Dais Training

misty1Dr. Tania Sarker Misty who works at the health centre organised this basic training with another senior physician Dr. Chandana. We hope to be able to organise further training in a hospital but this is proving difficult to do.

The following topics were discussed in-depth in the programme:

  • Problems faced during delivery of babies
  • actions and measures to be taken to solve problems
  • diabetes & High Blood pressure during Pregnancy
  • the steps of a normal delivery
  • equipment and materials required for handling delivery cases
  • practicing delivery with a ‘dame’
  • what to do when a pregnant mother needs to be sent to hospital

There were 8 participators from the community. Of those, 4 are serving as Dais, 3 as assistants and Rahima (Chair person of the Managing Committee of Health Care Centre) initiates and manages delivery cases. Of the 4 Dais, Sahida had experienced more than 200 delivery cases; Jarina Begam had handled 70, Jobeda Begam 60 plus and Sarupa Begam just 6 deliveries.

training1At the end of the training, all felt much more confident to carry out the work they do for women in the slum.

A thriving clinic

misty_at_workLast time I visited Dhaka I had to travel everywhere in an ambulance. This was because of the daily ‘hartals’, a uniquely Bangladeshi strike where some people work, some people don’t, a few people torch cars and parents get frustrated that their children can’t go to school. Apparently ambulances are not usually attacked during such strikes and therefore they are seen as a safe form of transport. The fact that there are many more ambulances on the roads during hartals appears to have escaped the notice of the demonstrators.

This time the situation is much calmer. I was told this was because politicians needed to sit in parliament to get paid, rather than stirring up trouble. I can’t say how true or untrue this is, but Dhaka is a quieter place whatever the reason. And so I was able to visit Jheelpur slum today without any worry of trouble.

The first thing I notice is the lovely new concrete pavement which the local council has provided. Gone is the muddy main path, even though it was raining heavily last night. I was told that such things will continue to be improved as there are local elections at the moment. The opposition is winning many seats but I am sure the number of votes in any particular slum has no relationship to the meters of concrete path laid.

The path somehow makes me feel sad. It is definitely an improvement but it also legitimises the slum and not in a good way. It says living in tin shacks, that’s fine and look, your children’s bare feet won’t be so muddy at the end of a day playing in the street! Of course when they go home to the tin shacks, the children are ankle deep in water which has just drained off the impervious concrete path, with the water nowhere else to go but the low lying homes. So much for improvements.

The clinic is much as I left it. Today there is no power. Unfortunately nothing unusual about this in Dhaka, but today it is so very hot and humid that just breath of air from the ceiling fans would be refreshing. Instead the lovely ladies of the slum, including Rahima, one of the community leaders, wave bamboo fans as if our lives depended on it. It’s also very dark, the grey sky threatening to open at any moment and very busy, hot bodies everywhere.

I feel lucky. I am not wearing a headscarf like Misty our wonderfully devoted doctor. She looks ready to collapse as she dabs at the sweat forming on her cheeks. I know she has been unwell and I ask how she is feeling. ‘Oh’, she says, ‘not bad, but I can’t take time off as the people in the slum need me. It is the time for seasonal illness as the wet season is coming and when I came back last week I have more than 30 people waiting. I can’t leave these people’. The seasonal illnesses are rashes, infections of the skin, respiratory problems all connected to the ever increasing temperature and humidity. The wet season cannot come too soon. I explain to Misty that she won’t be able to help if she is ill, but her commitment means others always come first.

scalesOne reason I am visiting today is to present a set of baby weighing scales, donated by a supporter in the UK. Misty is almost overcome as she thanks me. She really needs to keep an eye on the weight of babies as malnutrition and infection can cause weight loss very quickly, often leading to severe problems and sometimes death.  Again I feel terribly humbled that we have created this little clinic and are able to change people’s lives.

My discussion is cut short with Misty as she explains the queue is growing and if I don’t mind she needs to see them. But I am happy to see the clinic thriving and send a text to the UK, where a fund raising second hand sale is in progress, to tell them my resolve is renewed – we have to, we must continue to support this little clinic. I think theirs was too.

Visit Report to Jheelpur Slum, Dhaka




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.

