BBC Radio Interview about the story of ARBAN UK and the recent visit to the clinic

Trustee Saffia Bullock was on BBC Radio Bristol on Sunday 16 December 2012 talking about the story of how ARBAN UK came to be started, building the clinic and what she saw when she visited in November 2012. You can listen to the show at this link, the interview starts at 20 minutes.

What you give is truly appreciated

We know how difficult it is to give to charity, to trust that your hard-earned cash is going to really make a difference. This is why we are so delighted to have been able to visit the clinic and can reassure all our supporters that there is a small but brilliantly functioning clinic, built and run with their money. It really is changing people’s lives and growing a community.

And it’s not just the money you give that is appreciated. We’ve described how mothers were so desperate to be included on the list for clothes we’ve brought it caused a riot! It was actually quite difficult to see mothers holding out their babies, desperate to be given some clothes.

And as we left the slum on our last day we met children coming home from school, clutching their pencil cases and Olveston School bags. It was wonderful to see them being used, in a way that was not at all staged for our benefit. One boy had written his name beautifully on his bag. These are lasting gifts, and the impact is also to tell people across the world that others care for them and are aware of the conditions they live in. If we all thought about our “neighbours” around the world, it would be a different place.

Our trip was amazing – emotional, challenging but ultimately satisfying. We found a clinic that is functioning well and delivering a well-needed service. Thank you to all who have followed our progress and sent messages. Thank you also to those who have donated to ARBAN UK and so made this clinic possible. The people of Jheelpur Slum are amazed but touched that people in a community so far away think about them and care enough to help. So we would like to say thank you on their behalf for all you have done to support ARBAN UK.

Anything you give really is appreciated, every penny. We will be writing a report of our trip and recommendations for the future which we will share here. In the meantime, if you feel able to help support our ongoing work in any way, however small, either as a one-off donation or a regular monthly donation, we would be grateful and it will make a difference to those people you see in the photographs on this website.

Home again

Less than seven days after we left, we are home again. It has been an amazing week. We have all learned and experienced so much. Below are some reflections from Charlotte, aged 16, who came with us as part of her preparations to study medicine:

First day in Bangladesh:  The first things that hit me about Bangladesh were the heat and the smell, it is very hot there.

We were greeted at the airport with flowers (first time I’ve ever been given flowers) by two lovely men who couldn’t do enough to help and were so pleased to be able to welcome us to Bangladesh!

We were driving back to the flat when the other stuff started to sink in. As we were coming into land I was quite happy because I saw loads of trees, and I don’t like going places where there aren’t green plants, but everything is covered in dust. You can tell when you breathe, it’s everywhere.

This evening we were trying to get to a shop to buy some water when the hardest thing to cope with happened. We were in the car and there are all these people, some children, even some mothers with babies, weaving in and out of the dangerous traffic trying to sell things, or beg. It’s really hard when they’re all crowding round tapping on the window and you can’t just hand them all money but it’s very hard to ignore.

Also, the noise. It appears to be compulsory to sound your horn constantly when driving, so I will be getting no sleep tonight.

Talking of sleep, we’re going to the slum for the first time tomorrow so I’m going to rest to make sure I can cope”

Monday: We looked round the slum properly today and it was not what I expected at all. Although the houses are tiny and there’s a huge number of people living in one room; there’s sewage everywhere; there’s no private space and no clean water the sense of community is astonishing. Everyone looks out for each other and helps out. We were shown into someone’s house and while Jo and Saffia talked about midwives in the slum I made friends with four lovely girls (aged 14, 14, 15 and 23) and two young boys (both aged 4) who were so kind and friendly. I didn’t need to speak their language to get along with them and as I was leaving they all hugged me.

Then we went back to the clinic and I learnt how to take someone’s blood pressure using a stethoscope (which is absurdly difficult) so now I understand what the numbers mean!

Then we had lunch at the ARBAN Bangladesh office again and sorted clothes, but all the staff want to do is host us and offer us food and many cups of tea which we don’t need or want, but bless them.

Tuesday: Today we handed out the pencil cases, that Olveston Primary school generously donated, to children in the two schools in the slum.

People normally say that we’re lucky to be able to go to school and we should be grateful, and actually it’s true. Now I complain as much as anyone about the amount of homework and the teachers and the lessons and that probably won’t change, but at least I’ll be appreciating it more. Every time I sit on a chair, at a table and look at the teacher using the computer to write on the interactive white board, in a classroom with huge windows and space to walk around, with enough pens and paper to last, I’ll remember that I’m lucky.

Preparing to visit Dhaka

It is now just over a week until we fly to Dhaka*. Myself, Jo and Charlotte are all excited but also anxious about what we will encounter and how we will cope.

While we are away I will be keeping a blog about what we see and how we feel, to really try and give a sense of what it is like to live in Jheelpur slum.

Jo is a paediatric nurse and is looking forward to working with the doctors in the clinic to find out what sort of cases they see.

I am keen to discuss how the clinic is run and what we need to maintain it each month, so that ARBAN UK can plan for the future and structure fundraising activities accordingly.

Charlotte is 16, on her first trip to the developing world. She wants to train to be a doctor and so is keen to gain experience of our clinic to help her understanding.

We are also taking gifts. Pupils and families from Olveston School have generously donated 114 pencil cases with pencils, felt tip pens, rubbers and rulers, for the children of Jheelpur Slum. I am looking forward to sharing these with the children. It has occurred to me that some of these children may never have held a pen or pencil before, so this gift is going to offer a very valuable experience to them. There is so much we take for granted living in the UK. I hope that through this blog I can share with you some of the life-changing moments we have in Jheelpur Slum.


* Please note that this trip is self-funded. All money raised by ARBAN UK is spent in the slum.