Slum Lady Washes Clothes by the Pond
When it comes to my work in Bangladesh, I tend to focus a lot on rural villages. This probably seems strange since there is so much poverty just outside of my door here in Dhaka City. A few days back, along with a more adventurous friend, I decided to take a closer look at one of these slums…
I’ve seen people in slums wash their hands, do their dishes, and use the bathroom in ponds adjacent to slums. Until this walk, I always assumed that this was their primary (and only) water source.
In reality, many slum residents (dwellers?) dig make-shift wells by digging large holes into the ground. They can than use this water from everything to washing clothes, taking bucket-showers, and drinking. It’s not great – but it’s far better than drinking from the filthy ponds.
Slum Lady Uses Make-Shift Well
Many charitable organizations and communities in the city (like this Buddhist monastery in an older part of Dhaka) have water stations. Local residents and slum dwellers fill their pots & pans to use back home. It’s crystal clear water – but unless you boil or purify it – you can still get sick.
Along this particular walk, I found not only make-shift wells but also mothers doing laundry with and bathing their children with well water. It may sound silly but it really made me realize that people living in slums are just like us.
No – let me say it another way. People living in slums are us.
In Line for Water at a Water Station at a Buddhist Monastery
People living in slums like drinking clean water as much as we do. They like having showers, staying healthy, and having clean clothes. And, as the mother who bathed her child behind some discarded straw bags made into a “shower curtain” can probably attest, they like to keep their dignity just like us.
The challenge for me is turning this sentiment into something that can benefit those living in (or trying to get out of) urban slums. Fighting poverty in slums is a lot harder than fighting poverty in rural villages. Slums are home to criminal gangs, drug dealers, and people ready and willing to steal any aid you give. Adults and children in slums also are at a higher risk of facing problems such as drug addiction, human trafficking, and violence.
As some of my more charity-centric family members can attest, trying to lend a hand in a slum can be a risky and dangerous experience. But, after my recent experience, it is definitely something I want to look into.