“I couldn’t breathe when I first landed in Dubai. The air was so hot, I felt I was suffocating.“
6 years later, Milon (17) has got used to the weather in Dubai and hardly resembles his former self – a little curious boy running around in the slums of Dhaka is now a well-spoken, handsome young man with insatiable spirit to help his community back in Dhaka.
Milon used to teach English to adults and other children at Maria’s school when he was 9 years old. He was a very curious boy, who never missed a chance to interact with the volunteers; he performed well academically and really wanted to make a difference in his community even though he was not even a teenager yet. His teachers and other community members noticed his enthusiasm and recommended him to be one of the students to have an opportunity to study in Dubai. He is now studying at GEMS Wellington Academy and is set to graduate next year.
“When I go home now I encourage my siblings to speak English. They are motivated, because they see me being successful in Dubai. My younger brother Leon really wants to go to an English school. My family loves me a lot and I love them a lot, too.”
Milon goes through a mini-transformation every time he visits home. He doesn’t take his new clothes to Dhaka in order to blend in. “They don’t need me reminding them of my good life in Dubai. They have enough problems.”
“I do feel at home in Bangladesh, but when I am in Dubai I also feel at home. Thankfully it is easy to just pick up the phone and call my family in Bangladesh.”
Milon lives with a host family in Dubai. His host mother Nellie is an extraordinary woman, who stepped in when Milon needed a new home.
“He is a family member. I love Milon the way a close aunt would take an interest and love her nephew. You have to find a way between being his mother and his friend. I hope our relationship will continue forever.”
Milon and Nellie are clearly fond of each other. They have plenty of banter between them, they respect each other and are very comfortable with each other’s company.
“It is wonderful to be able to love another kid from another culture and have him as a part of our family. Him and our son get along like a house on fire.” Becoming a host mother to a 16-year old does not come without challenges: “My husband and I had to become instant parents to a teenager. You usually grow with your children and put limits in place as you go along. We had no experience in parenting a 16-year old, which is much different than parenting an 11-year old!
Nellie admires Milon’s resilience. “He has already had harder years in his life. A kid, who can live away from his family for 6 of his formative years and still be well-balanced, thoughtful and kind, is exceptional. He stopped being a kid at 12, but it will be a huge advantage when he is 25. He has a phenomenal ability to adapt: he has integrated into 4 families, who all love him and want him to succeed.”
Milon stays silent and thoughtful while listening to Nellie’s compliments. He has 5 families and he wants to make them all proud. “When I have much money, I will send you more than you can spend,” he says, “but there is not enough money in the world to repay you for what you have done for me.”