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Homeless children find shelter in church

Bangladeshi priest’s project offers a ray of hope

Poor children in northwestern Bangladesh huddle together to sleep in a basket during the winter season Poor children in northwestern Bangladesh huddle together to sleep in a basket during the winter season
  • Liton Leo Das, Naogaon
  • Bangladesh
  • January 4, 2011
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Poor children in Bangladesh’s remote northwestern region now have a ray of hope in their lives thanks to the initiative of a local priest.

Father Ignatius Bindu Hembrom, parish priest of the King of Peace Church at Chandpukur in Rajshahi diocese has established a shelter to assist homeless children.

“I sleep on a pile of hay with my friends and my parents in a dilapidated polythene-covered house,” five-year-old Dhiren Ekka told ucanews.com.

“We actually have no place to live in because a local moneylender grabbed our house when my father failed to pay his debt,” the ethnic Oraon child added.

“My parents are day laborers and I also work with them in the fields. Father (Hembrom) met me recently and assured he’ll take me to the mission (parish) and help enroll me in school,” he explained.

Ruben Ekka, 10 (not related to Dhiren) has also experienced the bitterness of life.

“My poor parents sent me to work at a rich man’s house where they often beat me and left me without food,” he said. “I fled from there and Father Bindu brought me here and gave me new life.”

The two boys are among 250 mostly tribal Christian children from various villages in Naogaon district who now benefit from the shelter project.

Father Hembrom told ucanews.com that people in the region, especially children, often suffer from various problems that are exacerbated during the cold winters.

“Many tribal families lost their ancestral lands after being caught in debt or forced from their land. They have no place to live in and their kids suffer, particularly during winter,” Father Hembrom told ucanews.com.

He noted that there are few government facilities in the region because the area is so far from the nation’s capital as well as 50 kilometers away from the nearest major town.

Health care is not available in the area. Roads are poor. There are no schools for children. Sometimes robbers attack villagers and snatch their goods and livestock.

“We provide food, clothes and education for extremely poor and homeless kids,” Father Hembrom, an ethnic Santal, explained.

“Often, we request local NGOs to help poor families with warm clothes and food during winter,” he added.

Caritas Rajshahi and Ashroy (Shelter) are the two NGOs most active in the region.

“To live a safe and secure life we need government and NGO support to obtain housing, healthcare, education and communications,” commented Habil Mardi, 38, a day laborer and father of five from the Mahali ethnic group.

“Our kids grow up with malnutrition, struggling in everyday life. We just await help from the mission,” lamented Harun Toppo, 34.

Related reports
Young Catholics give warm clothes to cold-hit poor
Caritas helps keep Bangladeshis warm

BA12696.1635
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