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Category Archive for 'News Updates'

Coming Home

It’s hard to believe I’m coming home in just a few days. Back in October, December felt so far away. This has been quite a year. The hardest but best year.

The girls are doing so great. They continue to amaze me. They are finishing all their exams right now and everyone got an A on their English exam! I had a really hard time thinking about giving the little girls an exam! Something we would never do in America but exams are a really big thing here even at a young age. But they didn’t seem nervous and did really well. I was probably more nervous than anyone. The older girls did really well too!

Something I’m so grateful for this year is living in one of the biggest Muslim countries in the world. A faith that makes up so much of our world and something I knew nothing about. I’m so thankful for having my eyes opened.

I’m not sure what will happen next year but for now I’m planning on staying home and coming back next year sometime for a shorter visit. I’ll be moving into a new apt with good friends, going back to doing hair, and helping Speak Up as much as I can. Lots of exciting possibilities.

It’s exciting to talk about going home and all the things I’m looking forward to like all the food I’m craving (especially mexican food, good coffee, and yummy wine). But most of all being with my family and friends again.

But as it’s getting close, the reality of saying bye to the girls and not seeing them for a long time is weighing.

A few nights ago I spent the night with them. It was the best. Dance party, ghost stories, and I sang every Disney song I know. I’m trying to soak in every moment with them. I told them I’ll sleep over again on my last night and that we can stay up really late. Remember the days when it was so exciting to stay up late? Well, their excited! Hopefully I can make it and not cry the whole time.

I often think of their lives before coming to Alingon and get emotional looking at their beautiful faces and getting to see the life and joy they have in them now. They’ve gotten this amazing opportunity to do something else with their lives and not be forced into a life of darkness. Such a gift. And such a gift to be with them this year. They have forever changed my life.

We had an early Christmas together-I have a short video of it below. It was a fun day. For those of you who know how much I love candy will laugh at the video. I got them some candy in a dog shape and one of the girls thought it was pretty funny! The gifts just wouldn’t be complete without candy!

Getting them a Christmas tree, taking everybody out to lunch, Christmas gifts, getting screens on all the house windows for the crazy amount of mosquitos, and serving here the last 4 months–is all possible because of everyone who gave generously! So THANK YOU!!!

See you soon!

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Video Blog

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Barber on the road

I ride by this man everyday who cuts hair on the street. I’ve been wanting to talk to him for a while and finally brought my friend Moon with me to translate. This is the same guy I’ve mentioned works over an open sewer line.

When I first saw him months ago, I thought of Daniel Day-Lewis in the movie There Will Be Blood. Maybe I’m imagining things like my sister said, but I do think there is a bit of resemblance.

I was so curious about his story. I’ve seen a few other men cutting hair on the road but for some reason I wanted to talk to this one. Probably because he looks a little like Daniel Day-Lewis and I love him.

He had a client not long after we showed up so we could only talk to him for a bit.

But I did get to know these things: He stopped going to school and started barbering at 14 years old, his dad was a barber so he taught him everything, he doesn’t have to pay for his spot, in fact-you can work anywhere on the street in Bangladesh, a haircut and a shave is only 30 taka-which is about 35 cents!!!

He just brings a mirror, a chair, a little table, his shears, and razor.

I watched him start his client and couldn’t believe the size of his scissors. He was barely even paying attention when he was shaving his clients face with a straight razor! He’s just that good.

I told him how I’ve taken a class to use a straight razor on a haircut and how much it scares me!

He was a really kind man. I took a few pictures and recorded some of it. (I forgot to record from the beginning) I loved his poses for the pictures and how he started smoking during the haircut!

I love to hear peoples stories, everyone has one.

Please excuse my recording and the video bomber on the right. 🙂

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Updates

There’s always a lot going on so I’ll update you on everything (well not everything because this would be 5 pages long)….

Ahki (who was taken by her mother a little while ago) we had plans to rescue her but her mom refused to give us the village name and being that she lives in a village makes it almost impossible to find even with a general area. Homes in villages don’t have address’s. So…we went to see her mother at the Banishanta brothel where she lives. We talked with her and Ahki’s father (which most likely isn’t her father) and got to talk to Ahki on the phone. She sounded good and told us about the school she’s in. When we asked her if she wanted to come back to Alingon, she said no! That surprised me.

