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AHP Bangladesh Consortium Field Story: Inclusive early childhood education supporting a bright future for Afser

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Urul Alam and Mina Akter didn’t know what the future would hold for their baby son, Nurul Afser, when they noticed he was unable to control his leg and hand muscles and wasn’t learning to speak.

“The day when he was born, we were the happiest people in the world. But when he started growing, we noticed something unusual. He could not hold things, or walk,” said his father, Nurul Alam, an auto-rickshaw driver.

Despite living in a remote village in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Afser’s parents took him to many doctors, hoping that their first child could access treatments that would help. He was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy -- a group of disorders that affect a person's ability to move and maintain balance and posture.

For Nural Alam, improving Afser’s condition became his number one focus.

“I stopped engaging in all other activities and started spending all my time on my beloved son. What did I not do for my child? I even visited religious leaders with the hope that some miracle would happen! But eventually all my hopes were fading, and we became depressed,” he said.

Through the support of Australian Humanitarian Partnership (AHP) NGO World Vision, the family have been able to gain life-changing support for Afser. Now six years old, he is thriving, after enrolling at an AHP-supported early childhood development centre and accessing physiotherapy.

The AHP program in Bangladesh works with displaced Rohingya as well as host communities in Cox’s Bazar. World Vision’s work as part of the AHP consortium focuses on early childhood development, child protection and disability inclusion.

Afser's parents also received psychosocial support and positive parenting sessions. World Vision's technical partner, Centre for Disability in Development (CDD), taught them physiotherapy exercises.

“After learning the therapy exercises for Afser, I ensured we did it three times daily, and decided to send my son to the Early Childhood Development Centre,” said Mina Akter, Afser’s mother.

Afser is now enrolled in World Vision's Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, where he enjoys playing and interacting with other children. His physical strength and mental wellbeing is developing day by day. He has started speaking, first with his parents but now with anyone. World Vision provided him with an ankle and foot brace to support his walking and standing, and he can now stroll with the support of a walking frame. He can grab hold of anything he wants, especially toys.

“I used to buy so many toys for my child, but he could not play with those toys. Now, when I see Afser play with toys, my heart becomes overwhelmed with joy,” his mother said.

Afser can now recite two Bengali poems, remember the alphabet and knows the names of different colours and shapes. He has many friends at the ECD centre, and World Vision will support his enrolment in Grade 1 at a local primary school next year.

Elias Murmu, Consortium Manager, has a daughter the same age as Afser and said he can feel the emotions of Afser’s parents as they see him enjoying learning and building physical skills.

"We are now bringing smiles to these children with the technical support from Christian Blind Mission and the Center for Disability in Development to ensure support for people with disabilities, and to ensure children with disabilities can have a beautiful life,” Elias said.

“We are very happy that donors and partners are supporting us to do great work for people with disability,” said Dr Fredrick Christopher, Director for World Vision’s Bangladesh Rohingya Crisis Response.