Saiful Islam

Project Director Dhaka SOS Children's Villages in Bangaladesh

Never give up

Watch the story trailer

In the morning of 21st January, 1988 a kind-hearted person, Mr. Md. Rajon found a baby girl wrapped in a dirty cloth at the corridor of his residence. The baby was very sick and suffering from scabies. Mr. Rajon admitted the child into a medical clinic for treatment. After one month, the baby was cured through proper treatment and care. Nobody claimed this baby. Finding no other alternative, Mr. Rajon brought the child back to his own house. Since then Mrs. Rajon has been taking care of her. Mr. Rajon died on 18th February 1996 due to a heart attack. Mr. Rajon’s own children had been living in the United States of America. After the departure of her husband from the world, Mrs. Rajon decided to live with her biological children in America.  Finding no other alternative, she transferred the child named Tanuka[1] to SOS Children’s Village Dhaka to take care of her in an SOS family.

Tanuka was moved into an SOS family on 28th June 1998 at the age of 10, following an intense mental stress due to the uncertainty of her living situation. After a few months of integration into her SOS family, she could realize that she had gotten a secure home. Unfortunately, after a couple of months we observed some conflicts in the relationship between the SOS mother and the young girl. In spite of some realistic efforts the relationship between them still did not improve.

Tonuka seemed to be a little bit shy in nature when she was admitted to the SOS family. Most of the time she was found in a depressed condition. Most probably she was frightened of her SOS mother because of her rude behaviour. That’s why she did not rejoice to live there and would remain with dolorous mind.

Tonuka started her schooling at the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School Dhaka by attending third grade in 1999 immediately after integration into the SOS family.  She was an average student but gradually she became slow in learning and deteriorated in study due to lack of attention. She was found to be reluctant in study and naturally she could not concentrate her mind. The growth and development of Tonuka was not normal at all. Even during her adolescent period she was not in a happy atmosphere in her SOS family because of the unexpected relationship with her SOS mother.  She was also held back in eighth grade and her peer group was not good in nature. The educators and social worker put a lot of efforts to support her improvement and also sent her to a professional counselor. The village director along with his team gave special attention to her, talked with her school teacher and peer group and found out that she was unable to cope with her SOS mother. The SOS mother could not accept Tanuka from the core of her heart. All her attempts to improve their relationships had been in vain.

Suddenly Tanuka’s SOS mother decided to get married and left the village. A new loving mother was been placed in the family and took up the challenges. She was briefed about all the children including Tonuka. The new mother tried her level best to pay attention to her.

After having a new mother, Tonuka became a little bit more stable and she gradually improved in her studies. Finally she completed the secondary school certificate exam obtaining good results in 2008. This achievement brought utmost happiness to her life as well as to the SOS family. Tanuka got admitted at University Women’s Federation College Dhaka in Higher Secondary level and started to attend the class from the village. Within a couple of months after admission Tanuka desired to move into the boarding house outside. We listened to her opinion, considering her age, maturity and some positive signs of development and arranged a student hostel where she started to live.

One day the village director observed that she was entering the village with gloomy face and ill health. He also realized some smell and therefore he asked the social worker to visit Tanuka’s boarding house and to communicate with the class teacher of her college. The social worker found symptoms of indulgence in the use of substances and found out Tanuka attended class irregularly.  Her morale had degraded and her behaviour pattern had changed dramatically. The circumstances led her to a haphazard life and she withdrew herself from education.
After finding this out, the village director took initiative to save her and brought her back to her family at the SOS Children’s Village. Some of the teenage girls spread the news with big sound and it became talk of the village. Children and mothers engaged themselves to make different appetizing of the story in every corner of the village. Children were teasing the other children and mother of Tanuka’s family house.  So the family members had to endure a lot of suffering due to people’s comments. Gradually her SOS brothers and sisters developed a very negative attitude towards their elder sister. Even her SOS mother who had a specially soft heart with her, stood against her due to peculiar type of disorganised behavior and improper conduct. The mother realized that the undesirable behaviour pattern, which was the result of using substances ultimately, would have far reaching bad impact on other younger members of the family. Most of the members of the village community including childcare co-workers, children and management told the village director he did wrong to bring her back in the village. The SOS mother asked the village director, pressured by the children and community people, to send Tanuka outside again.

