This history is mainly based on a report commissioned in 2006 by the Tucker Foundation of Dartmouth University, USA.
Charfassion Orphanage was established in 1971 as a response to the 1970 Bhola tidal wave which killed over 300,000 people in the Bay of Bengal region. The effects of the disaster were concentrated in Bhola District, and many national and international organisations came to the area to conduct disaster relief and rehabiitation projects. The Bangladesh government set up temporary shelters to house the thousands of children orphanaed by the event and embarked on a program of building permanent homes for the children. In Charfassion, a local landowner donated 2.64 acres to the orphanage, and UNICEF contrubuted the construction funds. Six months after the construction process, Australian ex-MP Len Reid visited Charfassion and decided to take over the management of the orphanage. In 1972 the orphanage was completed and Reid developed a sponsorship program in Australia that covered the cost of running the orphanage. He hired a director and a staff of 5 - 6 people from Australia to come to Charfassion and oversee the management and administration process. Charfassion was thus run by Australians until 1992, when their sponsorship program fell apart.
With the departure of the Australians in 1992, the orphanage faced a financial and managerial crisis. At the request of Mr Reid, A. H. M. Mainuddin Ahmed (Jahangir), son of the original land donor, stepped up to run the orphanage. Jahangir no longer lived in Charfassion - he and his siblings moved to Dhaka during the 1970s - but he stilll felt a strong connection to his home village. He also had developed a career in disaster relief work, working for a Swedish organisation for over 20 years, that exposed him to the world of philanthropy and development. For him, taking over the orphanage was a natural move; however, it has turned out to be a much bigger commitment than he imagined ....
The 2006 report stated that 'The orphanage building is worse shape than we had every imagined. In January 2006 the government condemned the buildings as unsafe and the boys were forced to move into two small sheds formerly used to house cows and goats ... The sheds have no electricity and are open to the elements. The boys wake up soaking wet every day during monsoon season, and they are vulnerable to smakes and insects.....For all these reasons it is imperative to begin construction as soon as possible'.
Dartmouth University did not approve the construction at that time. In 2010 an Australian woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, was visiting another project in Charfassion when she stumbled on the orphanage. She was so shocked by what she saw that she promised to fund the building of a new orphanage. This was in three stages: stage one: accommodation block, stage two: dining room, kitchen, prayer room, store rooms and offices and stage three: a new house for the Director, an additional guest room and toilet facilities. A woman from Denmark contributed significantly to stages two and three. The new buildings will soon be completed, with a surrounding wall to ensure a secure environment.
In 2013 Dartmouth finally agreed to release funds to allow the building of a two storey building which will provide comfortable guest accomodation and, perhaps more importantly, a secure area where the boys and staff can take shelter during cyclones and in the event of severe flooding.
Now that its accommodation needs are almost met the orphanage is looking at ways to become self-sufficient. There are three projects underway: the provision of more visitor accommodation will encourage more paying guests. An American volunteer group, Orphans to Ambassadors, has recently built a goat farm and the orphanage will soon own 100 goats which will be reared and sold for meat. And Jahangir, who continues to be an advocate and mentor to the orphanage despite suffering a stroke in 2010 - a result of the stress he experienced through some difficult years trying to look after the orphanage - is providing funds to build some shops along the main road which will provide a regular income for the orphanage.
Photo: A.H. M. Mainuddin Ahmed (Jahangir)
These are all medium to long term projects and in the meantime the orphanage is grateful for any assistance that is provided to it, either through financial contributions or through volunteering.