​                    Fieldwork report and activities by Bhante Nagasena in 2024

his is just to update about my trip to the fieldwork in Bangladesh. I arrived at the Lotus Children Home (LCH) on 17th January 2024. I started working immediately on the northern side of the drainage, and then two weeks later, on the construction of International Pali College and Library subsequently. 

The construction of the Pali College and Library has been planned since 2020. We discussed the design and map of the building last year. In fact, we talked about this building every meeting we held since 2020. Unfortunately, due to the shortage of funds, we did not go ahead with the plan. The postponement is also partly related with the global covid 2019 pandemic.

Fortunately, our main patron, Dr Kyaw Myint Oo, eagerly interested to go ahead with the project as quickly as possible. He donated £10000.00 in 2022 but the donated amount is still far behind the actual amount required to put the foundation of the building because the building is designed for 4 storeys, which requires a solid and strong foundation. Dr K.Oo again donated another £6000 over different occasions of their family event in 2023. Total amount from Dr K. Oo £16000.00 plus £5000.00 from our trust added to the foundation of the construction.

Drainage work in the northern side of the Lotus Children Home 2024:
On my arrival at the Lotus Children Home, a series of urgent works are listed, two of which are even more urgent than the construction of Pali College and Library. The first is the drainage system in the northern side of the LCH and the second is the water recycling system of the LCH. They both are urgently required to pay attention. Without drainage in the northern side of the hill, the newly built school may not survive during the monsoon. This is a half – wall school temporarily built with tins and woods in December 2023, which requires protection from monsoon rain.

 Once again, Firefly Mission is our main source of sponsorship for this drainage project. They also sponsored all previous drainage works. The current drainage is again eagerly sponsored by the Firefly Mission. They donated 556,800 BDT for the project while Lotus Children's Education Trust topped up about 10% of the cost. This includes a bridge on the access road. This drainage is created under the bridge. The bridge is strong enough for cars or heavy loaded trucks. All net-concreting works have been completed except the last 30th feet. We kept this 30th feet undone because we will channel this drainage water to the pond, which we recently created. This pond water will be recycled for use during the summer season. By the time of writing this report, 90% of drainage works are completed. 10% of works are easy as they are only to do with plastering and finishing of the drain before the monsoon.


When I arrived at LCH, water in the canal became shallow and gradually started to get dried. There were two ring-wells and one deep tubewell previously installed but they were not enough to supply over 250 residents every day. The underground water gradually dries from October every year, virtually as soon as the monsoon rain stops. As a result, water in the deep tube well and ring-wells slows down in January and even slower in February. So, we can only extract water for about 150 people from March. You can imagine what would happen in April and May. The underground water gets dried as we pump out for use.

To meet this additional crisis, we channelled natural water from a nearby mountain, two and half miles away from us. Ko Billy and Ma Khine Zar donated this water plant in 2020 and we renovated the pipelines and storing tanks with the support of Firefly Mission in 2023, but this water again dried up in March and April due to lack of trees and intense summer heat.  We even planted trees, bamboo and other plants around the corridors of the streams. This did not work as we had expected because the businessman who purchased the whole mountain, chopped all trees for sale. We are planning to replant again this year. 

Recycling water:
As a result of all these efforts, we decided to recycle the used water. We studied how the ‘water recycled system’ worked and its cost and benefit through websites and YouTube channels.  I discussed this with our main sponsor, Dr Kyaw Myint Oo before I left for the fieldwork. I am very encouraged by him. He initially offered £3000 to create an underground water tank, like a swimming pool. There are ordinary ponds available in the area, but these ponds get dried during the summer months. These ponds are built without net-construction and therefore water is absorbed by earth during the hot season.  Our water storing tank requires it to be built properly with ne- construction. Net -construction means to build with iron-rod, cements, sands and concrete. It is costly because the pond is designed to hold over 50 thousand gallons of water. The size of this pond will be 30 square feet wide and 12-15 feet deep.  This must be stable and strong to hold the weight of the loaded water. This must be protected from leaking into ground as well.

Our builder has estimated that it may cost about £5000 to make it with net-construction properly. This includes a filtering system of the water, channelling this water from the pond to the shower storing tanks and back to the pond through the filtering process. We have excavated 50% of the pond during my visit. The pond is visible now with water, but it will get dried soon as heat is rising every day by the time of writing the report.  (see photos)

All used water will be brought back into the pond by recycling methods. There is a series of filtering systems to purify the water before going back to the ponds. The system is used by concrete, gravels, pedals, sand stones and smooth sands. Finally, channel it to the ground-soil again where grasses and leaves will be planted to purify all toxic materials. As this water will pass through gravels, soils, leaves and plants, the water will become pure before entering the pond through underground pipes. We will examine the system this year and we will build it with net-construction properly in the coming year if this method helps to resolve the problem during the months of water shortage.

Pali College and Library Project- 2024:

As stated above, the construction of Pali College and Library Project started in early February 2024, two weeks after my arrival at the site. The costs of the foundation and ground floor pillars were about £23000.00. These expenses were mainly donated by Dr Kyaw Myint Oo (UK). He donated £16000 and a few other donors such as Dr Thein Myint £1000 (UK), Dr Mong Sanu (Bathwai) USA 50,000 BDT, devotees from Australia donated 100,000 BDT. Htay Hlaing (USA) 53500 BDT and Sandra (Australia) 50,000 BDT and the rest are topped up from Lotus Children Education Trust.

