Part 1 – 2009
It was a pleasure once again to visit the pauper’s South View Hospital, Dhaka where Dr Jishu, the medical co-ordinator had arranged at least thirty five operations to take place under the banner of BanglaCymru at the end of April, 2009. I was especially pleased to learn that Dr Salek, Bangladesh’s foremost surgeon on the cleft lip/palate condition and owner of the hospital would be leading the medical team once again.
This time, the majority of the patients had already been selected by Dr Salek, and the work of changing lives started immediately. Some of the patients had travelled from far flung areas of the country to be treated by this wizard, and the majority referred to him by a number of charities working in a variety of areas in every corner of the country. It had taken eight hours in the intense heat of Bangladesh in a bus that resembled zinc shed on wheels for one young man to bring his young cousin, whose mother had died to be treated. He told me that this minor inconvenience was nothing in comparison with the suffering endured by the little one since the day he was born with this condition.
One after one, these deformed faces and beautiful eyes came into the operating theatre; many of them unaware of what was happening and others very nervous about what was going to take place. The majority had never been in a hospital before and the image was a frightening one of having to lie on an operating table surrounded by masked men in green sterilised robes amongst scary machinery with one of them shortly using a knife to rearrange the part of their faces that had been their curse since birth. But the hope of having a new, normal life gave them the courage to step forward to face what providence and BanglaCymru had prepared for them.
On the left, the two cousins. On the right, the Rickshaw driver before and after
It was to avoid the shaming of his four children that a rickshaw driver, the lowest of the low in Bangladesh with a severe cleft lip, had come to be treated. He had suffered harsh, unrelenting ridicule all his life, and now didn’t want his children to suffer the same because of their father’s condition, so he had plucked up the courage to face treatment. The day after his operation I showed him his photo on my camera and told him he now looked very handsome. He responded by saying, “Yes, but I will not leave my wife after all this. She looked after me when I was ugly!”
Thirty-seven babies, children and adults were treated under the banner of BanglaCymru and given a new lease of life in this most needy country. I know that every one of them will be so grateful to you for the rest of their lives.
Part 2 – 2009
Gethin Harkin at the summit of Kilimanjaro and Dr Jishu at the Assembly with AMs
Here are some of the highlights of the Summer and Autumn
- – The visit of Dr Jishu to Wales and the warm hearted welcome he received everywhere.
- – The successful attempt of Gethin Harkin to climb to the summit of Kilamanjaro to raise a substantial sum to the charity.
- – The generous contributions of the following institutions; Capel Bethlehem, Gwaelod y Garth, Ysgol Gyfun y Cymer, Rhondda, Ysgol Llyn y Forwyn , Ferndale, Ysgol Llwyncelyn, Porth, Ysgol Pen y Garth, Penarth, The Inner Wheel, Crwys Chapel Sunday School, Rotary Club Cardiff Bay and all members of Merched y Wawr across Wales.
- – The untiring efforts of the mother of the late Dr Donna Khalil who suddenly died at a young age to raise money in her memory.
- – The innumerable contributions of all supporters.
This time we operated on 40 cleft patients bringing the total to 107 in just over a year! During our medical assessment day two children with appalling burn injuries were brought to us by their parents in the hope of getting them treated. The burns had contracted which meant that one girl’s head had been pulled down to one shoulder and another little boy who couldn’t raise his arms as a result of the contraction. Maybe in time, with your consent BanglaCymru could finance a few of these burns operations as well. Some other patients came with appalling facial disfigurements, and although they were not of the cleft nature the chief surgeon was able to put them in contact with somebody somewhere who could help them. All of these patients had very distressing stories to tell. Maybe I will have an opportunity to convey them to you some other time. I would be more than willing to visit any institution to share them with you
Every single operation was a great success. It was a very difficult thing for the patients to smile to show their delight but their handshakes and hugs demonstrated their gratitude. These hugs are for all of you.
To date many positive developments have taken place in this beautiful country to facilitate the work of BanglaCymru including the formation of a local committee to oversee the work and the monitor the funds and we have given it firm guidelines and regulations. We have also started creating a network of important contact people to provide us with patients. Very importantly, we have at last opened a reliable local bank account which will avert the absolute nightmares I have experienced trying to exchange funds and cash travellers’ cheques. Also, a BanglaCymru office has been established with not a penny used from our funds. I will always keep to my promise of not spending any money on administration.