It was New Year’s Day and a day of national celebration… but that’s not the reason for the galaxy of radiant 10,000-kilowatt smiles.
It was a day sun-lit happiness permeated from the souls of all present – but that’s also not the reason for the galaxy of smiles. Nor was it a national convention of happy smilers!
There’s a simple explanation: the smiles (and their owners!) gathered at the President Shahabuddin Ahmed Park in Gulshan to bid a fond farewell to Sir Frank Peters, their foreign friend.
Sir Frank left Bangladesh yesterday on a special charity assignment for a European royal family that may not see his return for some time.
“His departure gives us no joy whatsoever, but knowing he will be helping other less fortunate people is of great consolation,” said Ali Akbar, co-ordinator of Sir Frank’s charity projects in Bangladesh.
Sir Frank, a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, came to prominence in Bangladesh when he campaigned successfully to ban corporal punishment in schools. The beggars in Gulshan call him “Bondhu Hasse” (the smiling friend) because he only gives money in exchange for smiles. He also takes photos of their children and gives the parents prints. “A photograph of a beggar’s child is as precious to his or her mum as any other mum,” he said.
Musa Ibrahim, the first Bangladeshi to conquer Mount Everest, said: “Since the anti corporal punishment law was introduced in 2011, Sir Frank has received heaps of birthday, Christmas and New Year greetings from grateful students. Adding to his unique achievements, he’s the only foreigner to have two baby boys named in his honour by two separate families Mamun and Tanya Ali and Ali and Poppi Akbar. Not even a Bangladeshi can boast of that,” he said.