The 7th Honours Programme Field Visit took place from 26 to 28 September in Dhaka, Bangladesh. 17 participants—Members of the Honours Programme and representatives of the World Scout Bureau Asia-Pacific Support Centre and Global Support Centre—visited two phenomenal local projects in the capital city and interacted with the local Scouts running them.
The first project visited was the flagship Ticket To Life project, which supports street children in Bangladesh, through Scouting, to gain a new start in life. Ticket to Life started in Bangladesh in 2008 with just one group that ran in a shelter for street children. Now this has grown to 12 groups in and around Dhaka.
The Scouts go out up to four times a week to meet with street children at locations such as the central Dhaka railway station, Kamalapur, which the Honours Programme Members visited. They play games with the children, provide them with food and work to gain their trust, and they also try find out where the children are from and if there is any family left to which they could return. If so, then they use the Scout network to locate the family and to assess if a return is possible. If not, they try to find them a place in a shelter. And when that shelter has a Scout Group attached to it, they encourage the children to join the Scouts while they are in the shelter so they can learn skills that might lead to employment.
Having witnessed the set-up at the train station, participants visited the Brahmaputra and Buriganga Ticket To Life Scout Unit besides Kamalapur Railway Station. Here they met Salma and heard how she ended up on the streets of Dhaka, how she found her way to the shelter—where she joined the Scout Unit—and the impact this has had on her life.
They were also able to interact with other Scouts, including Foysal, a Scout leader who had come through the Ticket To Life programme himself and who had shared his very personal experience (see the video here) at the 2019 WSF Investor Conference, in which many of the Honours Programme Members had also participated.
The number of street children that have been returned to their families or found a place in a shelter and joined a Scout Group over the years through Ticket To Life is well in the thousands, with most of them learning vocational skills, and some of them even progressing to university. There are around 600,000 street children in Dhaka alone and they come from all parts of the country. The need to expand the project is evident and the Scouts are willing to work hard to achieve this and offer a Ticket To Life through Scouting to many more.
“This Field Visit has changed my view on my life and what we should be doing within our Scout Units to take care of the community we are part of. I am intensely proud of what Scouts do in Dhaka in serving their communities and those who need our help most. These two days will stay with me forever especially due to the shear contrast in how a part of the people live in dire circumstances, whether in Dhaka or elsewhere, and how we as Scouts can make a difference”, said Tiffany Hjelm.
The second project visited was a Hospital Rover Scouts Project called the “Golden Ribbon” Project. The Rovers started this three years ago, visiting children diagnosed with leukemia on a regular basis to play with them and to bring them toys, which they collected from family and friends. Doctors noticed early on that the Rover Scouts had no issue talking with the parents, so they trained the Scouts to understand and communicate to the parents the necessity of hygiene and the importance of sticking to the established medication schedules to ensure their children have the best chance of survival. And critically, each of these Rover Scouts is also a regular blood donor, ensuring that there are enough blood supplies available for the young leukaemia patients, since there is not a well-functioning blood bank in the hospital.
The Scouts are really making a difference. Whereas in the developed world the survival rate of young children with leukaemia is over 90%, in Dhaka it is still at around 65%. The professor in charge of the hospital department confirmed that without the Rover Scouts this percentage would be much lower. The work they do to educate the parents, providing blood when needed and playing with the kids, is essential to reach the current survival rate and to increase it further.
On the final afternoon, Ticket To Life Scouts gave a highly professional cultural performance consisting of music, dance and drama. This was followed by a farewell dinner alongside various Bangladesh Scout national leaders and Rover Scouts.
“These Field Visits are always very interesting wherever in the world they bring us, but this Field Visit to Bangladesh was very special. It was impressive to see what the Scouts do to respond to issues in society that are mainly neglected by others and how they, with simple means and a strong belief in the Scout Method, make a difference in the lives of so many. I am proud to be a Scout”, said Kendrick Chan.
Following a recommendation by the World Scout Bureau Asia-Pacific Support Centre and the Ticket To Life project leader, the Honours Programme Members agreed, during this visit, to boost support for the two projects with a specific proposal. They are raising funds themselves and via their networks on the Scout Donation Platform, and others can join this exciting initiative here.
This project will support the Bangladesh Scouts to continue their important work with street children at Dhaka's main railway station as well as the Rover Scouts who do important work at the (only) University Hospital of Bangladesh, in Dhaka. The full details of the proposal, it’s deliverables and projected impact are detailed on the Scout Donation Platform project page.
Interested in joining the Honours Programme? More information here.
Photo © WSF/FruBergkvist.