In May this year Martin Brown, Diocesan Manager of A&B, visited Bangladesh with four other CAFOD staff. The trip focused on the on-going work of CAFOD partners, including Caritas Bangladesh, Action on Disability and Development (ADD) and Prodipan, in the region that plays host to many climate change related problems.
The experience of meeting people benefitting from the work of CAFOD and its supporters first hand, afforded Martin a unique insight into the the way local people live and work in an environment very different to his own.
“We met people whose lives had been affected by the cyclone in 2007; people who had lost everything.” Martin says, “However, eighteen months on and people who received loans, grants ot tools are now becoming fully self-sufficient after receiving training and families have moved into storm-proof housing.”
One of many personal stories shared with Martin on the trip included that of Bidyut Biswas, a Men’s Group leader who told Martin, “I lost my poultry flock, my winter vegetable crop and my house. I was given a load by Caritas to rebuild my house and poultry shed…I’ve managed to get back on my feet, thanks to Caritas.”
Women’s Groups shared their experinces too, “We used to stay in our houses, not really talking to anyone or venturing out.
Now, thanks to the group, we sit together and discuss issues, from money to marriage. We can receive training and have increased mobility, even going into local towns.”
Martin says that, “On behalf of CAFOD, I shared their pride,” after the women also informed him that they hadn’t been too badly affected by the cyclone but had sent some of their own clothes and money to people who had been.
CAFOD’s partners in Bangladesh have worked on an enormous variety of projects, including the pond sand filter built by Prodipan providing clean water for people from miles around.
The villagers confided that “Beforehand, we took water directly from the pond, and were often sick with diseases like cholera, dysentry and typhoid.”
Prodipan paid the villagers a good wage to dig out another pond near-by, so that they actively contributed to making positive changes for their community.
Bangladesh suffers from extreme weather conditions, including drought, flooding and tidal surges. CAFOD supports a lot of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) work, providing funding for storm-prooof houses, training and cyclone shelters, which can double up as schools.
Since Martin’s trip another cyclone has hit the area he visited, Martin says, “We know the individuals we met will have been affected but I am confident about the DRR work,” and urges us all to pray for people affected by the Aila cyclone.
Seasons are disappearing in Bangladesh, evident in the late rainfall and stagnant water many were struggling to survive on.
We cannot ignore the problems this people of Bangladesh, many of whom are already living in extreme poverty.
We need to work to protect the achievements of local people and our partners, such as the new schools, health centres, water pumps and housing, all of which has an amazing impact for the better.
Martin remarks on the astounding dedication of everyone involved in the programmes run by CAFOD pertners and the joy with which the the local people told him about their new and improved structures and schemes.
None of this would be possible without the donations and support of people back home, as Michael Biswas of Caritas says, “We know the way you raise money; the one, five and ten pounds all add together to become a lot. We are very grateful for this. Please pass on our thanks to your supporters.”
Posted by CAFOD Arundel & Brighton