by Ann Peachman Stewart

“ERDO has partnered with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Bangladesh to change the lives of almost 7,000 children who attend 120 church preschools.”

“No matter where you are in the world, you want the best for your child.” These are the words of David Adcock, chief executive officer of ERDO, and they carry the ring of truth. Whether you live in Barrie, Ontario, or in Bangkok, or in Bangladesh, wanting the best for our children is universal.

But imagine if caring for your children was so difficult, there were days it seemed impossible. What if your only water were tainted with naturally occurring arsenic, which made your child sick? How would you feel if the only foods available most of the time were rice and potatoes, leaving your child weak and sickly? Imagine the pain of seeing your child failing Grade 1 at the government school because their constant knawing hunger weakened and distracted them. As a parent, how would you feel?

Too many parents in Bangladesh know exactly how this feels as these are the issues they struggle with daily.

David Adcock recently returned from a tour of Bangladesh, and although he saw poverty, he also saw hope. ERDO is there, making a difference.

In northern Bangladesh, unsafe drinking water leads to diarrhea, dehydration, and frequently death in young children. Parents also get sick, and if the breadwinner of an impoverished family is unable to work, that family is quickly in crisis. “In Northern Bangladesh, local waters contain arsenic. The World Health Organization describes the problem as ‘the largest poisoning of a population in history.’ The health effects include lung, bladder and skin cancers.”[1]

ERDO has been working with their partners, The Pentecostal Assemblies of Bangladesh, for five years to provide safe tube wells in northern communities. The goal is for each church school to have a well, which will also benefit the surrounding communities. Youth groups in western Ontario have been working to contribute to that project. These tube wells contain high-quality materials and benefit by first-class construction so that the water remains safe; it is also tested on a regular basis. Construction has been completed on 150 wells, with a vision to provide 100 more. The full cost of a well is between $1,400 and $1,800.

Beyond unsafe water, parents face another overwhelming problem: hunger.

Bangladesh is a developing country and is one of the most densely populated in the world. Of their 160 million people, 40 per cent are children. Three-quarters of the population live in a rural setting, where their main source of nourishment comes from fishing and agriculture. Farming is generally rice and potatoes—not sufficient to sustain a healthy diet. Many survive on two dollars a day or less.

In Bangladesh, students at the government-run school begin coming at age seven. Everyone is welcome at these schools, but children from marginalized families don’t do well, and they often don’t progress to the next grade. They have no base knowledge of the language or the alphabet, and they struggle with a distracting hunger which hinders their physical and mental growth. Some are never sent to school as their illiterate parents don’t understand the value of an education and depend on even their young children to help out in the household. With little or no education of the next generation, the cycle of poverty continues.

ERDO has been working in the northern and southern areas of Bangladesh for the last three years, bringing a simple but creative solution to the problem of hunger for these children. Although situated in different parts of the country, the areas are similar in how they feed their families and the level of poverty. In these 109 high-needs areas, ERDO has partnered with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Bangladesh to change the lives of almost 7,000 children who attend 120 church preschools.

These children experience hunger on a daily basis, sometimes suffering from extreme poverty for months at a time. Their mental and physical growth is stunted by malnutrition. Hunger is a distraction that precludes any learning.

At the church schools, children aged three to seven receive six high-protein biscuits when they first arrive, and another five just before noon. The children eagerly devour the biscuits, and the effect on their health, their ability to learn, and the community as a whole has been stunning. Children are now eager to attend school and seldom miss unless they are seriously ill. Their health has improved; they are more attentive and able to memorize and think more clearly. Their parents are delighted to see the health of their children improve and to experience relief from some of the tremendous pressure to feed their families.

Some parents walk two to three hours to take their children to school, and some of them get involved as volunteers, distributing and keeping inventory of the biscuits. Teachers and volunteers also receive the biscuits.

Before the program started, when children were asked if they had breakfast prior to coming to school, 98 per cent of them said they hadn’t. Since the high-energy biscuit program began, healthy, thriving children are learning and are better prepared to enter Grade 1.

Wells with safe drinking water and high-energy biscuits are two of ERDO’s projects that are giving hope to families in Bangladesh. Like parents everywhere, the mothers and fathers of Bangladesh cling to that hope, wanting the best for their children.

The question to ask is: what if it were my child? That sobering thought leads to a second question: how can I be a part of the hope for Bangladesh? To donate to these projects, visit our website at http://www.erdo.ca/water  and www.erdo.ca/bangladesh-in-school-feeding and share in the joy of changing lives.

ERDO (Emergency Relief & Development Overseas) is the humanitarian agency of The

Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. ERDO is involved in four key areas: Crisis Response, Food Relief, ChildCARE Plus (Child Sponsorship), and Community Development. David Adcock is the CEO. Visit www.erdo.ca. Ann Peachman Stewart is a freelance author from Mississauga, Ont., and a longtime ERDO supporter.

1. Allan H. Smith, Elena O. Lingas, and Mahfuzar Rahman, “Contamination of drinking-water by arsenic in Bangladesh: a public health emergency,” World Health Organization, 2000, http://www.who.int./bulletin/archives/78(9)1093.pdf.



This content is provided as a free sample of testimony. Subscribe for full access to the complete magazine.