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Beauty and Horror: Two sides to Bangladesh

Wednesday 1st September 2010

It’s been hard to find a way to write about today. Over and over I’ve tried and I couldn’t find the words. Couldn’t find the meaning and the feelings I wanted to convey. I think that’s because I wasn’t really sure what yesterday meant, to be honest, or how I felt about it.

Our schedule involved another busy day in the hot Bangladeshi heat, hours on the road moving from village to village, health centre to health centre. Apart from the odd scant bit of food before we left each day, proper meals were hard to come by on the road. It is Ramadan which means huge proportions of the population are fasting and food is not prepared until Iftar, the evening meal when Muslims break their fast together. We got through each day on bananas bought by the road side, the taste of which will forever cause all bananas eaten back home to feel dry and powdery compared to their moist sweetness, snacks of sugar cane covered in sesame, and on biscuits and salty crisps. And water, of course, lots and lots of bottled, clean water which we drank by the litre as sweated in our heavy clothes and scarves.

Like the previous day, we continued to shadow Community Health Workers in the area, today as they visited children recovering from diarrhoea and pneumonia. We watched as Padma rani and Margia mixed re-hydration medicine to treat children with tummy bugs, carefully spooning medicine into large silver bowls of water that was patiently fed to each child, glass by glass. And we watched as respiratory rates were measured to check that children’s breathing levels were back in safe ranges after bouts of pneumonia – signs that the antibiotics administered had worked.


  1. Amazing writing Josie. I'm just staggered by what you're experiencing out there.

  2. Hope Josie, you’re giving them all hope and you are a hero! Love you!

  3. Amazing photos Josie, so pleased I could read this via a dodgy internet connection in France. I would struggle to experience what you’re experiencing. What you’ve written here is explains it so well to me.

  4. Your words made me happy, sad, hopeful and hopeless, Josie. But the picture of the little girls is just gorgeous. Keep safe xx

  5. Speechless – just wanted you know that you are being heard.

  6. My eyes are full of tears.. Josie you have written your blog with such deep integrity, empathy and with a true sense of reality..

    That last poignant picture was incredible.

    Here’s to the hope .. Xx

  7. I know exactly what you mean, Josie. It is really hard to believe that people, communities, countries are living like this now in 2010. To us it seems so primative and incredibly basic, and I'm not sure I'd know how to live like that, it is a world away from the lives we have here. We are incredibly incredibly lucky. Life's a lottery. We just happened to be born here. Keep up the good work, my friend. Stay strong. Those communities need you to continue reporting back like this. xxx

  8. Such a great way to express it – you do get sidetracked by the photogenic "beauty" in those communities. I know how it feels to see the deprivation people are living in out there and feel so angry at the injustice of how, in this crazy-fast-modern-techno world we live in, people still exist in conditions like that.

    When I was struggling with what I could possible hope to change after returning from Bangladesh, someone told me "lots of change is only made up of little bits of change" and that has really stayed with me, encouraging me to do my little bit and hope that collectively we can make a difference. You are already on that journey so remember that and don't lose hope.

  9. Josie – an incredible post that underlines the sheer value of what you are doing out there

    You recognise that this is something happening today and now and how it is so easy for us to say its over there, its different but its not, those are children just like ours but lacking even the basic things we take for granted – health care, clean water, sufficient food

    And as a breastfeeding advocate I love how you mention the benefits to that mother & child

  10. geekymummy

    What a very beautiful post, your wonderful talent is being well used. Geekydaddy went to India on business and was struck with the same contrast between the beauty and the horror of the city he stayed in.

  11. Thank you so much for doing this – for raising these issues and making us think, be thankful and above all want to change things. Warmest wishes to all of you.

  12. colourfulcoach

    They couln't have chosen a better person than you to tell us about all of this Josie. As someone else said, you're one of this world's heroes.

  13. What an amazingly moving post. I cannot even begin to imagine how you start to come to terms with what you are seeing. You are all doing something very incredible by reporting back on the lives of these people and opening our eyes to their world. Love to you all. x

  14. Him Up North

    What an incredible range of experiences you've had. You've all done a marvellous job of raising the profile of this country and its people. I must say I sense hope in all of it, but hope alone won't do the trick.

  15. I agree with colourful coach. You were just the right person for this job.

    I am struck by what you say about this happening in our world NOW. History will judge us, I think, for knowing the extent of the world's problems, and yet carrying on as if our lives were unaffected. We do now live in a global world – it's trite to say it, but it's true. What affects one nation, or one community, affects us all.

  16. Josie you have taken my breath away. I've been pretty absent in the blogosphere over the holidays, but I've been thinking of you all and when I read this I felt so many emotions. I'm so glad you are there, so glad you were all able to be there together and support each other, and so so glad they chose you, because your writing is so beautiful and you are such an amazing lady. This is the good that blogging can do and you're leading us all in doing it. Big hugs.

  17. So much emotion in this post. The juxtaposition of those beautiful smiling girls in their bright cotton dresses, the horror of the hospital and the final picture of the single brick. It is all so moving. Thank you for being brave enough to go there and writing about it. A group of mums doing such a trip has more relevance to me than a journalist or celebrity. As Jo says above, this is the good that blogging can do.

  18. This is such an amazing post.

    As Jo says – this is the good that blogging can do – and you're doing a brilliant job.

    Lucy x

  19. Josie,
    Coming your way via Babes About Town — I was really moved by your trip and just blogged about it on my site, Baby Meets City (I write a "mom" blog in NYC) — what an amazing yet challenging journey. And what an incredible idea by Save the Children to help spread the word about poverty through bloggers. Cheers!


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