Report on the Foster Parents Project in Bangladesh 2020

Our arrival and the first day

On December 31, 2019 at 2 a.m. we were waiting at the check-in counter at Dhaka airport in Bangladesh in the middle of the night for our flight to Cox’s Bazar, and mosquitoes were bothering us even though the air was cold.

 We were wondering why the airport was so busy this late at night (or this early in the morning). Many people were there. Was it because it was New Year’s Day? Or was it usually this busy?

The plane to Cox’s Bazar was 30 minutes late because of a thick fog.

The airport at Cox’s Bazar is likely to become an international airport in the near future, and is already under construction. It’s bigger than before.

After we completed our foreigner registration and picked up our luggage, we saw Rajo at the exit, and he was smiling. San, Rajo’s eldest son, was with him and he was much taller than the last time we saw him. They were there to pick us up.

We were delighted to meet each other again, and headed for Rajo’s house.

While riding on the tricycle, we felt the energy and smell of the city had become lighter than before. The city had been swept and was much cleaner than the last time we were there.

We planned to rent a room from Rajo this time, too. Rajo kindly allows us to use the space where the four members of his family usually live and this means they sleep in a very small space while we are there. We’re always sorry for this inconvenience to them, but this time, the same as last time, they kindly let us use their room. 

The first thing we felt when we arrived in Cox’s Bazar was that it was colder than usual. When we asked Rajo about the weather, he said this winter was much colder than usual and it was raining even in the dry season. He also said that it was very cold in the morning and evening. When we heard that from him we felt even more sorry for the inconvenience we were causing.

Immediately after we put our luggage in our room and had a welcome lunch, we started thinking about what we had come here to do.

The purposes for our visit were:

  1. onsite inspections of three supported villages,
  2. a visit to the Rohingya refugee camp,
  3. discussion about the Buddhist stupa park, and
  4. onsite inspection of the NPO Earth Caravan Bangladesh Centre. 

As the length of this visit would be very short, we had no time to waste. First we applied for permission to enter the Rohingya refugee camp.

We went to the local support organization, the PULSE Bangladesh office, to request an application form and then had ID photographs taken, applied for permission, and waited for all the administrative procedures to be completed. While we were waiting, we had a chance to hear from the office staff about the difficulties they encounter in supporting the Rohingya and solving their problems. While we were listening to them, all of our documents were completed. 

After that we went to the government refugee office and received final permission to enter the refugee camp.

It was 5 p.m. and it was already dark. We hurried back to Rajo’s house. We would be able to go to the refugee camp first thing in the morning. It was a good start, and our first long day was finished.

The second day (January 1, 2020)

Rohingya refugee camp

During the night it was so cold that one blanket wasn’t enough to keep us feeling warm, and we remembered that last time it wasn’t as cold as this. We decided to ask Rajo for another blanket to use for the following nights.

It was already New Year’s Day in Japan. We wish for 2020 to be a better year for all.

Rakhine tribes don’t have any New Year’s Day celebration customs, but Rajo cooked Rakhine New Year’s dishes for us anyway. We enjoyed the delicious food, and then departed for the Rohingya refugee camp. 

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Those rectangular morsels are something like Japanese rice cakes (mochi).  They tasted a bit sweet.

We headed for the PULSE office at 8:30 that morning. The refugee camp we were allowed to visit was called Kutuplong Camp. Our permit and the outside of the car we rode in were marked with the PULSE Bangladesh emblem (it indicates a support organization). Thanks to these things, the police didn’t examine us and the refugees weren’t frightened.

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At the Kutuplong camp

Our first impression of the refugee camp was that it seemed to be more lively than last time. These days, more than 740,000 refugees are living in this camp, but this number is only an estimate.

We heard that the refugees in this camp receive only the minimum amount of food from NGOs, and the only thing they can do every day is to go to supply stations to get whatever is available to them.  

Some people with the capability to do so started their own businesses within the camp, and we think this will make it more lively. 

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 At the Kutuplong camp

When we were here last time we visited the women-only trauma centre, the schools, and the hospitals, but this time we couldn’t visit them. Instead, we could only look around the camp from the car we were in and talk to some people at a few places. We felt that this was a real pity.

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At the Kutuplong camp


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Children at the Kutuplong camp


We later heard from Rajo that a person who came with us and took some pictures at a prohibited area of the camp was questioned by the police, and Rajo was asked to come to the police station. Because of these occurrences, we realized that the situation and conditions at the camp are much more severe than before. 

We feel furiously angry about the bad treatment that women receive because of the situation in the refugee camp and the large number of them who are harmed simply because they are women.

There is a distressing amount of trafficking in young children in the camp. How can we heal the children from wounds that cannot be healed and will stay in their minds even after they become adults?

Can we say it is not our country’s fault, but that of others? As on our last visit, we left the refugee camp with many questions in our minds. While leaving in the car, we could see the children smiling at us.

