Standing in a doorway to the alley, Shrity brushes her teeth before sitting on the bed she shares with three other people. Here, she finishes her homework and eats a quick meal of rice and lentils before walking the littered streets to school.
I recently had the privilege of meeting 12-year-old Shrity, who attends the Sher-e-Bangla Government Primary School in Mirpur, Dhaka. She’s one of the 3 million Bangladeshi children who receive school meals and snacks from their national government and from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). And she lives in a slum.
She’s one of about 100 people from 16 families living in just one alleyway of the Imam Nagar slum — sharing four toilets and one makeshift kitchen.
Shrity lost her father at a young age, and her mother is paralyzed from a stroke. Her oldest sister was married off, the second sister works in a garment factory as the family breadwinner and the third stays at home to take care of their mom. The family rarely has even two meals a day, let alone the proper nutrition from a diverse diet.
Shrity’s mother Nasima was determined to educate at least one of her children, and her youngest daughter found out from a friend about Sher-e-Bangla’s school feeding program.
Put together the need for both education and nutrition, and Shrity is now lucky enough to go to school. She loves it.
She loves sitting in the classroom. She loves learning. She loves eating biscuits. She loves seeing her friends. She loves helping her teacher with the younger students. In fact, Shrity wants to become a teacher when she grows up. At the same school, so she can teach kids who are just like her.
You see, Shrity is an absolute joy. And to be honest, that’s how I feel when I’m talking to any child, anywhere in the world. When you get them talking, you realize that all kids are just kids. They play, they learn, they dream.
Shrity has been through so much in her 12 years that I doubt I will undergo my entire life. She has very little. But what she has makes her radiate. You can see it in her eyes, her smile.
The world is filled with hundreds of millions of Shritys, millions of souls who continue to breathe, work, strive, hunger and dream.
I can’t forget her adorable little tuft of hair pulled up into a ponytail, the confidence in her voice as she told me what WFP is (“It’s the name of the biscuit!”), the way she offered me her own chair so she could sit on an overturned bucket, her hand clasping mine in a firm shake as I bid her farewell.
When I meet Shrity again one day, I know she will continue to teach me and so many other people what it means to have hope.
Help feed the potential of children like Shrity and families like hers. Donate today.
— Aliya Karim, World Food Program USA