Bengali

Bengali

Bengalis are considered the original inhabitants of Bangladesh, and more than 120 million live there. The Bengali tribe make up most of the population of Bangladesh. They live primarily in the southwest and near the capital city of Dhaka in small villages. The Bengali people depend completely on agriculture for subsistence, which makes times of drought or flooding particularly devastating. Most Bengali villages have rice paddy fields, as well as fruit groves.

Bangladesh Southwestern Region

The Location

 

The Population

161,083,804

The Religion

Islam

The Weather

 
 
  • Dhaka is the teeming, colorful capital of Bangladesh. In this city, Compassion ministers to children living in poor slum communities. Bangladesh Dhaka Community
  • At their Compassion center, children enjoy nutritious meals. They also have plenty of fresh, clean water to drink, a rarity for the poor in southwest Bangladesh. Bangladesh Children Eating Lunch at Center
  • Children living on the streets in Dhaka are vulnerable not only to hunger and illness, but also to abuse and exploitation. Bangladesh Boys Playing in the Street
  • Compassion-assisted children are encouraged to practice cultural traditions, such as this dance performed by some older girls at one center in Dhaka. Bangladesh Girls Perform a Cultural Dance
  • These boys are enjoying an intense game of chess at their Compassion center. Bangladesh Boys Playing Chess
  • In Bangladesh, more than 54 million children are younger than 15. Most of them live in extreme poverty. Bangladesh Girl Sitting on a Wall
 

Overview: Southwestern Region

The people of the Bengali tribe make up most of the population of Bangladesh. They live primarily in the southwest and near the capital city of Dhaka. Bengalis are considered the original inhabitants of Bangladesh, and more than 120 million live there. The country has a violent past, including a fight for independence from Pakistan in 1971.

Most Bengalis in southwestern Bangladesh and near the capital city of Dhaka live in small villages. Bangladesh has only six large cities but more than 80,000 villages. The Bengali people depend completely on agriculture for subsistence, which makes times of drought or flooding particularly devastating. Most Bengali villages have rice paddy fields, as well as fruit groves. Most of these villages have no clean water supply, electricity or gas. Families collect pond water for drinking, bathing and cleaning.

Bangladesh is a land of rivers, so boats are the most common way to get around. Since few families own cars, many carve their own boats so they can travel from village to village to sell their crops in the local markets.

Bangladesh is an Islamic country; nearly 90 percent of the people are Muslims. Another 9 percent are Hindu, 0.7 percent are Buddhist, and 0.3 percent are Christian.

 

Culture Corner

SHEMAI

A delicious but not-too-sweet vermicelli

Prepare shemai, a typical Bengali dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2 handfuls very fine vermicelli
  • 4 cups milk
  • 3 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 handful raisins
  • 4 almonds, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 pint whipping cream

PROCEDURE

Melt the butter in a pot at a low heat. Break up the vermicelli and stir into the butter. When it turns golden brown, add the milk and stir, increasing the heat until the mixture boils. Add the sugar, raisins and almonds. Cook for 10 minutes at a low heat. Pour in the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Chill vermicelli in the refrigerator. Serve.

 

Life in Southwestern Bangladesh

In southwestern Bangladesh, Compassion ministers to children in both rural villages and the capital city, Dhaka.

The population of Dhaka exceeds 15 million, and 60 percent lives in squalid conditions in slum communities. Many people living in slums moved to the city from other regions in search of work and a better life. However, in most cases, they have found only disappointment and extreme poverty.

In rural southwest villages, people earn a meager living through agricultural work. Rice is the most commonly grown crop. However, this livelihood is highly vulnerable to the frequent extremes of flooding and drought suffered in this part of the country.

Both in rural villages and Dhaka’s slums, homes are small and fragile, and there is a lack of such basic services as sanitation and electricity.

