Tuesday, November 10

STUCK: between a rock and a hard place--or a car and a rickshaw..

I arrived at the center today to hear that Shona* was home sick. I imagined a cold or cramps. The story unfolds that a few days earlier she went to the market and was smashed in between a rickshaw and a CNG, penetrating her stomach.

With one other girl from the center Lila*, myself and three aid workers head to Shona’s house. Weaving through the cool morning on a rickshaw, one aid worker Rahim* shares Shona’s story. Her parents are not around and she is married to a man who “is not bad, but not good.” She was a sex worker for a few years when she had no other livelihood available. Finding the organization, she has been working for them doing crafts and making a steady income. Her husband doesn’t work and relies on Shona to support him and their two year-old daughter. The other aid workers gush about Shona, saying that she never argues with the other girls and always helps them when they need it. I see it in her: she is a complete doll. She and I have dance sessions to entertain everyone at the center. It’s uncommon for a Bangla woman to laugh as loud as she does, and I mirror it with my own.

It starts getting quiet as we get farther away from city’s business center and the sun stronger as the buildings shrink from 5 stories to at most 2 levels. The roads increasingly dirtier, bumpier, at parts non-existent or slanted from earthquakes. Getting off the rickshaw in an alley that can fit only three persons, Lila leads us through the garbage filled ditches rotting in the sun. A constant cloud of flies swarm around my feet as we step into a cluster of tin homes, each perhaps three times the size of my clothes closet on Long Island. Seeing aid workers and a bideshi (foreigner), adults and children start popping out of everywhere to follow us. Shona’s name is whispered amongst the indistinct Bangla around me when we enter her home.

She was lying on a bed lined with a plastic table cloth with one sheet covering her. The bed took up one third of the entire house (one room) with tin walls and ceiling. Her husband stood in the corner, watching us pile in with the curious entourage behind us. The rest of the room had one chair and shelves with clothes, pots and plastic bags with personal belongings.

Shona was moaning in pain, holding her stomach. Seeing us, she began to cry and grasped onto my arm, mumbling in Bangla. I covered her forehead with kisses. She lifted up her sheet and revealed the wound. I looked away, I couldn’t see it. Her daughter came around the corner with the biggest eyes and sweetest cheeks, happily placing herself in my lap as she watched her mother breath heavy. Bangla was thrown around the tiny hut too fast for me to understand. Just as I felt that I was going to hit someone if I wasn’t informed as to what was happening, Rahim finally explained: the doctor saw her for a few minutes, gave her 2-weeks worth of antibiotics cost 1000tk and Shona’s husband took out a loan of 500tk to pay for the visit but now have no money to pay for food. That’s about 20 dollars. I handled the money situation but I was so concerned about what she was feeling now. Ambulances don’t really exist, no car or even bicycle could make it to her slum door: so she must walk with this pain to the street, get on a rickshaw and bounce her way through the slum then through traffic to the hospital.

What else can we do, I keep pestering. A stretcher to the street and I'll get a taxi? Can we bring a doctor to her? I was met with nothing but blank stares. Nothing else could be done.

Rahim told me that Shona’s husband was going to take her to the hospital. Tomorrow we will see the outcome.

But that’s all I can do right now. I don’t know what else to do. Recalling the monring, it reads like any other humanitarian documentary covering a similar story. That’s what is so sad: there are so many stories like this: continuously and daily, too common that it’s cliché. But I cannot bellow loud enough or clearly enunciate how though it is prevalent, it is still continuously harrowing and crippling for them. Shona may not have experienced life outside of permanent devastation, but that doesn’t mean that she is ignorant that it should be better.

* Names have been changed.


  1. ...how touching yet how true. this is the case for many a bangladeshi people. Seeing through your eyes, (reading from your blog), I realize how de-sensitized we've become about these things - going on and around about so many other petty issues. Is there an organization that I may contribute to in any form?

  2. Thanks Fahim for the kind offer, but I must keep the organization confidential for now. If you, or anyone, is interested in contributing something please contact me personally and I'll see to it that your money is given (you can trust me!)

  3. Fahim is right. Too many times we get de-sensitized to our surrounding, because we don't want to be drawn into the sadness of the situation. It's not always money that can help a situation, but the compassion we show to others, makes them feel they are not alone or invisable and their life means something. Amanda, Mrs. Riley said, back in the lst grade, that you were very sensitive to the others kids feelings. She said the world was in need for more of that. One person can make a huge difference, we're so proud that one of them is our daughter!! Love mommy xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

  4. It is true. Amanda, if you need more than money (time/music), I would like to contribute. With the corporate job that I have - its money that i have more than time, but let me know. And Ms. Ferrandino, you should be proud of your daughter - the world is indeed in need of people like her! I met her only for 2 weeks and i am really touched by all she is doing for these people of my country...makes me feel like I should jump in too!

  5. This is heartbreaking. You are so strong & compassionate - it's inspiring.

    love love.