The 2 reasons her parents say they won’t bring her back is because the home doesn’t have Muslim teaching and they want Ahki to have a few day vacation with them every few months. Teaching her Arabic is not possible and letting the girls leave with their moms is never safe. At this point, there isn’t much the home can do since it is her mother and Ahki isn’t living at a brothel. I got the feeling that her mom doesn’t want her life for her daughter or I think she would have Ahki with her in the brothel now. Ahki gave us the village name over the phone so I’m going to try to go see her situation before I go home. I don’t know if she will ever come back to Alingon but I’m praying her mom will change her mind. I really miss her.

Strikes! Strikes! Strikes! The political situation is bad now with the rioting and strike’s several days a week! Last week, we didn’t have official school 4 days in a row. Unfortunately for the girls, I still teach them English. Very little businesses are open and all schools are closed on strike days. Always one day at a time here with planning.

Alingon Home-the girls are doing really good! So many have really turned a corner with their ability and confidence in speaking English. It’s so funny to hear the younger girls say things just the way that I do. They surprise me everyday. Sometimes they say a full blown amazing sentence in English and shock me. They’ve been able to understand a lot for a while now but their speaking has really improved. And despite the usual teenage girl drama, everyone seems really happy!

I’ve gotten to do some counseling with some girls and have gotten to know a lot more of their childhoods from it. Thankfully Rosie is a translater I can have with me that they’ll open up to also.

Here’s a video of the funny Halima I wanted to show you. I can never capture her amazing laugh on video but this shows who she is a little. I played with her 8 year old brother at Banishanta the other day who lives there with their mom. They are so alike.

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Crazies [video]

This is what happened when I told the little girls we need to rip off the paper on the wall to start new….

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Belief

Lately, I’ve been pretty over being “the foreigner”. It’s just getting so old!

And with being the foreigner comes everyday stories, the constant starring, and complete invasion of privacy.

Like recently at the gym in my hotel (by gym I mean a treadmill, and a bike) a woman came in and stood over me and starred while I was stretching until I finally got up. Or the man who had his camera up to the window taking my picture until I went out and told him to stop. Sometimes I think I’m going to loose it but thankfully I can laugh most of the time. I know I’m white and look different but come on!!!

Being here alone most of the time and for this long can make you go crazy. Of course I’m not actually alone, but sometimes I really want to speak to someone face to face who speaks English too and who can relate a little more.

In short- I’m homesick!

I’ve had some of the darkest times in my life here and some of the brightest. There has been weeks at a time I wanted nothing more then to go home.

But one thing is for sure-I would not be here if I didn’t believe in why I’m here. My faith in God has given me the courage. Of course there has been many struggles but I believe that God is in, around, and behind my vision here.

One of the girls was taken by her mom a few weeks ago after her mom asked to bring her to her dying grandma. I don’t believe that was the reason at all. The woman who runs the home agreed to let her go see her grandma and now her mother is saying she won’t bring her back. She’s a few hours away in a village staying with someone since her mother lives in a brothel. Her mother or so called father could traffic her so a few of us are going to try to rescue her next week. Please keep her in your prayers!

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How Bangladeshis Travel [video]

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Puja and Eid

This week was the Hindu holiday Puja and the Muslim holiday Eid. I was able to go out to the villages 2 days this week to visit some of the GEP girls. It’s always an adventure making the trek out to the villages. I always eat too much, get full of dirt/mud, and sick the day after. The 2nd day was pouring rain on the motorcycle ride back but I thought it was fun. But the roads are crazy!!

Sadly, a few days ago one of the GEP girls who is only 13, was forced into marriage. Her now husband is the son of the leader of the village who is powerful. Her family felt powerless and gave in after months of threats from the leader. I got to talk with them and asked her new father in law why it was necessary his 18 year old son married a 13 year old and how he could do that to her. His response, “I know it’s illegal and wrong but I don’t care, I have power and their is nothing you can do.” And also said there could be problems if they didn’t get married. I asked what problems? The answer was the possibility of intimacy before marriage. So basically she was forced into marriage so his son could have sex! It took everything in me to not lay my fist in his face. But the good news is that it’s not over. People are going to take legal action since it is illegal and hopefully end it! I’ll keep you posted about it!

Today was Eid. I wouldn’t leave my home until after 12 since about every 10 feet or so, they slaughter cows on the road to eat for lunch. I haven’t eaten beef in a few years so I wasn’t about to see dead cows everywhere. No thanks. I still saw a little after math but nothing too bad. Muslims eat beef often but most people can’t afford it here. But everyone has it on Eid so you can imagine how many cows were everywhere today.