The second day in the afternoon 

Khurushkul village

The road to Khurushkul village has been paved (it wasn’t last year), but there is no way to not get whiplash while travelling by auto rickshaw.

We were greeted by the cheerful voices of 25 children! It was a happy moment when we saw their faces and were reunited with familiar people, and met new ones, too.

We found out how the students were doing and how the school building was coming along by listening to the teachers. We were concerned that the school room was very dark and decided we should ask the teachers later about whether the darkness was hindering the students.

After we handed out notebooks, ballpoint pens, and souvenirs to the students and encouraged them to enjoy their school life, we headed for the teachers’ office.

During our interview with the teachers we discovered the following:

  • 5 students had progressed from the second grade to the third grade,
  • 6 students had progressed from the third grade to the fourth grade,
  • 1 student had progressed from the fourth grade to the fifth grade.

The teachers told us how much they appreciate our support. Thanks to the support they receive, they can help their students move up to the next grade. 

Also, they gave us their requests for future support:

  1. They want help with their electrical equipment because it becomes dark even during daytime in winter.
  2. They want the ceiling repaired because part of the ceiling almost fell down and they feel that it is in dangerous condition.
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The damaged ceiling

The response from NPO Earth Caravan:

  1. The classroom is certainly dark, and we understand that it is difficult to study in winter or rainy season and we accept the request to put electric lights in the classroom.
  2. As for the ceiling, we agreed to repair it as soon as possible so that the children and teachers do not get hurt.

We asked them to prepare an estimate so that we can arrange for work on the construction to start as soon as possible.

The school excursion for all students that was proposed at the last inspection took place, and all the students were very pleased and enjoyed visiting an aquarium for the first time! 

A birthday party was held, too.

NPO Earth Caravan asked the teachers to continue planning and holding events regularly to entertain the children, but the parents are concerned about relying on the teachers too much. To make them feel less anxious, we suggested that the parents could accompany the children to these events and on excursions. 

Let us tell you about some happy developments.

The present teachers at the school are:

  • Mr. Mong Ba Kin, teaching mathematics, social science, and Bengali; and
  • Ms. Yain Hla May, teaching Bengali and Buddhism.

Ms. Sen Khin May, who used to be one of our foster children, has become a teacher of Bengali, English, and mathematics. We are very glad about this, and appreciate that our support has had such a great result. 

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(On the right: Sen Khin May)


And Sen Sen, who used to be one of our foster children, has become a high school student!!!

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The school children and teachers in Khurushkul village

On this visit we presented messages and pictures from the foster parents to the foster children. The children were very interested in the pictures of Japanese scenery and their foster parents; their enjoyment of the pictures was quite obvious, as they smiled very naturally while looking at them.

Chofolondhi village

Thanks to the support of the foster parents and other members, the roof was repaired, so they don’t have to worry about rain leaking in any more. The classroom is now a safe place to learn in both the rainy season and cold winter.

On this visit to the school, we were welcomed by 15 students and villagers, as well as 49 children who also want to learn. The classroom was full of their expectations.

The teacher is Mr. Nayloon, who has a mobility disability. He is a devoted teacher.

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(On the left: Mr. Nayloon)


While looking at the faces of the children, we felt that such a long time had passed.

Just one year ago they were childish, but now they have a little more maturity in their faces and they are noticeably taller.

When we asked them “How are you doing?” they all said, ”I’m fine!”

We noticed that compared with last year, more children have come to the school.

When we asked them what they enjoyed about coming to school, they said that they like it because they can play lots of different games and study together. Their games are not the same ones that Japanese children play. The children here play ball games and tag in the schoolyard.

We recognize that having the school in the village gives children opportunities to get together and play with each other, and that the school provides value to the village. 

We distributed notebooks, ballpoint pens, and souvenirs to all children. 

The requests from the school in Chofolondhi are:

  1. The village senior enthusiastically asked us to support six children from the village whose fathers had passed away.
  2. The teachers requested that we arrange for electricity in the school because they have no electric lights in the classroom. The room is dark even in the daytime, especially in winter, which makes it very difficult for students to study.
  3. They also requested an electric fan for the classroom ceiling because it is very hot and humid in summer, which makes it difficult for students to concentrate on studying.

The response to Chofolondhi’s requests from NPO Earth Caravan:

  1. We took a picture of the six children who require support. We will consider whether we can take them on as foster children and will let them know later.
  2. We understand how important electric lights and a fan are for the classroom, so we asked them to put together an estimate of the costs as soon as possible.

Here is the picture of the six children, along with their names and ages.

  1. Khin Sen Wan        12    (father died)
  2. Khin A Wan             9     (father died)
  3. Aolong Then Line   12    (father died)
  4. Khine Aye Nay       12    (father died)
  5. Sho Khing Chen     15    (father died)
  6. Cheng Shaw Aung 17    (father died)

There was a request to open Rakhine language classes.

