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Oh Lice…

A few days ago I did what I’ve been dreading to do since I got here: attempt to take the lice out of all the girls’ hair. I knew it was going to take all day and more and maybe not even be a success but still wanted to try.

I met with a woman who owns Hair Angels in Pasadena where they remove lice. It was my first stop when I went home in June and to my shocking surprise, I didn’t have it! I went back to Hair Angels before heading back here and bought the special lice and egg removing combs from her. She was so generous to give me half off of all of them! She told me how to do it and assured me what a battle it will be. If you miss 1 egg then it wasn’t a success. The girls have had lice for a year now so you can image how much they have! Since they have black hair I can see the eggs everywhere. So when I started my first girl and pulled the comb through her hair…OH MY GOSH LICE.

I took a deep breath and kept going. Every time I put the comb in a bowl of water to rinse it off, the water became full of lice. I put a scarf on my head and prayed I wouldn’t get it. Hours and 5 pounds of sweat later, everyone got done. Thankfully a few older girls were happy to help me with some. 20 girls in 1 day is just not possible. When it comes to doing hair, I can be a perfectionist. Which was needed in this case.

You know how you can get grossed out by things but when you have crazy love for the person it doesn’t bother you as much? I was thinking how when I see a child with snot coming out of their nose I’m grossed out…but if it’s my nieces I don’t even think about it and will wipe it off for them. That’s how it was doing this for them. Not as bad as I imagined. I know I didn’t get all the eggs off of everyone in 1 day, but it’s a start. I loved hearing the girls say “ahhhh” when their heads felt so much better!

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Entirely Different

Back to my entirely different life here for a week now. To be honest, I had a pit in my stomach as I was landing on my 3rd and final stretch. I couldn’t wait to see the girls but coming back after already living here 5 months was an entirely different experience. Remembering how nervous and anxious I felt in January coming here for the first time alone. This time, I was so calm. But the new, exciting feeling is just not there.

The girls knew I was coming, but didn’t know what day. It was SO fun to surprise them. You quickly forget how long the travel was. They are growing so fast and becoming even more beautiful. I started teaching English again a few days after I got here and haven’t noticed the girls lost any that they’ve learned. Especially the little girls. They learn so fast. The school is in the building next door to the home now instead of in the home like it was. It’s so much better. We have more space and it feels more like a school having the separation.

I can’t post any pictures of the older girls now to protect their identity. Sadly, their are many that are at risk even being in a safe home. A week before I got here, one of the girls’ mothers showed up and was trying to take her back to the brothel with her. They told me all the girls were protecting her and holding her back from her mom. Can you imagine? To think what they’ve already been through and have to continue to go through is heart breaking. This particular girl has a lot of anger issues. I keep thinking how they can heal but continue to be in this position with their mothers. It’s going to be a long road. She is starting to come around to me and even asking me to read and hang out with her which wasn’t the case before. And I love every minute.

On another note..I raised everything I need for my expenses and way more! So thank you thank you thank you to everyone who helped make that happen! It means so much to me! It was my first time doing any fundraising and I was blown away by so many peoples generosity. I’m already thinking of things I want to do for the girls or a place I can take them since we have the money. It’s exciting! I’ll keep you posted about it!

Thank you so much for the support. I appreciate it more than you know. Knowing I have a lot of people behind me is a great feeling. I can honestly say it’s all worth it when I’m with the girls. Here’s a few photos of the young beauties.

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Donations…

Hi Everyone!

I’ve had a few people ask me if they donate to Speak Up, how does it go to me? Well, if you send a check or donate online they will give me the same amount back. If you want a write off, it’s the way to go. If not, I have a gofundme page or a pay pal account that is set up on the right side here.

http://speakupforthepoor.org/

http://www.gofundme.com/backtobangladesh

There isn’t a way to let Speak Up know the donation is for me when you donate online but they inform me on any donations that come in from new donors to see if I know you. Or send me an email if you have any questions. [email protected]

Thank you so very much for all the support so far! I am truly overwhelmed by everyones generosity! It means so much to me! I’m over half way to my goal!

One more week and I’m back to Bangladesh! 

