We woke up early, the following morning, feeling refreshed, and determined to make the most of the few hours left before we had to return to Dhaka. We had breakfast at the Tarango compound, and Mrs. Kohinoor Yeasmin, Chief Executive Officer and very much the soul and king pin of the NGO for some 20 years, showed us an illustrated book they have created as a model for their women workers. She proudly reported that they’ve sold the model to a couple of neighboring countries (Pakistan and Nepal, I think, but don’t quote me on that, as I’m not entirely sure.)
Then came a first series of heartfelt and reciprocal thank you and good byes, and we left for one of the nearby villages to visit some of the women who work for the NGO.
I would have loved to be able to amble along these bucolic paths a while longer, and maybe cycle around. It was so quiet, so peaceful and beautiful. As we walked, Sheenagh Day, the director of Maison Bengal, a fair trade company who buys products from Tarango to sell them across the UK, told us the stories of some of the women in that community, and how their life had been transformed after they started working for the NGO. She mentioned one lady who’d brought us some delicious fried cookies, the day before. Pashful is very tall, with strong features, and Sheenagh had never seen her smile. Then, one day, she came to her, looking radiant, and said: “With the money I’ve made, I was able to buy land. My family will never go hungry again.” Not only that, but she put her children through school, and now, her older daughter is studying Political Science at Dhaka University. You can find her story in more detail if you follow this link to one of the Tarango web pages. It is quite inspiring.
We stopped at the compound of an old lady who’d created new models with jute, out of her own volition and inspiration. She didn’t smile, either. Kept a stern face until the very end, when we were taking pictures and we asked if she would smile, and she did – hesitantly, as if she wasn’t quite sure this was the right thing to do. Smile or not, not a word said, whether in English or in Bangla, was lost to her.
Her sheep (above, on the left) was quite successful, but she’d also made this great boat made of jute that we decided to give to Dawn, who’d worked so hard to make this adventure a reality – as a souvenir. If you look closely, you’ll see little ladies inside the boat.
This lady, on the other hand, who seems to be a leader in the community, and one of the boat race winners, the day before, was all smiles. She’d hurt her hand a bit (I think it got caught between two boats), but it didn’t matter, she repeated. “I’m really, really happy.”
We would have liked to stay longer, but we had a two-hour ride to Barisal, where we’d be catching our plane – and not just any plane – and so, we said our good byes, exchanged many hugs, took more pictures, and climbed back into our little van.
Back soon for the last leg of our journey. I did mention that it was an intense 48 hours, didn’t I?