Rakhine, their mother tongue, is on its way to extinction.

There are few teachers who can teach Rakhine, so there are no Rakhine language classes in this village and the people are worried that the Rakhine language will disappear.

The people in this village really want Rakhine to be taught in the school. Some candidates for a teacher of Rakhine came to see us because they knew we would be at the village. Outside of the students, there are 49 other people who want to learn the Rakhine language, and all of them asked us to help them arrange classes.

We would very much like to make this wish come true, and NPO Earth Caravan asked the candidates to consider whether they could start teaching soon. We presented them with how much we can offer as compensation.

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The school children and teachers in Chofolondhi village

The third day 

Barbakiya village

Barbakiya is less than a two-hour drive from Rajo’s house.

The mayor greeted us with a smile at the entrance to the village. There are 16 students altogether: seven first graders, two second graders, and seven fifth graders. All of them greeted us with big smiles!

First, we distributed notebooks, ballpoint pens, and souvenirs to the children, and then we listened to them tell us how their school life has been going. They are pleased to come to school, and to be able play and learn together.

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At the school in Barbakiya village

The requests from the teachers and students at the school in Barbakiya are:

  1. They want some sports equipment such as soccer balls and badminton nets and shuttlecocks so that they can have more fun and exercise at school.
  2. They want a blackboard (they don’t have one).
  3. They would like a curtain or sheet that will keep rain out of the classroom during the rainy season.
  4. They would appreciate being able to plan picnics for the students.   

The answers from NPO Earth Caravan:

  1. The sports equipment will be purchased immediately.
  2. The blackboard will be purchased immediately, as it is a necessary thing.
  3. We asked them to find an appropriate shop and get an estimate for something that will stop the rain from coming into the classroom.
  4. For the first picnic, we suggested that they should take their lunch and go to the park that’s about one hour away from their village. We asked them to give us an estimate of the cost as soon as possible.

They also want to get a school uniform to make them feel more like going to school is special. Before we left the village, we answered that we would deal positively with this request.

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The school children and teachers in Barbakiya village

Even though it is our goal to support foster children and their villages, it’s impossible for us to fulfill all the requests from the children and the villages. However, NPO Earth Caravan, at the least, hopes to create better studying environments for the children.

The Stupa Park in Cox’s Bazar

This park is supported by Tao Sangha.

Two garden managers work every day, starting early in the morning, to clean the garden and do weeding and watering.

Thanks to them, the trees in this park are alive and it looks like a botanical garden. We are proud to say that this garden is the cleanest and most beautiful garden, not only in Cox’s Bazar, but also in all of Bangladesh.

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Mr. Maung Hla Tung, who is in charge of the park.


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The Stupa Park in Cox’s Bazar


NPO Earth Caravan Bangladesh Centre

Because people in Bangladesh don’t use personal computers very much, few students came to the computer classes, so they won’t be held any more.

Although this Centre doesn’t play a key role the way it did before, it’s necessary to keep it open for the Rakhine tribes. 

We think that this place still has an important role to play for the Rakhine people. For example, the people feel safe because they know they have a place where they can get together. The teachers from the three villages gather once a month here, and from now on the Centre will be a place for the women of the villages to meet so they can start projects together.

The fourth day: The last day

As with last time, through this visit we recognized the fact that it’s thanks to the understanding and support of all of you, our NPO Earth Caravan members and foster parents, that we can carry out these kinds of activities and provide support to the villages.

We think that some of you may feel frustrated that our support activities have not progressed as expected. We feel the same way when we visit the villages; we face the same dilemma.

But at the same time, we think that providing support to help people become independent takes a lot of time and patience. We sincerely hope that you understand this and will continue your support.

We don’t think the children recognize who supports them and the ways in which we support them. They might think we are just people who come to them and distribute notes and school supplies once a year. However, if the children simply realize that somebody in this world is concerned about them, that might be good enough. 

We sincerely appreciate all of you!

Children all over the world are the perfect mirrors of our future.

We wish for all children to smile!
We wish for all children to know more about the world!
We wish for all children to be able to help each other!
We wish for all children to create a bright future for themselves and others!

 We left Dhaka airport in a thoughtful mood, asking ourselves whether the support of NPO Earth Caravan is meaningful to the children’s future, whether we are giving them real help or just “things,” and whether we are satisfied with how we are supporting them or not.

NPO Earth Caravan

Foster Parents Project

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In Bangladesh, Buddhist minorities have been a target of persecution since the formation of the country. The Rakhine minority community remains one of the most neglected and underprivileged in Bangladesh, facing political and economic discrimination.

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The Earth Caravan is a global interfaith pilgrimage dedicated to peace, healing and justice for the most traumatic places on our planet. Since 2015 the Earth Caravan has travelled from Nagasaki to Hiroshima, from Auschwitz to Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina and to Serbia, and from the First Nations of Canada to Israel and Palestine.

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