Bangladesh Take 3…

Home

I’ve been home for a month now which feels much longer. Several people asked if they some how missed it on my here that I was coming home. Well..the reason I didn’t post it is because I surprised my parents! And my nieces too since they can’t keep secrets. My dad retired and when I was looking at tickets to come home the end of June, I looked to see what the ticket would cost to come home in just 3 weeks and the price was the same! So, I decided that coming home a month early to be there for my dad was best. And I’m so happy I did. I was feeling ready at that point but 5 months went by fast. It was hard to say goodbye to the girls but I knew I was coming back.

So that being said, I’m headed back mid August and coming home before Christmas. A lot of people are asking me what I’m going to do when I go back and why I’m going back. Well, the what part is teaching english and supporting them in every way I can. The why…well I really love them and I believe in them. I believe they can have normal lives and I want to encourage them through that. The girls make every sacrifice worth it.

I’ve set a goal at raising 5,000 to help cover my flight, living expenses, supplies for school and as many books and art supplies that I can fit in my suitcases. Some other things I want to take with me are a few Disney movies and special combs and products to treat their lice.

If you’d like to donate I created a fundraising page here: http://www.gofundme.com/backtobangladesh

If you’d like a tax write off, you can donate online through: http://speakupforthepoor.org/

I added a few pictures that always remind me how different we live life. The first picture is a common thing men do that I will never understand: coloring their hair and beards bright orange. Weird right?  The second picture is how they do all their cooking. Everyone cooks outside and sits on a wooden seat attached to a large knife. And the third picture is a typical tea shop that are everywhere is Khulna. You can only imagine the looks I got when I went.

Thank you so much for all the encouragment and support! It means a lot to me. The girls will be so thankful!

If you have any questions about anything you can email me: [email protected]

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A Shift

It’s been a emotional week for a few of the girls in the home.

It started with bringing a bunch of the younger girls to my hotel to play and while inside to get water, 6 year old Mou ran into the edge of a glass door and got a horrible cut on her forehead. I picked her up right away and it wasn’t until the guys working here running over with napkins that I saw she had blood pouring down her face. Poor thing was so scared. She was a mess, I was a mess, we bonded. Then I watched her while she took a nap to make sure she was breathing. Yup, going to be that mom.

Mothers Day was emotional for a few girls. Some really miss them and a few have lost their mothers. Misty and Smrity lost their mother just last October. It’s not very encouraged to cry and grieve in this culture. I don’t know how much they have since her death but Mothers Day Smrity really grieved. It just took me saying you can cry and she didn’t stop. It was clear she really needed to. They were told she had a heart attack. Some think she was murdered by her husband.

A few of the girls last week have been talking to me about wanting to leave the home. Some I don’t think would ever do that but one in particular I was worried about how she was talking. She was saying how she wouldn’t live with her mom at Banishanta but could live with her aunt somewhere else and she would take care of her. Talking to a 10 year old about the reality of what could happen to her is painful to say the least. I don’t sugar coat anything when I talk to them because it’s their reality and they need to be aware. I had to tell her she might not be safe with her aunt and could be sold. It’s not usually the mom that is dangerous, but their mothers pimps. They want to trust their mothers but it just can’t be done. I couldn’t help but cry when I was talking to her. I think she realized the seriousness of the situation. Breaks my heart they can’t trust people in their family. I’m so glad they feel safe to talk to me about the things they do. There was a big shift this week for some of the girls and my relationship. Something I was asking God to open up and He did. And I’m realizing just how much as I’m writing right now.

Time has really gone by fast, can’t believe I’ve been here for almost 5 months but at the same time it feels like I’ve been gone a while. I’m really missing my family and friends now. I know my blogs can be heart breaking to read sometimes so thank you for being with me and for the support and encouragement as I try to find ways to support and encourage them. I’ve learned a lot in the last 5 months, to say the least. Still praying about what I want to do next. It’s not clear quite yet. It’s a tough but exciting time to be in.

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Back in Bangladesh

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Movie night

Already a week back from Thailand and back in the routine. Bangkok was so much fun and so much different then I imagined. I felt like I was in LA but with a language barrier everywhere I went. Maybe it felt so western to me since I’ve been in Bangladesh but it was a lot more modern than I thought. The highlights were laying on the beach, riding a horse on the beach and dancing for over 2 hours straight to an awesome band with my friend Michelle. And of course seeing a movie but not just any movie, a Ryan Gosling movie! We had so many funny experiences that I’m still laughing about. The other day while in the school office with another teacher I started laughing and she had no idea why I was laughing but started laughing too and I couldn’t tell her why I was laughing since she barely understands english. It was awesome.