Then at least the village, house and the village community would be saved from her harmful activities. She was telling lies, smoking, talking with bad associates on the mobile till midnight, using gestures and showing aggressiveness. Sometimes she had a polite attitude and talked in such a nice way that it was very difficult to tell if she was addicted or not. Sometimes she was in a mental depression and in anxiety also. She would make plans and pretend to go outside for some reasons but would use substances instead. During that time younger boys and girls of that house showed dishonour due to her malpractice.

In this stage the village director handled the case professionally and took different initiatives to make people realize that the problem of this girl was created by this society. He adopted various approaches and arranged different discussion sessions with children, mothers and co-workers to create a positive environment and advised people to behave well with Tanuka. He also convinced the house mother, her brothers and sisters and the village community that a separation of this young girl from the village is not the appropriate way to bring her in right path.

The village director, social worker and respective mother sat with Tanuka in a positive manner and advised her to try earnestly to return back into normal life, give up all bad habits and restart her studies, get admitted again in 1st year at the same college and to pay full attention to her studies. Tanuka assured that from now on she will never involve herself in any undesirable activities. As per the decision, she re-enrolled in the University Women’s Federation College Dhaka in 1st year in higher secondary level in July 2009.  But, the girl was found again absent in her class and also found in disorganised situation during a visit of the social worker which was really unfortunate. The village director sent the girl to the medical specialist of the Center for Relieving from Drug Addiction run by the government to seeking expert advice. Since then, the girl was under treatment of the physicians of the stated hospital for a couple of months.  Prescribing medicine and medical tests, the physician advised us the as follows:
  • keep the girl in our care in the village during her treatment
  • provide necessary counseling as needed
  • cut off her contact with bad companions
  • ensure taking medicines in time as prescribed, etc.
We followed the doctor’s instructions accordingly. But the problem is Tanuka showed non-cooperation and sometimes she was found furious to go out. In this stage the house mother was requested to give deep attention, show love and respect, create opportunities to involve her in activities together with brothers and sisters. Fortunately, the mother followed the advice and did proper justice to the girl. Gradually she become cool, stable and returned to right track.

In the meantime, we started to work with the woman who handed over the girl to the SOS family. Mrs. Rajon is a very old woman who has a soft spot for the girl.  We fought a couple of years to bring her back to normal life. Tanuka took admission in a renowned computer learning Centre and completed Programming C++ in 2013. Now she lives in a rented house with some of her girlfriends in Dhaka. A nightmare is over now and the girl is leading a normal life.

[1] Original name has been changed to maintain confidentiality

Saiful Islam

is Project Director in Dhaka at SOS Children's Villages in Bangaladesh.


Twenty-two years ago, I joined SOS Children’s Villages in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Prior to that, I had four years of professional experience with other NGOs in Dhaka where I worked as training coordinator and community supervisor. The core of my work has been the development of young people at SOS Children’s Village Dhaka. In 1998, I assumed further responsibilities such as: guiding the SOS families, organising programmes for children and young people of SOS families and youth facilities, providing necessary guidance to run the vocational training center for ultra-poor young people, helping them in their integration efforts. Augmenting all these is the active role I play as a member of the child protection team of SOS Children’s Village Dhaka and as a member of the national management team of SOS Children’s Villages Bangladesh for the development of programmes.

My long journey with SOS Children’s Villages has been possible because of the extraordinary support of my biological family and the great devotion of my wife. We are blessed with two enterprising daughters. My family and I live on the premises of SOS Children’s Village Dhaka. In our everyday life, we enjoy lots of interaction with the village children, mothers and co-workers. We are proud of being part of this SOS family.

In my leisure, I love to read story books, novels, newspapers, journals related to social development issues. I have highly benefited from yoga practices. This and frequent visits to different places in the country in the company of the youngsters and my family members are sources of pleasure to me.
Every month I wait to see the beauty of the full moon from the roof of my residence. The beauty of sky attracts me and I spend my time enjoying the natural beauty, especially in spring.
My passion for the general society is to participate in and foster the raising of social awareness and particularly in cultivating the attitude of generosity and solidarity.