This is a four-storey building, so a solid and strong foundation is needed. The size of the net foundation of each pillar is 6 feet square wide and 6 feet high from the base of the pillars to the floor: except four pillars as their size is 7 feet square wide with 6 feet high. Therefore, 10 baggage cements are used for each of these four pillars. The rest out of 25 pillars require 8-9 bags of cement. The thickness and height of each foundational pillar is 22 inches, almost two feet high net-concreting floor.

According to some people, £23,000 is quite cheap comparing the amount of work and types of materials required for the foundation. It would have gone much higher than these expenses. However, our novices, monks and students volunteered the work every day till the completion of the foundational work. Perhaps, volunteer work makes the expenses cheaper. When we started working on the foundation, the project area was wet as the underground water was still running. As we dug and removed the soils for the foundation, land collapsed and dropped into the excavated area. The excavated area messed with soils and muds again. We removed the muds and soils again with our students. It was indeed a labour-intensive job to make the foundation. Luckily, all these difficulties are managed by our students, monks and novices. Because of these hindrances, the foundation work took a little longer than we expected but cheaper than expected.

The remaining works are now to do with roofing and rooms. Our builder estimates the fact that we may require £15000 for each of the roofs and rooms. However, we must not take it for granted without actual completion of the work. Although we managed to erect the foundation, there is much work to do with roofs, room and flooring. Our funds have fallen short of the remaining works. So, I could not complete it before coming back to the UK.  

After discussing the matter with Dr Kyaw Myint Oo, he agreed to donate another £5000 for the roof and remaining works.  Firefly Mission also donated $10000 (SGD) as one-off donations for the project. About $1000 of this donation has been used for the foundation. There are a few more donors recently donated. They are Dr Aung Myint Kyaw £600, Pyone Myint £200, Dr Po £100 and Milind £100, Cheah Chee Mun $1225 (SGD). We still need another £4000 to complete the estimated roof, floor, and rooms.

I have already spoken with the builders to continue with the roofing work. If there are no donors coming forward for the roof, we will top up from the LCET.  We hope we will be able to put the roof before monsoon and continue with the remainder of the work.

Institute Expenditures in Brief 2024:
Running an institute is not easy for anyone without proper financial security. There are many areas where we cannot do it voluntarily. A few of those areas for example are foods, electricity bills, and teacher salaries. Teachers are working with a half salary, two times lower than Bangladesh government salary. They receive a monthly salary of $80 each now. We plan to pay up to $150 when we get funders, but we cannot get a half price for food and electricity bills. Foods for over 250 residents require more than 300,000 BDT for a month, which is roughly £2300. There are 17 teachers for these students and two staff members. Even with a half salary, we still need to pay over 200,000 BDT each month teacher salaries, which is roughly about £15000. Gas, firewood and electricity bills are about 50000 BDT, roughly about £400 each month.

  Institute development will depend on how we manage to raise funds for the institute. The primary objectives of the institute are to serve underprivileged and destitute children with academic wisdom while the secondary objectives are to educate them to become honest, compassionate, rational and responsible human beings. We are aware of how our world is affected by carbon dioxide, the destruction of forests and climate change. These problems are partly connected with ignorant, illiterate and irresponsible behaviour of human beings. We teach our children to feel responsible when dealing with climate change and misuse of natural resources.

There are a series of levels and processes required to fulfil these aims and objectives. Right education is our primary tool to deal with our problem. However, the institute should have a secure funds to recruit students. To recruit students, we need proper accommodation, food, teachers, and well-beings of people involved in the institute. All these requisites are impossible to implement without money. In fact, neither students’ recruitment nor running of a school is imaginable without funds.

Age of students we receive varies depending on classes. We normally receive students from year one to year ten. There are two levels we offer: primary level and secondary level education. The secondary school is the same as the GCSE level in the UK standard. We generally prefer to accept secondary students as they are easier to look after but there are villages where no school is available in their area, not even primary school in the nearby area. It is quite difficult for us to reject students from such villages.

We normally accept 30-50 students each year, but the number has gone beyond in 2024.  We have ended up accepting over 80 students. There are 253 residents in 2024. More than 60 students among them are orphans. Their parents either died or separated. All our teaching staff look after these children with academic education, disciplinary rules, security and food. We must thank the efforts, dedication and hard work of our teaching staff. 

However, we are anxious for the well-being of these students this year 2024. It is partly because we have enrolled students more than our capacity in 2024, while general food prices have gone up again recently, particularly potatoes and beans which are our regular diets at the institute have gone up 40%. One KG potato price was around 30 BDT in February but now 55 Taka BDT.  They focus the price to increase up to 70 BDT during monsoon months. The price will come down after the monsoon, especially when potato farming comes back in November. There are different types of beans children prefer but the price is always high. One KG bean is over 80 BDT.  Our local vegetables are not available during the monsoon season. We depend on beans (Dall) and potatoes for at least five months as we rarely get local vegetables during monsoon season. If potato prices do not come down, it will be quite difficult for us to feed throughout the rainy season.

On top of food prices, there is another area we must be concerned with. Children's health and their wellbeing has proved to have been unstable recently. A few students were sick recently and expected to happen regularly as weather conditions and climate is unpredictable. 

All these are manageable if our funds are secure and strong. We will continue to pursue our ambition and objectives for the benefit of the earth, planet and the future generation with all our energies and efforts.