On my way back I bought a bottle of wine at the airport in Dhaka and when I went through security for my flight to Khulna security not only tried to take my wine even though I bought it there, they also tried to get me to give them cash. I couldn’t believe it. Luckily I can just say that I don’t understand what they’re saying. Then another man who worked at the airport voluntarily walked me to my airline which was a whole 10 feet away then he asked me to pay him for it. Ha! Another glimpse into the corruption here: my friend Moon was trying to get her passport and twice a cop showed up to her door and said if she didn’t give him money then he would say she didn’t live there and she wouldn’t get her passport! A little different from America.

I was curious to see how I would feel coming back. The truth is, it was hard. The break was really nice to say the least. Sadly right before I went to Thailand I was told that my friends in Boston needed to close the salon here. The salon was getting no business and they couldn’t keep putting money into it. It was a hard conversation to have with the 2 girls that worked there but they’ve had a lot of training and hopefully they will take that to another salon and be successful.

A few days ago another girl joined the Alingon Home! Her mother is not a sex worker but she works all day everyday laying brick and her daughter who is 10 was alone all day. She was living in the slums so it put her at a huge risk to be trafficked. World Vision referred her to the home. I’m teaching her now so it will be rough for her to understand anything for a while. It made me realize how far the girls have come since January. They could barely read and now they’re reading short stories! I always tell them how amazing it is that they can read 2 languages! She seems really happy to be at the home. I don’t think she has seen a foreigner before. She usually just stares at me and tries to hold my hand while I’m teaching. It’s very sweet.

Since the salon closed I have more time so I’m helping the older girls more with their english homework. Some of them aren’t doing well in school right now. I try to make it fun for them since their usual tutors can be a little tough on them. I can’t imagine studying that many hours a day 6 days a week at 10 years old. I was outside rollerblading and singing Whitney Houston with my friends. During their break time it’s usually the best times. We have dance parties. Some of them really let loose and get so silly. I love it. I tried to teach them some country dancing but they didn’t think it was very cool.

Please pray for 1 of the Alingon girls, Fatima. I talked about her mom trying to talk her into going back to the brothel with her in my last blog and a week ago she called and said she is coming to take her. If she wants to take her there is nothing the home can do. They are trying to stop her but legally they can’t keep Fatima. Please pray her mom will never come. This will be beyond devastating and a trap for Fatima.

Below are pictures of how so many men transport wood, brick etc. I’m always amazed they are pulling this. Just 2 men barefoot.

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Their Stories…

Last Sunday was New Years in Bangladesh. Everyone typically wears red and white so I wore the saree my friends at Tipna gave me. I headed over to the Alingon Home early and tried doing henna on the girls for the first time. My friend Moon did mine the day before. It’s harder than it looks but I really loved doing it. The girls love getting dressed up and since then beg me to wear makeup everyday. I assure them it’s a rare occasion here.

Many of the girls’ mothers or grandmothers came for the day. The girls are always happy to see them of course, but don’t seem too sad when they leave. I’m still discovering more about the girls and their mothers stories. Some of them so tragic they’re hard to believe.

Two sisters in the home, who are 12 and 5 have one of the most dangerous mothers in the home. Every time she comes she tries to convince her 12 year old daughter to leave the home. I found out that day her pimp wants to sell her daughter. Thankfully this smart girl understands what her mother does and doesn’t want to leave the home. She runs away from her mom and tells her to stop but we have to follow them. My claws were about to come out but I chose to still be kind and love her as hard as it was. She was sold around the same age as her daughter and has had 5 children die, and sold one of her babies to a family. She also has 2 young sons living with her at the brothel, a total of 10 children. Because she’s getting older, leading to not working as much, she’s dependent to her pimp who wants her daughter. Her youngest daughter who I’m worried about is very slow and I think was severely abused. So many of these mothers have had children die due to malnutrition and no medical access.

Three sisters in the home came a few years ago extremely malnourished. Their mother had died and also one of their sisters and they were living with their grandmother who was making them beg. Another girl, who I’ve talked about before, was brought by World Vision since she was living in the slums and at high risk to be trafficked like her sister, who was trafficked to Mumbai and rescued. But so sadly I just found out her sister is working as a traveling sex worker like their mother. The physical and sexual abuse the girls have been through is heart breaking, and some unknown still. Some are still at risk with their mothers or “fathers” wanting them back now that they are teenagers. This time is so vital for them to get healthy and pursue a future unlike their mother and raise healthy children of their own one day.

