It was a day for loving ones. Along with other parts of the world, the well-off people in city were celebrating the Valentine’s Day showing appreciation for their lovable and adorable ones. Some were taking their beloved ones to a romantic dinner at posh restaurants, while other may opt to present jewellery or expensive private car to make their partners happy.
But some benevolent youths wanted to celebrate the day in a different way. They intended to share the joy and love with the children who pass their day and nights on streets.
Their bigheartedness drew notice to all the people who were present at an aristocratic restaurant at Dhaka’s Baily Road on February 14, 2018, the Valentine’s Day.
Most of the dining tables were occupied by couples with gorgeous dresses and ornaments. Lush perfume smells engulfed the entire restaurant and live music was being played.
But three dining tables looked different as these were occupied by over a dozen of street children. Most of them were in barefoot, wearing torn clothes and dust on their entire body.
Aged between three and 15, all the children were seen enjoying boundless at the restaurant. Some were roaming around and observing expensive amenities; some were looking at expensive foods; some were looking at elite people sitting on other tables, while some others were playing games at the Kid’s corner.
“We usually play games on streets or footpaths. I never entered such a restaurant. I’m very happy to come here,” said the six-year-old boy Sajib Miah, who was using different kids’ rides there.
Sajib, who resides at a slum in the capital’s Meradia area, could never enjoy such delicious food and rides in any restaurant or children’s amusement parks.
“Whenever passed through any park or restaurant, I kept looking from the outside and thought that if I could enjoy the rides and foods. Today, my dream has come true,” said Osman Hossain, the 10-year-old boy who also lives at Meradia.
Another young boy Shanto, who is a street beggar, said, “Normally, I take food begging from others on the street. I never thought that I could have any opportunity to eat food in such a restaurant. I am so happy today.”
The 8-year-old boy Shanto’s father abandoned her mother around three years ago. One year later, her mother married another man. Since then, Shanto has been living along with some other same aged boys at a slum in the capital’s Malighbagh area.
While this reporter was talking to the children one after another, they were feeling enthusiastic and their face were glittering with smiles as they were thinking themselves VIPs, who are often interviewed by journalists.
Now, it’s the time to talk those good souls who made the day a different one to the underprivileged children. Atia Zaman Bindu, a student of Viqarunnisa Noon School and College, along with some of her friends brought the children to the restaurant to feed them special dishes on the Valentine’s Day.
“We know that most of the people celebrate the day with their loving partners. We want to share the joy of the day with the children who don’t have access to proper food and accommodation,” said Bindu.
“If all the affluent people in Dhaka city can feed at least one street child a day, no children will be seen begging for food on the capital’s street,” she added.
The government should come up with massive plan to rehabilitate street children, Bindu viewed.
According to rough estimation of different child rights bodies, the number of street children is 11 lakh in the country, including 4 lakh in the capital.
Different government and NGOs are spearheading various campaigns to rehabilitate street children and ensure their access to food, accommodation, education, healthcare and others.
Shishu Academy operates 6 Shishu Bikash Kendra across the country where over 750 can reside. They provided with different facilities including food, accommodation, education, games and sports, cultural activities and others, said its officials.