Seven-year-old Shiphon is growing up in Hindu Para, Bangladesh. He lives with his parents and sister. His father is a rickshaw driver, and there is no extra money to pay for Shiphon to have an education in Bangladesh where admission to school is often two months wages.
But, in reality, Shiphon’s family never planned for him to go to school anyway. You see, Shiphon is mute. He’s never talked, and no one is sure if he ever will. And special education in Bangladesh is far away from his community.
When Hindu Para Village began to collaborate with World Concern in our One Village Transformed program, we helped them open a preschool in the village. Soon Shiphon’s sister began to attend.
Shiphon saw his sister learning and making friends, and soon he started following her to school. He sat amongst the students and listened eagerly to the teacher. Soon enough, Shiphon was there every day, ready to work.
“At the beginning, he struggled,” explained Shipon’s teacher. “But now, he has opened up and in some cases is even doing better than the other students.”
Though Shiphon is mute, he manages to write everything down to communicate. He doesn’t speak, but he never fails to express himself.
“Shiphon is the first one to arrive to school,” Shiphon’s teacher shared about him. “I love and admire him because of his dedication to his studies. This determination is his strength, and it overcomes his weakness.”
His determination is also making an impact at home. Shiphon’s mother, Runa, has always dreamed of educating her son, and now it is a reality.
“I would try heart and soul to prepare Shiphon to further his education,” Yeasmin said. “This preschool stands out from other preschools and always supports him.”
For the first time in years, Runa sees a new future for her son.
“I am very grateful to you,” Runa said to World Concern OVT donors. “You value education, and I thank you for supporting Shiphon in his schooling.”
And there’s more good news
Runa also joined one of the savings groups OVT brought to Hindu Para. She started saving money, and her goal is to send Shiphon and his sister to school as they get older. In short, she’s working toward transforming their futures for good!
Shiphon and his sister are just two of over 200 students enrolled in the OVT preschools in this area of Bangladesh.
And the savings group his mother joined? There are 20 others just like it, with members who are learning, growing, and saving to create new opportunities for themselves and their families.
Heather Nelson is World Concern’s One Village Transformed Communications Coordinator. She visited the Samburu region of Kenya in April, and shares her journey to collect water with a Samburu woman named Lolmodooni.
I walk to get water every day. From the living room to the kitchen. From the bedroom to the refrigerator. From the backyard to the little nook in my garage where I keep a case of water bottles. We all walk to get water.
But we don’t all walk like this.
People in countries where there is drought spend hours walking for a drink of water. Lolmodooni is one of these people.
I was observing a class of preschool children joyfully singing songs and reciting the alphabet in English in a rural village in Bangladesh. Their “classroom” was a dirt courtyard between shacks, but they didn’t mind. Their bright faces were intently focused on their teacher, following her lead as she moved her hands to the rhythm of the song and mouthed the words to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”
As the young teacher turned around, our eyes met and we immediately recognized each other. Her name was Salma, and I had met her three years earlier when I had spent a week in the same area interviewing young girls who were at risk of being married off as child brides.
During that first trip, I listened to many heartbreaking stories of 12 to 14-year-old girls whose parents were too poor to pay for them to attend school. Their parents felt they had no choice but to marry their daughters off to older men who could support them.
Salma was one of those girls. She was around 13 the first time we met—an innocent girl who giggled shyly with her friends as she waited for our interview. Salma told me she wanted to be a teacher, but she feared her father would marry her off. Her only hope was to stay in school.
Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. Girls who are in school are six times less likely to be married before the age of 18.
With the support and generosity of donors, World Concern provides scholarships to girls like Salma. It costs just $50 for an entire year’s tuition in a place like Bangladesh. A small amount to save a girl from the horrors of child marriage and offer her the gift of education, the ability to pursue her dreams, and escape the cycle of extreme poverty.
Salma received a scholarship, finished high school, avoided child marriage, and today, she is planning to go to college. The smile on her face says it all. She is free and full of hope for the future.
After her preschool class was dismissed, we walked to a small shop where we ran into some of the other girls I met three years earlier. Dipa and Rima were running a small business, selling beaded purses and hair clips for income. They too had received scholarships and avoided child marriage.
As I watched these beautiful, educated young women pursuing their dreams, there was no doubt in my mind—
How a Samburu Mom’s Unexpected Questions Changed Me
Written by Heather Nelson, One Village Transformed Communications Coordinator.
I stepped off the plane and immediately felt the crisp air telling all my senses I was back home. After a week in the dry, scorching climate of Kenya, breathing in the Seattle air reminded me of drinking a tall glass of water after feeling uncomfortably parched the last seven days.
Still, there were two things I thirsted for more than the familiar scenery and drinkable air: seeing (and squeezing!) my two sweet boys I’d left behind while I flew across the world for my first trip to the field with World Concern.
I have the privilege of working as the One Village Transformed Communications Coordinator with World Concern, a vocation that lets me deep dive into the incredible transformational development happening in more than 30 villages in Asia, Africa, and Haiti.
The thing is, my job mostly takes place at a desk. I read technical reports emailed from the field, and I write from the comfort of my office chair. I share exciting updates with One Village Transformed supporters so they can see and feel the impact their gifts are having. It’s blessed work that I care about deeply. But until a few weeks ago, I mostly did this job from my head.
Cho’s family was desperately poor and in debt. All of the families in his village in Myanmar struggled to have enough food to eat. So Cho (whose name has been changed) and his friends made a plan. They heard stories about jobs that were easy and paid a lot of money in China. As young teenagers it was illegal for them to work in China, but they knew a man who said he could find work for them.
So dry that moms and their children walk up to six hours a day to find water. The riverbeds are bare and dusty, but if they dig deep enough small pools of water gradually appear. It’s this water, brown and murky, they scoop into containers that are so heavy when filled they must use a strap against their foreheads to carry the weight.
It’s a physical burden that represents not only the hardships they face, but the weight of understanding that this is not what it means to live a full, abundant life.