Saturday morning I woke up early and got picked up at 6am by the staff of the Child Sight Foundation. We drove the three hours north to their project centre in Sirajgonj, crossing over the longest bridge in the country, 3km wide over a river that looked more like a sea…
CSF works hard to eliminate avoidable childhood blindness and support the rights of those children who are blind or visually impaired. This includes ensuring their access to education and the first place we visited was a local primary school they are working with to include these children, providing resources and training for the teachers and support to the children and their families.
The headteacher welcomed me warmly and we talked a lot about the challenges of running a school in a poor, rural area, and about the work he had been doing with CSF to enrol blind and VI children there. We visited every classroom, where one teacher taught about 80 children. They showed me their work, tried out their few English words, and seemed to stare at me without blinking.
We spent the rest of the day visiting children in their homes around the area. We drove along narrow dusty roads on the ridges between bright green paddy fields, stopping at houses to meet the children and their families. One family took me into their paddy field so I could actually see the rice growing – can I admit I had no idea what the plant looked like?!
It was a wonderful day, meeting these beautiful children, hearing their stories and seeing their hope. It was getting late but the manager asked me if I wanted to visit one more home and I said yes. We entered the small yard surrounded my little houses, where I met Jasmine.
Hers is the face I will remember from this trip the longest. She stole my heart within about thirty seconds. We shook hands and then she didn’t let go, demanded me to play the rhyme “round and round the garden”. Then she caught the goat and planted it in my lap. When she went after the chickens I prayed hard to God for their escape. We chatted through the interpreter about school and her favourite things. She invited me to stay for tea, lunch, dinner, overnight, to visit her school. She was dynamic and excitable and adorable and I didn’t want to leave her.
I am so encouraged by CSF’s work with these families and schools. They are opening doors that were bolted shut before, giving intellegent young children like Jasmine the chance to really flourish and excell in what they are good at.