Nazim and his family are among the 21,136 people currently receiving services at the Pavement Dweller Centre
Window panes glistened, as thin rays of sun perforated the curtains, hitting Nazim’s laugh lines. Teacher Apa’s cheerful voice rang through the morning air, calling all the children to take their shower and prepare for Eid prayers. Rushing through the washroom Nazim couldn’t help but peek into the kitchen. The sweet warm smell of shemai enveloped his senses, inciting a giddy feeling in his stomach. How he loved this day! He wished the day would go on forever.
Entering the washroom, Nazim saw all his friends wearing new dresses given by Manager Apa. He spotted his older sister Shilpi was busy fixing red ribbons in her hair. “Shilpi Apa, put mehndi on my hands after I come back from namaz!” said Nazim rushing into the bathroom.
Panjabi, tupi, attar and shoes! “Hey wait, I am done!” Nazim yelled to his older brothers as they set off for the nearby mosque. After the prayers the brothers embraced each other and moved on to share the joy of Eid with others in the community.
Nazim is among the hundreds of children who find the joy of Eid at the ‘Pavement Dweller Centre’ set up by SAJIDA Foundation to reach out to the urban extreme poor. Eid is an occasion that all the children eagerly look forward to, a day when their young minds need not be plagued by adult stresses; when all the troubles of the world seem to fade away in the distance and the present is filled with the aroma of food, the colors of crisp new clothes and joyful sounds of excited children.
There was a time when Nazim’s mother would have no other choice but to leave him on the streets as she went to work. They spent cold nights on the pavement hidden inside thin plastic sheets with hunger in their bellies. Nazim and his sister walked barefoot all day, picking up scraps from the street and confronted with the noises and brutalities of the outside world, alone and helpless.
It has been almost two years that Nazim, his mother and older sister found refuge at the Pavement Dweller Centre in Maniknagar. The first time they had entered, Nazim had found himself staring curiously at the other children. Some were sleeping in the day care. Some were reading books or colouring and some were playing. He didn’t know that they would soon become his family and that one day he would be celebrating Eid with them with more joy than he had ever imagined.
The Pavement Dweller Centres provided Nazim’s family a safe place to sleep at night and for Nazim and his sister to spend their days as his mother went off to work. They no longer had to walk around the streets under the glare of sun, in constant fear of unforeseeable dangers. They now had a place where they could wash and bathe, eat and study and play. Where they could just be children. When they fell ill, the Centre provided health care. Nazim’s mother received grants to start an income generating activity. It was a place full of possibilities.
For the extreme urban poor who comprise the most vulnerable and neglected segment of the population, SAJIDA Foundation has established seven such Pavement Dweller Centres in Dhaka and Chittagong. Nazim and his family are among the 21,136 people currently receiving services at the Centres with the help of dedicated and compassionate team of professionals. With the help of the Centres, many such extreme poor members of society have moved away from the streets to rented premises while many others have moved back to their villages with their accumulated savings. Many children at the Centre have enrolled in government schools and dream of becoming doctors, engineers and teachers.
With the dream of leaving no child behind, SAJIDA hopes to establish more Centres that will transform the futures of millions of people, including mothers and children, who are trapped in poverty and hardship. The Foundation welcomes donations of any amount towards this mission.
To get involved in this program or to donate, email SAJIDA Foundation at [email protected] 0r call +8801777772700.
The author is Coordinator, Development Programs at SAJIDA Foundation