Asahi Hoque Message

asahi-hoqueCommunity service means a lot more to me than just completing a certain number of hours of work. It is something that gives me the ability to give back. I grew up with an abundance of love from a wonderful family and economic advantages that allowed good medical care and a first rate education. Later in life it now gives me great satisfaction to help poor children have similar opportunities so they can live the life that they deserve.

This past summer I went on a mission and adventure, spending two entire months in Bangladesh volunteering with Rights and Sights for Children. Bangladesh is a beautiful country, but it is so strikingly different from the United States. As soon as you step down from the plane you can feel the heat and humidity press down on you. On the sides of the roads you can see so many people who seem to be barely holding onto life. Children were running through the streets trying to find money so they could eat. Some were working while taking care of younger siblings. Crippled men and women were looking for a way to survive. The general poverty was shocking, overwhelming, and distressing.

When visiting the slums, I found mothers washing their babies in the same dirty water used to wash their food, 2-3 year old children playing with the embers of unattended fires, and communities virtually living in sewers. The close proximity to an unhygienic environment has created many health issues. I had the opportunity to hold a six month baby. She was the happiest baby I have seen. However, I noticed that she had a white crusty rash all down her left leg which was surely already infected. I tried washing it the best I could, and explained how urgent it was to take her to a doctor. The grandmother responded that she could neither afford medicine nor a doctor’s appointment.

After seeing this case in particular, I decided that I would try to teach the children the importance of good hygiene and how to take care of their bodies. This was important because this lack of hygiene was the main root of the health problems I saw. I showed children how they could make themselves grow healthier and stronger by being more careful and clean. I taught them how to make sure the water they were using was clean and how to brush their teeth. I also taught them how to wash their hands with soap. I taught this to about 40 children. I hope next time I can do this again with even more children.

While I was doing eye screenings, hygiene training, and just talking to the kids, I made some friendships that will never end. Every few weeks I write letters to them to see how they are doing. They always write back something like “I’m washing my hands before I eat!” These children don’t have the opportunity to go to school due to the need to support their families. They are almost like adults because they have never been allowed to have a childhood. It pained me to think of these children without the comforts that I had grown up with. Each one was so special, beautiful, and wonderfully happy. When I asked these children what they wanted to be they responded that they wanted to be a pilot, doctor, engineer, etc. I know that they are beyond smart and talented enough to do those things, but in their position, without help and with families to support, it is almost impossible.

So much talent and youth going to waste is disheartening. But still the children try, and sometimes succeed. One little girl, Koli, told me that her older sister was given a sewing machine by the lady she worked for. Using this machine she tailored, and with the money paid for her education. Last year she graduated and is now studying engineering! This girl is so inspiring, illustrating that with some help all of these kids could succeed.

Service to the children of Bangladesh has been an integral part of my life for the past few years. It has taught me more about the world and about people who have grown up in different circumstances. I have improved in my ability to communicate from the heart. This work of service has inspired me to be who I am today. It also gives me the ability to help these kids. I want to give them hope for a better life. Even if my contribution is small, I just want these children to know that someone cares and loves it when they smile.

-Asahi Hoque
DCI Youth Coordinator