I feel like I’ve hit a wall recently. The language barrier is beyond hard and makes communication so difficult. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with the poverty and abuse and because I’m a foreigner, so many people ask me to help them. Since I can’t help them all financially and I can’t talk to them very much, I feel helpless sometimes and doubt some things I’m doing here. I try to show love without words the best I can. Community is really lacking for me here and is so important. Thankfully I have my friend Moon who teaches me Bangla who I’ve become close with.

I’ve really been wanting to talk with my Alingon girls on a deeper level but with the language barrier it’s not possible for all of them. One who speaks and understands pretty good english, I got to have a great conversation with the other day. She had a training with World Vision and was telling me about her friends she met there and other people she met she thought were “bad”. I got to ask her why she thought that and while I got to know her better was able to talk to her about getting to know someone and relationships. She even met a boy who she thought was a good guy. I walked away from that conversation saying “thank you God that just happened.”

I’m going to Thailand in a few days for a week! I’m so excited and even more excited my good friend Michelle is meeting me from home and we can stay at my friends apt. I’m ready to get out of Bangladesh for a little bit. When I told the girls some of them cried and are making me pay everyday! I don’t know what will happen when I go to America. I’ve been thinking and praying a lot about what I really want to do so I think getting out for a bit will only be good.

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Just another day in Bangladesh

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These men are demanding the government to change several things: all women have to be completely covered including the face, women can’t work with men or talk with them outside, only all boy or all girl schools, no NGO’s and missionaries allowed in Bangladesh, to name a few. There were thousands of men protesting.

Culture Difference

I get asked a lot if I like Bangladesh. It’s a hard thing to answer. Some days I like it, other days I want to rip my scarf off and kick it. I’m always looking for beautiful scenery. Behind my hotel and out in the villages is about the only place. I was trying to describe Bangladesh to a friend the other day and I told her if they were filming a zombie movie and the world was ending, they could film it here and not have to do anything with the set. And everyone throws trash on the ground so trash is everywhere. One of my favorite things is riding on a motorcycle and taking the long drive out to the villages and looking at all the open green rice fields.

Something I do love about Bangladesh is the people. I love their hearts. Christian, Hindu or Muslim. My few Muslim friends are so great. But yes many Muslims are doing horrible things because of their beliefs. Something that does get old is getting starred at. Sometimes people get so close and stare so long I can’t help but start  laughing. Or the strange times like when a woman who was staying at my hotel really wanted me to come to her room to see her baby. Ok? So strange. It always makes me laugh.

Here’s some of the biggest culture differences I’ve noticed so far:

Men pee in public everywhere, they eat with their right hand, they don’t put everything on their plate at once, they eat 1 thing at a time and mix each dish with rice, if they cook for you they don’t eat with you, they stand by you and serve it, everything is spicy, seriously everything, telling people they’re fat is totally ok, tea a few times a day is a must (I love this one), at church men sit on one side and women on the other, if a man wants to date you, he tells you he loves you and asks to be your friend, sometimes even a complete stranger. I know so crazy.

The last week I’ve been able to take a few of the Alingon girls at a time to my hotel and can do it every week now. I finally feel like I have more freedom to spend time with them and not have it always be at the home. They’re so excited to come to my room and run around in the back and swing on the swings. They’re so happy with very little. It’s been so great to be able to do this. Something I’ve been wanting to do since I got here. It’s hard having quality time with 18 girls around and I’m big on quality time.

Awesome news…Shilpi and Sonia have sponsors! All 18 are sponsored now! So thankful to my friends Joanna and Wendy! This will enable them to bring more girls from the brothels in the future. The home has taken a big financial hit this year with a donor not being able to help. Even though the girls are all sponsored, they still have many other things to pay for. Anything given to the home will be so helpful. If you would like to give contact me and I’ll tell you how: [email protected]

Pray for the girls to overcome their past. They have been through more than any child should have to go through. They’re the most beautiful girls and hopefully a bright future is ahead of them. These pictures don’t do justice to their sweet spirits.

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