Our project in the Matuail rubbish dump provides education to child waste pickers. We work with our local partner, Grambangla Unnayan Committee, to help get children into schools or day care, and provide young adults vocational training. The Grambangla School was established in 2008. It started in a small room in a tin shed with 46 preschool students and one teacher. From there, a day care was established for the children of waste pickers, and as more students came, the school gradually grew.

Now the Grambangla School has 5 classrooms for primary school students, a teacher's room, one kitchen, two disability friendly toilets, as well as its day care. The children are provided books and educational materials, breakfast and lunch, a uniform, and health care services for free.

Since completing a six month food preparation course, he has worked in two kitchens and now earns almost eight times what he did as a waste picker! He's saving to open his own resturant and support his mum so she doesn't have to work as a domestic worker. 

"Five years ago, my family lost everything. The river in our home city, Barisal, had slowly been eroding until nothing of our home was left. We moved to Dhaka in search for better opportunities. When we first arrived, it was very difficult securing work as we were new to the city and didn’t know anyone. Eventually we all began working as waste pickers.

Within a year of arriving in Dhaka, my mother got a job as a domestic worker, my brother started pulling rickshaw, my sister got married and my father and I continued as waste pickers. My father however became addicted to drugs and would take time off from working during the week. He would work for one day and then take several days off. As a waste picker, you need to be self-motivated as you set your own hours. Whatever you collect is what you make for that day. It was really hard work and I felt trapped as I didn’t have any other alternative options. I used to work for six days a week and earn just Tk. 2200 a month (around £22).

I didn’t like anything about waste picking. I was frequently sick with fever and jaundice, or healing from cuts and wounds. Working outside all day in the blazing sun and heavy rains was awful, it made the dump site smell even worse.

I saw so many boys my age addicted to drugs. Some of them used to start fighting with others for petty reasons which sometimes led to life threatening fights. I hated everything about it. To make me feel less queasy from the smell, I stopped eating as it helped me stomach the overwhelming smell.

One day while working, I slipped down a pile of garbage and broke my leg. Life just seemed to be getting worse and I didn’t know what to do to change my situation, I was feeling frustrated about everything. During my recovering, some staff from Grambangla’s School visited our home to talk to me about a training course on food preparation.

At first, I had to really convince my family that this was the right thing for me to do, as it would mean I would have to leave my job as a waste picker. My parents worried that if I was training then my family would lose an income but I knew it was the right decision and was determined to convince them. The field officers and trainers also talked with my parents about my future and the opportunities that would come out of the training. They invited my parents to the training centre and showed them around. Seeing the difference between the dump site and the training centre, they finally understood and agreed to allow me to the training."

" One day I would like to open my own restaurant and I am confident that I’ll be able to do that in the future."

"After completing six months of training, and with the help of the job placement officer, I was offered a job at a local restaurant as a kitchen hand. The starting pay was Tk. 6000 a month which was an increase on my waste picking pay. After seven months, I had enough experience to get a better paid job at a restaurant closer to my house.

Now I earn Tk. 16000 per month with tips from the customers on top of this. Since working full time, I have opened a bank account and every month I am able to save money. I can take care of my mother so she doesn't have to work as a domestic worker.

I am so grateful to Grambangla for giving me the opportunity – it saved my life. Now I’m enjoying a decent life and feel so lucky that I had the chance to turn my life around."