1971 was a terrifying, life-changing year for countless families in Bangladesh. Pakistani planes strafed and rocketed towns. Military vehicles roared through bazaars, ramming anything in their way. Troops entered rural villages, called out the men, and gunned them down. Bangladesh won its war for independence, but the price was hard indeed. Crowds of war widows and children came to Memorial Christian Hospital with no food, no jobs, and no hope. Nurse Marilou Brownell, with the financial help of American college students, began Heart House. Widows were trained in handicrafts and given loans to build houses; they attended literacy classes, and their children attended school.
Prova Dhor was among those first women to join the team. Heart House paid her expenses to go to Dhaka for doll-makers’ training. She became a talented doll-maker and team leader. Through the past 38 years since Heart House began, Prova has taught hundreds of women in the Chittagong District the intricate skills needed in embroidering hand-fans, sewing quilts, designing bags, and assembling costume dolls.
Recently newspaper reporters of the national paper Prothom Alo stopped in to interview Heart House employees. Prova and other women told their stories. The article drew television reporters, film-makers, and the local magistrate to meet and film these women for themselves. Heart House was featured multiple times on national television. Heart House’s rehabilitation and training program was praised; the women’s work was photographed and admired.
In December, Prova Dhor retired from Heart House. The hospital meeting hall was packed with her colleagues, trainees, friends, and family. They told heartwarming stories and cried a bit too. Prova has been an example of a virtuous woman and kind supervisor. As the Bengali proverb goes, “She who lives well, finishes well.” Prova leaves a capable Heart House team behind her.
Because of Heart House’s quality work and employee care, many other rehabilitation centers for women have been established throughout Bangladesh.