting Bangladesh gave me an appreciation of just how hard it is to do life in that country.
The masses of people, the government bureaucracy, the heat and the natural disasters would certainly make the faint hearted give up. The people we visited, nevertheless, achieved an incredible amount with very little resources at their disposal.
The teachers, community workers and office staff who serve the children and families of Bangladesh are amazing. All had an enormous degree of passion, commitment, humility and energy.
The workers are all very qualified and committed to the community of people they are responsible for.
I was impressed with their lines of accountability and the quality of the projects.
This instilled in us all a very real confidence that this team would meet its aims and aspirations and that the funds and resources that New Zealanders have donated would bring about lasting and positive change in the lives of many of them.
My trip to Bangladesh has left a lasting impression; it is a beautiful, chaotic and noisy country. The INHT team are bringing about transformation and change in people’s lives and that is exciting. Without a doubt the people of Bangladesh stole my heart.
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John Elen is the operations manager for International Needs Humanitarian Trust, a Christian aid organisation. International Needs Humanitarian Trust began 40-years ago by New Zealander Ray Harrison and is now in over 30 countries around the world. INHT works in under developed countries by empowering local leaders to bring lasting change to their community. The four main areas of work are sponsoring children, challenging injustice, meeting urgent needs and transforming communities.