February 7 -- Satkhira, Bangladesh

After a 6 hour drive yesterday, we arrived at Rishilpi Development Projects, a wonderfully kept, private compound that is the life work of Enzo and Laura Falcone. Built in Italian tradition, this compound is a very active place and feels like a big family. There are rooms for people to stay in short term, a school, workshops for wheatstraw, baskets, leather, embroidery, and woodworking, and a hospital. Rishilpi began with offering untouchables work making leather handicrafts and some of the workers are handicapped in some way. Many of the adults who work there today can have their children educated in the school, but the school is for anyone who needs it. The hospital is mainly available for prenatal care and also physical therapy for people with cerebral palsy. Enzo and Laura are great at seeing where there is a need and helping to make a grim situation better. They have been doing very well with help from friends in Italy where they are originally from. The compound now includes a chicken coop with 5000 chickens. Their goal is to have enough chicken eggs to sell to fund the needs of the entire compound.

We took the opportunity to visit one of the villages involved with making baskets and mats from palm leaves and grass. This was an extraordinary experience....I think every kid in the village ended up following us. We drank dahb and walked around what seemed like a maze of houses to see each woman working by her house. We also walked out into the rice fields to see up close what we'd been seeing along all the roads. There is much irrigation right now because of the dry season and the water pumps were near little huts that someone stayed in to be sure nobody took their water. The palm trees all have notches in them where the sap is collected every year. Cow dung is dried for fuel in patties with handprints on them. Rice is very labor intensive as it has to be replanted to grow to maturity.


February 3

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