 

 

SONY DSC SONY DSC                             All the GEP girls got new dresses recently.

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SONY DSC                                My first henna art I’m actually proud of.

War Zone

I’m starting to think the girls are slowly trying to kill me. It’s like walking into a war zone some days. Holy Moly…I might come home with grey hair. I’m definitely getting prepared to have my own teenagers one day. The honeymoon is definitely over for them. But in so many ways, it’s great because they’re more real with me. Showing emotion and vulnerability. I’m no child psychologist but I think they’re testing me. Trying to see just how much I love them.  They have such messed up childhoods it only makes sense that they would be acting out the way they are.

There will always be chaotic times so I wanted to tell you about the amazing things I’ve seen changing in the girls.

Joba, who is one I teach English to, is radically different then when I first met her over a year ago. I’ll back up and tell you her story…she has 2 sisters in the home, one older, one younger. They came to Alingon 2 years ago. They had an older sister die, their mother died, and they were living with their blind grandmother who made them go out and beg for money around the brothel. When I met Joba last year, anyone could notice right away she wasn’t a normal child. She would barely speak and never laugh. She would smile but never make a sound. She would run away from any affection and could barely function in school. Now…I don’t even know this girl. She isn’t the same kid. She laughs, she jokes, she talks back, she hugs! She has so much joy on her face. She can speak a little English, which makes her so proud. And she loves to read. She was so malnourished till around 7 years old with no education, so to see her growing so much is a high like no other.

Halima, who is 6, is probably one of the funniest kids in the home. Again, I’m no expert, but I think she has some autistic behaviors. But she has grown so much. She was almost impossible in school. But she could very well be the best English speaker one day since she repeats EVERYthing I say. I can’t help but laugh, especially when she put up her middle finger in class and was laughing hysterically. But she’s transforming. She makes eye contact, she’s more engaged, and not only welcomes affection but loves it. Some of these things might seem small but they are big for these girls. They haven’t had many, if any healthy relationships or affection. Halima is hilarious, always laughing, seriously always. Which makes discipline always a joke.

I don’t always know what to do with every new thing that comes up but moving forward with God’s help. Always failing and learning.

If you’ve gotten to this point, thank you for reading.

Lastly, my wifi won’t work on my phone so that means I can’t use it at all here. So no texting for me.

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The last week and a half has been pretty eventful and stressful with one of the teenage girls trying to run away from the home.

I got a call in the morning saying she had thrown some of her stuff over the side of the home from the rooftop but got caught. We spoke alone and after some time she opened up to me, and more and more everyday. She said she was planning on taking a bus to her grandma’s village where her and her oldest sister live. Her oldest sister is maybe 19 and was trafficked to Mumbai but is now back in Bangladesh for some reason. We don’t know what she is doing now but Misty thinks she isn’t a sex worker anymore. And this village is really close to the Banishanta brothel where so many of the girls were born. It would be SO SO dangerous for Misty to live with her grandma so I’m so thankful she got caught.

There is also a boy she likes who she met at a training she did in the spring. I heard about him then and was a little concerned. She said she wasn’t planning on going to his house, YET. Another one of her older sisters, who lived at Alingon, ran away a year ago to live with her boyfriend and his parents. They aren’t legally married since they’re under age but it’s a horrible situation. Her “father in law” won’t let her leave the home, ever! She has to sneak out when he’s at work if she wants to. Misty knows her sisters situation but doesn’t think it would happen to her. A typical teenage mind set I guess.

Having this situation happen has been a good opportunity to deal with bigger issues. The girls need to work through a lot.

My friend Troy is opening a dorm for the girls in the villages that are in the GEP program who are starting college. Hopefully it will happen in the next few months and Misty can live there when it opens. I asked her what she thought about it and she was very excited. I can imagine it would get hard living with 20 girls and many of them being young. (2 new girls around 6 years old came within the last 2 weeks)

Please keep me and the girls in your prayers as we try to work through so much together. It’s a challenging and emotional ministry but I’m really invested in them and can really see them transforming little by little.

Here’s a picture from my birthday last week. The girls threw me an awesome party! My favorite part was when the younger girls sang 2 english songs I taught them. It was the cutest thing ever.

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