AHAN President, Emily Busch Visits Bangladesh


Rice, Balls, Gloves and Bats Hit a Home Run with Orphans in Dhaka!

July 21st-July 28th, 2006

In July 2006, AHAN President Emily Busch traveled to Bangladesh to personally follow up on a rice donation project with the Dharmarajika Orphanage in Dhaka, Bangladesh initiated by Homma Kancho on his first visit to Bangladesh in February 2006. Homma Kancho also took a time out from his visit to Turkey (See July-Sept Activity Report Homma Kancho Visits Turkey 7-06) to come to Dhaka in support of this project. On the schedule for Emily and Homma Kancho was a visit to the Dharmarajika Orphanage and visits to the Paris International School to deliver 4000 lbs of rice, 200 lbs. of school supplies and baseball equipment and teach all the children a new game or two!

The following report was written by Emily following her week long visit to this land of true heart.

We shall overcome…
Written by Emily Busch
AHAN President

I woke up early at the hotel, even after arriving at 12:30 am. after 40 hours in transit. I opened the window to peer out into this new world, and the first sights and sounds of Dhaka washed over me. The city was already bustling, and the streets were jammed with people and to my surprise thousands of bicycle powered rickshaws! I was to learn later from our host Maji (Sarkar Almaji Al-Kamal) that there were over 300,000 rickshaws in Dhaka alone. I soon found out that from that day forward we would be traveling by rickshaw almost everywhere we went!

Maji, first took me to meet his family before we set out on our tasks at hand. The Sarkar family was gracious and warm and made sure that I felt as if I was part of the family.

We were on a mission. I had arrived first to lay some of the ground work for a three-year monthly rice donation system from AHAN to the Dharmarajika Orphanage. Earlier this year, after Homma Kancho’s first visit to Bangladesh, Nippon Kan white-yellow-green belt students had raised funds with a seminar to start this monthly rice donation project, and it was my job to put the system in place. With Maji’s help we were able to set up a banking transfer system to purchase rice for the donations on a monthly basis. We decided that 500 kilos per month of rice would be an appropriate donation for AHAN to give to the orphanage, hopefully for the next three years!

Homma Kancho arrived on Wednesday for a whirlwind visit to participate in the first rice donation personally for the Dharmarajika orphanage and to visit the Paris International School for grade school children.

The first stop was the Paris International School. We were welcomed to the school with a quite impressive martial arts demonstration performed in colorful uniforms on a very hard cobblestone lined playground by the boys in the martial arts club. Homma Kancho also held an Aikido practice with some of the boys concentrating on tai sabaki with agility games and exercises that could be practiced on such an unforgiving surface!

We moved inside where I had planned to teach origami and play an association card game. The kids looked so eager and innocent in their clean starched uniforms as they packed themselves tightly into one of the classrooms. It must have been 110 degrees that day and the humidity that day was high. So much for my beautiful hair-do! We brought with us that day about 100 lbs of coloring books and school supplies which we gave to the teachers to use later at their convenience. We were given flowers, fresh fruit and an amazing gift of song…

After practicing origami together and playing a card game, the children gathered around their teacher to sing us a song. They began to sing, in English, all five verses of “We shall overcome”.

It seemed unreal to me, standing in this crowded tiny classroom filled with miniature wooden desks, surrounded by students and teachers singing together a song of such poignant meaning thousands of miles and centuries of history away from the United States. Needless to say it brought a tear to my eye…

After our visit to the Paris School, we went to the crowded Dhaka markets following Maji to meet with the rice vendors to arrange for the rice delivery scheduled for the next day. We ordered 4000 lbs of rice for this first delivery, which caused a bit of a stir in the market place. A good day’s business for the vendors!

The next day we arrived at the markets to find 24 bags of rice stacked neatly in front of the rice vendor’s stalls ready for delivery. Maji had hired six flatbed rick shaws to transport the rice. Each rickshaw was loaded with four bags of rice which meant that each rickshaw driver was peddling about 700 lbs of rice each. A very heavy load by any standard! We set out in a caravan of six flatbed rickshaws piled high with rice, and three passenger rickshaws ladened with our crew and about 100 lbs of baseball equipment! What a sight we were to see as we swerved and maneuvered our way through the crowded streets of Dhaka, nine rickshaw strong!.

Amazingly we all arrived at the Dharmarajika Orphanage in one piece! We were greeted by the Dharmarajika staff as we made our way in procession towards the rice storage facility. The Dharmarajika Orphanage is also a Buddhist Monastery, and the monks helped unload the many bags of rice.

The orphanage feeds 500 boys, three times a day, a task that sounds so daunting it was hard for me to imagine. We were given a tour of the kitchen that feeds so many mouths each day, and met the women who work so hard to prepare each meal. To say the least, I was impressed with their resourcefulness and dedication.

Before sharing the midday meal in the gracious company of Ven. Suddhananda Mahathero, High  Priest of the Dharmarajika Monastery and
Chairman of the Dharmarajika Orphanage, Homma Kancho had a surprise for the boys. BASEBALL!!

Baseball is not a popular game in Bangladesh, where the game of choice is the game of soccer, but on that day, the many baseballs, bats and gloves were a great hit as the boys headed for the playground with their new found toys. The boys snapped up the bats and balls, and soon there were balls flying all over the playground area. Homma Kancho did his best to teach about 200 of the boys how to play baseball, in English, using bricks as bases. It was a riot! I am not sure the rules of the game were ever understood that day, but the boys delighted in hitting and catching and taking turns with the equipment.

We returned to the dining rooms where the boys were being served their meals and had the special opportunity to share a meal with the Venerable Suddhananda, his General Secretary Mr. Sunil Barua and his staff.

The Dharmarajika Orphanage I found to be a place of peace, a place of joy, and a place of hope. The smiles I saw there were real, and from the heart and touched my heart in a way I will not soon forget. I left that day humbled by the experience.

After Homma Sensei’s departure from Bangladesh back to Turkey, Maji’s family showed me the sites of Dhaka and even took me to the countryside to see a bit more of this wonderful country of Bangladesh. I was really beginning to feel at home here, and Maji’s family began taking a special delight in dressing me up in their beautiful native dress. I was allowed to try on many colorful outfits that I was to find out they had made for me! Maji’s sister Shanto even painted one of my feet with henna in an elaborate mosaic pattern!

It had been quite a week. So many sights, sounds, tastes and experiences; a whirlwind sampling of a world so different than my own. I don’t think I have every felt so moved as I was by the events in those few days. I don’t think I have ever been given such a wonderful gift as the warmth and the heart I felt in the people of Bangladesh.

I hope to return soon to Bangladesh soon. I can’t wait to see my new found family and friends in Bangladesh again. Until then…

Emily Busch
AHAN President