Day 6 – sharing clothes

Today we handed out children’s clothes that have been kindly donated by people in our community.

We caused a riot! Mothers with babies and children were jostling outside the clinic to be put on the list for a coupon that would entitle them to receive something. Rahima was in despair. She said it wasn’t always like this, normally they organise the list beforehand but today it was crazy because we were there.

Eventually we decided to abandon the idea of handing out clothes with us there so that it would be done in a more systematic way without us. We handed out just a few bits and bobs to mothers and children who were already in the clinic.

We are keen to share this experience so that we can say to everyone who has donated clothes for Jheelpur Slum, for this trip and before, thank you, they are VERY much appreciated.

This girl below loved this dress, especially the pockets, she kept putting her hands in there, absolutely delighted. Thank you, thank you to all who have donated.

Images of Jheelpur Slum

Children play and eat on the streets, unsupervised by anyone in particular but watched by the whole community.


In this space used to be homes. They have been bulldozed as the land (owned by the government and lived on illegally by the slum dwellers) is being “grabbed” by the owner of the garment factory (the tall building at the back right of the photo).

ARBAN Bangladesh is helping the slum dwellers fight this – they have lived there for 29 years, these shacks may be basic but they are their homes.




Cooking is done on clay ovens – seen here being made. Off-cuts from the garment factory are used as fuel, but they don’t create much heat. Wood is more expensive.

Day 5 – disruption and reflections

Today our plans have been disrupted as Dr Kamal, head of ARBAN, advised that we stay in Gulshan where we are staying. This is due to a “hartal”, a huge political protest taking place in central Dhaka. Apparently the crowds can be volatile and anything can happen – and the traffic gets even worse so moving around the city takes even longer – yesterday we think we spent approx 4 hours in the car moving between places which is very frustrating.


So we are “at home”, Jo and I writing our report of what we’ve seen and Charlotte doing some homework.



We are all reflecting on what we’ve experienced this week – we’ve seen someone with leprosy; a girl who had her first baby at 11 and another girl who had recently lost her first baby during a traumatic labour in the slum. In her brown eyes were a deep sadness.

Jo and I have been discussing how best the ARBAN UK clinic can help these women who have very little ante-natal care and therefore no knowledge of any possible complications before they go into labour. They are assisted by “dais”, the older women of the slum, including Rahima, but they have little training and a lot of what they do is founded on old-wives tales – for example, until educated otherwise, they advised mothers to throw out the “first milk” (collustrum) as it was bad for the baby. We have learnt so much this week, now is the time to think about how we can best help.

Day 4 – Sharing pencil cases

Today we visited “Milk Better-10” School. (This is an interesting name for a school, but the area is called Milk Better 10 because there is a milk processing factory in it).

There were two Class Two classes in session, one class had 32 pupils, the other 35. Children in class 2 are aged 5-7. The school is a two-room one storey structure which was pretty grubby and smelly. The children were sitting on the floor around the edge of the rooms. In front of each child were handwriting books and a slate. They all said wonderful hellos as we arrived and there was lots of grinning – also from the children staring in at the open windows and doors.

They were very appreciative of the pencil cases, most answering very polite and clear “thank yous”. It was great to be able to give a pencil case to every child there – thank you families of Olveston School for your generosity. We took some video of them saying hello to Olveston School which we hope to share in assembly. We then gave out paper and the children started to draw. It was interesting to see that many of them used rulers to draw very formal looking “western” houses. Maybe this is what they dream of having most? We handed out letters and pictures from Year 6 at Olveston School and explained that children there were keen to know more about them. We also gave Olveston caps and school bags which will be shared between the staff.

This school is on the edge of the slum. Inside the slum the clinic volunteers (a group of very enthusiastic and helpful teenagers) had gathered some younger children and those who attended other schools. Here we handed out the packets of pencils and felt tips we had left and they were given paper. Clearly some of the younger children had not held a pen before; it was great to watch a three year old do some experimental scribbles. Other children must have drawn before as they drew some fantastic pictures of people. They were keen to hold up their work to the camera and grin. We also have these drawings to share at Olveston School. It has been a good day of children sharing across the world. And interesting to note that their pictures were pretty similar to those I seen drawn in the UK.