Rachel's visit to Bangladesh - February 2020
Updated: May 17
In February this year I returned again to my little room in the Eye Hospital in Moulvibazar N/E Bangladesh. The room is used for self-funding patients, and I love the way the hospital manager always gives me the same room, as it has become very special to me. This is the room from where so many friendships have been established in the evenings of hot spring days, where plans have been formed for further work, the ongoing need has been assessed, and where prayers have been answered in abundance. This is the room where I sat in 2010 wondering how I would ever get a ticket home as the UK had been closed by the Icelandic ash cloud and my passport taken for 10 days to validate a new ticket.
The hospital staff have been all encompassing with their friendship towards me over the years and I have come to know their families, been through births, weddings and deaths with them since 2006.
This visit was no different, except now as a formed charity there were extra responsibilities to attend to, proposals to write, better practice to enable and a visit to meet our newly funded worker Mamony.
My visit this time was short, only eight days and I knew I must not be distracted from the timetable I had set myself.
I needed to sit with the hospital manager and write a three year ongoing proposal which in turn goes to the Bangladesh government for approval before implementation. It had become clear for various reasons we needed to concentrate on funding the surgery of children's operations. There are many charities working with adult blindness but the children were a neglected group. This added a very special dimension for me, as first and foremost I am a trained paediatric nurse, and my heart lies very much in this direction. We also concluded together the tea garden remote areas were those most in need of help, and also of hope. We would also continue to do what we can for the hospital itself, as newer equipment is always needed.
I always try to bring best practice into one area of the hospital every time I visit. This year it became clear the cleaners were in need of encouragement. There had been a new appointment of a ‘Cleaner in Charge’ and he was struggling with lack of authority. I decided to bring all the cleaning staff together with their new appointed overseer and the hospital management. Together we stressed to the work force that cleaning was a vital and important area - no area was off bounds when it came to cleanliness. The charity has also designed a Employee Of The Month Certificate for any member of staff, from the gardener to the Manager, who excels in their work or goes beyond the call of duty. The cleaners seemed delighted to have their work acknowledged in this way.
The main reason for this visit was to meet Mamony. Mamony is our tea garden worker who we have funded to do a door-to door initiative with. She is taking a health awareness programme to these people (a first for the area) which includes; sanitation, vitamin and protein intake, hand washing, schooling for the children and testing the children's eyes for loss of vision (the need for glasses or cataract operation).
I met Mamony in the Tea Garden she was working in, she had brought the children needing visual help together and we talked about a plan to get the children by minibus to the hospital, and other ways we can take this work forward. Mamony told me she was enjoying her work and there was a great need amongst the adults as well regarding blindness due to cataract.
On the 23 hour journey home from Bangladesh I had lots of time to think; how to raise more funds to support Mamony's work, how to provide or fix broken equipment the hospital needed replacing, and ways to take them forward in their surgical procedures.
On return to the UK Covid-19 took hold, and now is breaking out in Bangladesh. The hospital is shut except for emergencies, and many plans are on hold.
However, Vision For Bangladesh has a work to do, and the minute this terrible virus allows us some normality, we will be doing all we can to help those in extreme poverty in this developing country.
By giving a small part of our wealth in the west we can show these forgotten people we care, by what we do, and what we give.
We can give light into the darkness of blind eyes.