For Christians around the world, Lent is a time of reflection, thanksgiving and thinking of others who are less fortunate.
Christian Aid’s Lent resource, Count Your Blessings, is a great inspirational calendar with daily thought-provoking reflections. Each day brings an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for our blessings as well as to give, act and pray for communities in need.
This year Count Your Blessings features stories from Bangladesh, one of the most densely populated nations in the world, with 160million people. 80% of the Bangladeshi population live on less than $2 a day. Most of the population live in rural areas, and depend largely on agriculture to make ends meet.
Efforts to fight poverty in Bangladesh are increasingly frustrated by the disastrous effects of climate change, such as rising temperatures and increasingly erratic rainfall. The country is prone to natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and droughts, which, with poor environmental management, as well as corruption and poor governance, make life for most very hard indeed. For communities whose homes perch precariously on the bank of the Brahmaputra – known locally as the whimsical river – life is an ongoing battle with increased, and often catastrophic, flooding. Year after year, they have been forced to uproot, dismantle and carry their bamboo-built homes further inland to avoid the rising waters.
Nearly five years ago, this riverside location on the Chars became home to Joynal and his family after they fled their former home on another Char, which flooded, Joynal’s wife and three children arrived in the Chars with next to nothing – just their single-roomed bamboo house and a goat - and set up home on the sandy, low-lying plain. Without fertile soil, they failed to grow food to eat and survived on just 66 pence per day. Without a means to earn a living in their rural neighbourhood, Joynal was forced to leave his loved ones behind for a year and undertake back-breaking work in Dhaka as a day labourer, earning £1.66/€2.20 for 16 hours work. In one month he saved just £12/€16. Joynal slept on the side of the road, often phoning his wife in tears and unable to send much-needed money home to buy food to feed his children.
Throughout Lent, we are asking you to reflect each day on the blessings in your life through Count Your Blessings, inspired by daily opportunities to give, act and pray for communities like Joynal’s.
Christian Aid local partner GUK is working with the people on the Chars to help transform their lives, increasing their resilience to the increasingly unpredictable weather and floods, and helping them to become self-sufficient and prosper in the toughest of environments. With the support of GUK, Joynal and his family are now thriving. Joynal no longer works away in Dhaka and now works on his own land with his wife. They have learned to grow new, resilient crops, providing much-needed nutritious food for their family. Their house and land has been raised, so they are no longer forced to leave when the flood waters get too high. They were given enough money so they could buy a cow and another goat, as well as training in how to care for livestock. With new assets, home-grown vegetables from their own land and new found respect within the community, Joynal can think more positively about the future.
Visit christianaid.ie/lent to get your Count Your Blessings calendar or other Lent resources for you, your family and your church.