How one woman gained a new family after losing her son | ActionAid UK

How do you cope with losing a child? It’s a question that no parent should have to answer. When Mehreunnessa’s son was murdered in 2011, she felt her life was over. But the Bangladeshi mum found love and hope again in a place that few people would choose to look. She got a job at Happy Homes, an ActionAid-funded rescue home for street girls in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Every day Mehreunnessa, 52,  helps girls to rebuild their lives. In exchange, they’ve given her a new reason to carry on with hers. Read on to find out how.

 

Mehreunnessa receiving a big group hug from some of the girls who she looks after at their Happy Home in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Mehreunnessa receiving a big group hug from some of the girls who she looks after at their Happy Home in Dhaka, Bangladesh

"My name is Mehreunnessa Ruby. I am 52 years old. I have been working in ActionAid’s Happy Home as a Night Duty Manager since November 2010. I work from five in the afternoon, to nine the following morning. 

My job involves many things. The first thing I do every day is cleaning, then I check that all the girls have eaten their lunch and, after the girls have freshened up, I prepare snacks for them and help them with their homework.

My husband had died suddenly and I had two sons to support. Working with the girls helps me forget my sorrows.

I concentrate on helping the younger children study, but I do still help the big girls. I also make sure they have some spare time for entertainment.

Mehreunnessa and Sumaiya, Happy Homes, Bangladesh

At nine in the evening, the girls finish their dinner. After they have all fallen asleep I do some office work. I check the attendance book and write about the girl’s activities and any follow up that is needed. 

I go to school with the younger girls until they feel confident enough to go alone. Sometimes I go to school to enquire about how they are doing and any extra support they might need.

Sometimes it’s very difficult for the girls to adjust into the home environment. Many can’t forget about their past, so they find it hard to relate to people in the home.

30 girls live in this Happy Home. Every one of them is unique and has unique problems. When girls first come to the home they face different challenges.

Sometimes it’s very difficult for them to adjust into the home environment. Many can’t forget about their past, so they find it hard to relate to people in the home. Some of them want to leave the home at first, so we try to motivate them to stay with us. 

I've always wanted to do social work. I had been searching for this type of work for a long time, because I wanted to help people.

Jewellery-making lesson, Happy Homes, Bangladesh

When I started my job at Happy Homes, my situation was not unlike that of the girls. At the time my husband had died suddenly and I had two sons to support. At first I just needed the money to survive, but I also grew to love my work.

My oldest son was murdered in 2011. He had completed his MBA and was ready to join a bank. I was devastated and struggling psychologically. Working with the girls helps me forget my sorrows. If it wasn’t for my job, you would probably find me roaming the streets. The girls help me as much as I help them.

The 30 girls that live here know that they are safe here. They have an opportunity to study, to learn about their rights and express their opinions. It's a big achievement for Happy Homes that the girls are thriving in every area.

They learn very quickly. They are good at dancing, singing and drawing. Two of our girls competed in a district level singing competition.

The 30 girls that live here know that they are safe here. They have an opportunity to study, to learn about their rights and express their opinions. 

Initially I was unsure about doing night duty work. But one of my friends suggested that I should at least visit the home. So I came in and on that day I was totally convinced about doing this work. 

On my first day of work, I felt out of this world. All the children came to me and hugged me. I couldn’t control my tears. Now I feel I have got many children instead of just one son. 

Happy Homes, Bangladesh

My oldest son was alive at that time and he was really proud of what I was doing. My son inspired me to do the work. My family members love it so much.

My oldest son was murdered in 2011. Now I feel I have got many children instead of just one son.

We take girls in from many places, including orphaned children when they are found by the police. We have a lot of contacts across the area. We visit different places, select children in need and convince them to come to the home.

If we can allow girls to stay at the home until they are around 22 or 23 years of age it would be better for them. I wish we could increase the number of children we could take in the home. We need more space to give shelter to more girls."

The vital work of Mehreunnessa and her colleagues is all made possible by the generous support of ActionAid child sponsors. By sponsoring a child with ActionAid, you can help us provide more support to girls around the world and keep them safe from harm - from the violence, abuse and trafficking that so many of them face everyday.​
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Photos: G.M.B. Akash / Panos / ActionAid