Called to a few
Bangladesh is a land of 154 million people. Just in the capital city, Dhaka, there are over 12 million people. In the midst of huge numbers, one approach to the need is to do less with as many people as possible. One of the driving forces of Uttam's Place and Akhi's Place is the notion that we are "called to a few". The objective is do more with less, to make a deeper impact on a few girls who are entrenched in poverty. This enables a ten year plan to be established for each girl that takes them from elementary to college, thus transitioning them out of poverty into their futures.
One step at a time
When the a girl arrives for the first time at Uttam's Place or Akhi's Place, we ask her parents, "Ten years from now, if we asked one of these girls to jump from the bottom of the building to the top, could they do it?" Of course, the parent says, "No." The only way they are going to get to the top is to climb the stairs one step at a time. Each day, the girls at our centers take steps up out of poverty - not giant leaps, just small steps. With each step over the next ten years, their expectations rise and transformational process takes place.
Keeping the goal in mind
Our programs start with the end in mind. In ten years, where do these 18 girls want to be? What do they want to become? Teachers? Medical professionals? Uttam's Place and Akhi's Place work at giving girls the tools necessary to see them transition out of the extreme poverty that has historically kept them back. This is a slow process which entails incrementally raising each girl's expectation that "things are going to be different". There is no quick fix, and there is no thought of just sitting back and maintaining the status quo.
Our staff is made up of a combination of Bangladeshi people who have dedicated their lives to helping street children and students from the Home of Hope who are interning while going to college. The integration of these interns into the program provides opportunity for girls raised in the Home of Hope to now invest in the lives of street children. These interns help with the operations of Uttam's Place as well as helping the girls with their studies, handicrafts, and computer training.
Working with Families
We are not a hand out. Families in the slums pay a small fee that is subsidized by sponsorships. This way, the parent or guardian can say, "I pay to send my child there". Each person does their part. It is a partnership, working together to see the life of one child changed permanently. The biggest challenge is to move the thinking of the extremely poor from focusing on day-to-day survival to focusing on the future.