Thursday, 1 October 2020
The Children’s Uplift Program
(CUP), a project in SIMaid’s Girls Off The Streets (GOTS) category, offers holistic care to children in high-risk situations on the streets of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The project recognises that in order to help these children, they must also walk alongside their mothers. The mothers, who are in dire financial circumstances or homeless, are invited to join CUP’s training programme. While the mothers are in the training programme, their babies stay in childcare and their children attend CUP’s Day Care, where they attend educational classes and other activities.
The training programme for the mothers includes literacy courses to learn basic reading, writing and numeracy, and vocational skills for future employment (including jewellery-making, Kantha sewing and using industrial sewing machines). The women also have classes on life-skills, including values teaching, health class and parenting class.
Motivated by the love of Christ, CUP’s heart is to see women equipped to break the cycle of poverty and create a new path for themselves and their children. A member of the CUP team, Carmen, said, “Through the life skills teaching our clients have learned how to better care for themselves and their children, it’s so encouraging to see the changes they make after attending CUP for some time.”
Below, you can read the story of how the CUP team were able to help a young woman named Lotus* move on from a vulnerable situation.
“I did not understand what was bad or good until years later,” said Lotus* as she recalled her past experiences. Lotus’ childhood memories were filled with pain. At the tender age of five, Lotus was abused by her stepfather. Afterwards, she was sent away from home to work as a house helper. In almost every house she stayed in, she was abused at night.
Lotus longed to just have a hot meal and a safe place to live. She was once forced to have a late-term abortion by one of her employers. “It was painful and scary,” she said tearfully. After that terrible experience, she had a deepening desire to have a place to belong and longed to make her own family.
As a teenager, prostitution was Lotus’ way of life. At 15-years-old her goal was to find a husband. The man she found made a dishonest income and was a drug user. He forced Lotus further into prostitution to meet their daily needs and his drug habit. They lived together for almost five years.
“Few days were good. Most of the time he was drugged or anxious without his daily dose. He would get angry for no reason and beat me terribly,” Lotus shared. After one of those occasions, a former CUP member brought Lotus to the program. The CUP team could not imagine what the fragile young girl had gone through.
It took months for Lotus to regularly attend the training at CUP. She would suddenly quit for weeks and return after a big quarrel with her husband. Lotus felt strongly attached to the man as she had no relatives or other family members. However, a breaking point came when she fell ill with dengue fever and received no help from her husband. The CUP health worker took Lotus to the hospital for medical treatment and after she recovered, Lotus stayed at CUP’s night shelter.
Nevertheless, she again went back to her abuser, but this time became a regular attendee at CUP’s training. Lotus said, “I never received care and love from anybody until I came to CUP. For the very first time in my life, I feel protected and cared for.”
Earlier this year, Lotus came to stay full-time at CUP’s night shelter while she continues with the training program. Lotus looks peaceful and content but still carries the emotional wounds from her past. She is focused on her work and attentively listens to the morning devotions. Lotus said, “I am not going back to him [my husband] anymore, there is no way to go back to my previous life.” The team prays that Lotus would have a personal encounter with the One who can satisfy her every need and make her flourish in full.
The CUP team were greatly encouraged when Lotus shared, “I pray to God and peace fills my heart, that is something new to me.” Lotus has been with CUP for more than one year. She has made good progress in her training at CUP and she is also now able to read and write. The team hopes that soon she will be able to get a job that will allow her to become self-sufficient and have a new start.
*Name changed to protect identity and stock image used
Photo credit: UN Women/ Allison Joyce
Please pray Lotus would continue to make great progress in her training and grow in her understanding of God’s love for her. Pray for God’s provision for CUP as the team navigate the effects of the global pandemic. Please pray for protection for the women and children in CUP during this time.
Do you want to see women like Lotus empowered to break the cycle of poverty? You can give a tax-deductible gift to the Girls Off The Streets Fund by visiting sim.org.au/girls