Mission Partner joint sending with Church of Scotland, CMS, CWM, Methodist Church and Us
Community Health Advisor
Church of Bangladesh Social Development Programme
Flat 5N Quamroon Noor Apartments
9/1 Sir Sayed Ahmed Road
Block A Mohammadpur
As I start to write this I am planning to travel to Melbourne, Australia where I will attend the world AIDS conference. This has been made possible by the Church of Scotland who have financed the conference fees and the Methodist Church GB, CWM and CMS who have financed my travel and accommodation. There is however a lot of work to do before then and also lots to share with you all.
I have visited several project areas during this month. One area Meherpur in the west of the country very near to the Indian border has had a project operating for almost 30 years. It is an area where women and children are very much at risk of being trafficked across the border to India and beyond, there is also a large amount of drug abuse, numerous sex workers and many are at risk of HIV due to the proximity.
I visited the project which unfortunately over the past five years has not been functioning terribly well for various reasons. I was asked to assess the compound and see how we can utilise the buildings and develop the project. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet with more project staff and reacquaint with one gentleman who came to meet me when I visited in 2009. He was so pleased I recognised him. I shared in devotions about hopes and dreaming dreams. I then asked them what are their hopes and dreams for Meherpur. It was good to hear very positive attitudes and how they all want to empower the local community, prevent illnesses and educate people about many issues including HIV and arsenic awareness.
Many areas where CBSDP now have or have had projects in the past see the organisation as a relief agency. In the past there has been the need for just that due to floods and cyclones. It was great however to hear the manager state that we must change the mindset of people from wanting money and relief from our organisation to us providing them with more knowledge.
There is a considerable amount of tube well water in this area which contains arsenic. Until I came to Bangladesh I was not aware of what this even meant. Arsenic can only be detected if tested so therefore many people have been and some still do drink contaminated water. Human trafficking, HIV awareness, anti-human trafficking, liaising with sex workers via Save the Children drop-in centre and arsenic awareness are all areas CBSDP hope to continue to address through their programmes. Before Ramadan started this month I visited the family home of my ayah’s sister. She had asked me several times to come visit and I was delighted to be able to do just that and bring two adults and four children from her family with me also. The little baby is Nasrim who was so ill last year with pneumonia. She was exclusively breast fed until she was six months and just look how healthy she is now.
This month has been a time of fasting for the Muslim community here and many people cope very well fasting from sunrise to sunset. The stalls are set up by the roadside and outside many food stores laden with savoury and sweet dishes enabling people to purchase travelling home from work. It’s called Iftar as it is breaking the fast similar to breakfast. They all wait for the sound from the mosques (similar to the call to prayer) telling them it’s now ok to eat.
I have been trying to get fit and change to a much healthier diet, although not sure it’s the best time to start (however is there ever a good time to diet?). I have received invites to join in the post fasting food around 7pm and don’t want to refuse, although I do eat less. I attended my ayah’s home for Iftar food. Two of her nephews live there and another came to join us. The food was served and the children all waited until it was time. Dates are eaten first followed by a drink and then whatever else is being served. Many eat a main meal after the snacks although some wait until later. I was so impressed by the patience and respect of the children aged 3 ½-10 years not eating until it was the proper time, such discipline.
It was an absolute privilege to attend the world AIDS conference held this year in Melbourne. There were 14,000 delegates from around the world with numerous sessions and fantastic speakers. Bill Clinton and Bob Geldof also spoke and I even got a selfie with Sir Bob and got up close to Bill!! I was appalled to hear how so many people are being treated in a number of countries because of their HIV status, being sex workers or sexual preference. One young gay man from Uganda spoke about his life and how he is unable to return to Uganda as he will face life imprisonment or even death.
Regardless of our opinions on people who carry out sex work as a living, MSM, transgender, gay and lesbian and people who inject drugs Jesus loves them as much as He loves me and I have to keep reminding myself of that. I met and spent time with various people at the conference and like me their passion is to see an end to HIV/AIDS. People are being treated and surviving yet so many still die every day with the virus and many of them should not. Awareness of how the virus is contacted is still an issue even today; children’s drugs are not available in many places and people are being denied treatments due to cost, imprisonment, their lifestyle or their occupation.
It was lovely to spend time before the conference with Alison Judd UK President of the WFM &UCW and after the conference visiting an ex-neighbour Helen and two nursing friends Emer living now in Australia and another Shona visiting family. I had such fun, seen such lovely sights and ate lots.
Please pray for the work being done to help people suffering with the HIV virus, the many who suffer discrimination, those unable to access treatments or are imprisoned because they are HIV positive. Also for the researchers, scientists, pharmaceutical companies and governments providing finance to purchase much needed medicines for those who have no money to purchase them. Please also pray for the HIV peer education training I have organised this month, the trainers, staff attending and safety for all as we travel to the venue.
Once again thank you to everyone who sent gifts, cards, messages via e-mail or FB and who continually pray for me and my work here, so until next month.