"Keep working on a plan. Make no little plans. Make the biggest you can think of, and spend the rest of your life carrying it out." Harry S. Truman

Friday, September 24, 2010

A visit to the slum

So, the title is bizarre. Are slums something to be visited ? Of course not. But this particular slum is located on the banks of the lake, just across the river from our hotel, and the stark contrast between our life, and the lives of the people and children living a few meters from us seems even more glaring when you have it under your nose on a daily basis.

Of course, we are used to the blue tents that pop up on all the constructions sites, in India, tents where entire families live for the duration of the work, until they move to another construction site. And of course, I am forever trying to highlight how lucky we are compared to all those who have nothing, or next to nothing. My children listen to me with that expression on their faces that's part baffled, part all-knowing-bored, so that I never quite know what they understand, and wether they even listen to me.

So when a few weeks ago (yes, we'd been here a week, or so) I received an email from a person involved with an NGO helping this particular slum, and inviting all who wanted to come and bring paper, crayons, pencils so they could organize a drawing contest, I thought this would be an opportunity to get a little closer and allow our daughters to maybe understand better what I mean with all this clumsy/sententious talk. Especially as we had seen these same children on the lake below, fetching rags and what not from the water aboard their little rafts.

I cannot say it was a success. The children were hot, bothered and maybe even a little scared by the intense proximity, the smells, etc, and they ended up leaving with their father, who knows all there is to know about slums, while I stayed a while longer, interacting with the children, and having a blast taking pictures, and showing them.

Bangles, conveniently hanging from the ceiling/roof.
At some stage, I was stuck in one room/shack with something like twelve kids. Each child had a piece of paper, and there were bags with crayons on the bed, but nobody dared touch them. We waited a bit, and as nothing happened, I suggested they take the bag of crayons, open it, and start their drawing. They were so eager to begin. 

All the children in that little room drew a house, local fruits..., and the national flag !


Nandini said...

You're a brave one to bring the kids, Katia. I'm sure they're going to grow up to be compassionate citizens of the world, just like you. Makes me sad to see the plight of those kids :(. If you hear of any reputable children's NGOs in Dhaka, please share their information here if possible.

janet brown said...

Oh Katia, this is heartbreaking and how I love you for making the children feel comfortable using the crayons!

Soggetto Nomade-Kabiliana said...

was really a good step to bring your children in the slum, i totallu agree with your decision. Last year in Kenya, we have all lived for months in a slum and living there on a daily basis was amazing for them. At the beginning was difficult to accept certain uncomfortabilities, but now after one year they remember those small sweet freedom they had rather than italian children, and the joy of the kids they were playing with in the roads, the smiles of the people and much more...
about involving children in drawing, it was fun and lovely. Why don't you involve them in a writing workshop where they can write about the stories they know and amaybe the get in exchange books, colors...