Children at Home

Children in Bangladesh’s southwestern region grow up in crowded homes with an average of seven to 10 people under one roof. Bengali village homes are made of bamboo, tin, mud or straw, and measure about 10 by 12 feet. Families use lanterns for light and small fires to cook their meals.

 

Community Issues and Concerns Community in Bangladesh

Bengalis have long dealt with natural disasters. Cyclones regularly destroy crops and homes, and seasonal floods also plague the region. During monsoon season the rivers overflow and submerge low-lying areas. Bengali families often rebuild their homes — only to watch them be destroyed by flooding a few months later.

Local Needs and Challenges

Children of Bangladesh’s southwestern villages and Dhaka’s slums face many challenges. Families in both locations exist on an average of only $1.50 per day. They suffer from the lack of adequate housing and such basics as electricity and sanitation. Access to safe water is hard to come by, causing frequent, life-threatening illness among children. Dhaka’s at-risk children also face abuse and exploitation. Safe shelter and security is a huge need for the children of the city slums.

 

Schools and Education Education in Bangladesh

Lack of education is a major issue among the Bengali. Only about 41 percent of the people can read or write. Most children in this region drop out of school by age 7. Many families are so desperately poor that they must send their children to work before they are 10 years old.

At the Compassion Child Development Center

Most Compassion-registered children in Bangladesh are from the Bengali tribe. Child development centers are a place for Bengali children to learn and grow. Many are the first in their families to learn to read or write. They also learn about health, hygiene and nutrition, and then share that information with family and neighbors. Children also spend time at the center writing to and praying for their sponsors

 

Working Through the Local Church

Compassion is the only organization in Bangladesh that works directly in partnership with the church. The Compassion program enables a church to reach into the community and serve impoverished children and their families.

The church building is used for program activities. Here, registered children receive a wide range of benefits, including nutritious meals, medical assistance, payment of school fees, clothing, hygiene supplies, spiritual teaching and the love of caring Christian staff members.

Even non-Christian parents are glad to send their children to the church for these benefits, which they cannot afford. Also, because of Compassion’s excellent reputation for serving children, doors are opened for church staff and members to share the gospel with their community.

How Compassion Works in Bangladesh Compassion in Bangladesh

Working Through the Local Church

Compassion is the only organization in Bangladesh that works directly in partnership with the church. The Compassion program enables a church to reach into the community and serve impoverished children and their families.

The church building is used for program activities. Here, registered children receive a wide range of benefits, including nutritious meals, medical assistance, payment of school fees, clothing, hygiene supplies, spiritual teaching and care. Children are known, loved and protected by their sponsors and program staff members.

Parents are glad to send their children to the church for these benefits, which they cannot afford. Also, because of Compassion’s excellent reputation for serving children, doors are opened for church staff and members to share God's love with their community.

How Compassion Works in Bangladesh Compassion in Bangladesh

Compassion's work in Bangladesh began in 2003. Nearly 5,000 children waiting to be sponsored are currently registered in 135 child development centers.

Compassion partners with churches and denominations, helping them provide Bangladeshi children with a program of long-term, holistic child development. This program gives impoverished children the opportunities they need to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

The Role of a Partnership Facilitator

As liaisons between local church partners and Compassion, Partnership Facilitators play a vital role. Among other duties, they assess partners’ needs, monitor their implementation of child development activities, provide training for their staff, and relay information from the national office.

Glen Hillol Khan is Partnership Facilitator for eight Compassion-assisted child development centers in northern Bangladesh. For Glen to visit the centers, which are located in remote villages, he uses a combination of buses, rickshaws and motorbikes.

Expressing his passion for serving children in need, Glen says, “I grew up in a village, so I know what these children face. I believe if they are cared for, they will someday contribute to their communities and ultimately, the country.”

 
 

Prayer Requests

  • Pray that the Bengali people will understand how much they are loved, and for the churches who are ministering to this largely Muslim population.
  • Pray that parents will see education as a priority for their children.
  • Pray that Compassion will continue to bring the Bengali people out of the cycle of poverty.