A Day in the Life of a Bangladeshi Cycle Van Driver

Kamrul opens his eyes and looks out the window. It is still dark outside. He gets up and goes outside his house.

Kamrul washes his face with the water from the nearest pond. He breaks a branch from a nearby neem tree, whose branches are thin and good for teeth, and begins to clean his teeth. He is wearing just a lungi, the traditional Bangladeshi skirt for a male. He prepares himself for the hard day ahead of him. Kamrul, the father of Compassion-registered* child Mukta, is a cycle van puller.

young man on a bicycleKamrul reaches the garage near his house and gets the key to the lock of the van from the owner. The cycle van is a pedal-powered three-wheeler which can be used for carrying people or stuffs. A seat for the driver is at the front just behind the handle like a regular cycle. There is space for carrying people or goods at the back of the cycle van.

Cycle vans are an important part of transportation in the village areas of Bangladesh, as well as cities. It provides the daily wages for more than 100,000 people all over the country.

In cities, cycle vans are available near the furniture stores and market places to carry goods and furniture. There are more than 15,000 cycle vans in the capital city of Dhaka.

In the village areas, where Compassion-assisted child development centers are located, the cycle vans are essential for getting around. They are the only vehicle available to carry goods and people.

Kamrul earns 60-70 taka ($0.87 – $1.01) every day. Actually, he earns about 170-180 taka ($2.46 – $2.61) per day, but he has to pay the owner of the cycle van to use it. Kamrul wishes that he will have his own van one day.

He gets on the cycle van and starts to pedal like on a normal cycle. He reaches the nearest bazaar at Kotalipara. The buses from Dhaka stop here and drop people off, so it is possible for him to have some passengers.

30 to 40 minutes later, the first bus from Dhaka reaches Kotalipara, and Kamrul gets five passengers who want to go to Suagram. They agree to pay 10 taka ($0.14) each for the travel.

Suagram is five kilometers away; Kamrul starts his first trip of the day. Though he is strong enough, carrying five adult people for five kilometer is a hard job. He takes 40 minutes to reach the destination and earns his well deserved “50 bucks” ($0.72).

After a few minutes rest, he starts his journey back to Kotalipara. This time he is lucky enough to get a single passenger from Suagram who agrees to pay him 20 taka ($0.29) – to carry him and his goods to Kotalipara. On other days he has to return to Kotalipara with an empty van.

Kamrul’s passenger is not gentle; he makes Kamrul go an extra kilometer but doesn’t want to pay extra money. Kamrul argues with him but the cycle van puller and rickshaw puller are treated as the lower class in Bangladesh. The passenger pays only 2 taka ($0.03) more.

Kamrul is hurt by this, but what can he do? He is uneducated and realizes that there is no place for those people who can’t read or write. He wishes that his daughter, Mukta, and his son, Masoom, will be highly educated and that no one will dare to treat them this way.

Up to noon he doesn’t get any more passengers to carry. He gets hungry since he didn’t have breakfast. He starts to count the money he has earned today. 72 taka ($1.04). That’s all.

Kamrul buys a bit of bread for three taka ($0.04) and a cup of tea for two taka ($0.03). He has his lunch in front of the shop.

While eating he looks at his van; it is colored on the back side, which is used as the carrier. He made this colorful design by himself. A rope is hanging under the seat; it is used when he has to carry big stuffs. There is also a lantern under the seat that is useful at night. He always keeps a towel, called a gamcha in Bengali, in front of the handles to clean his sweat off. This is how he provides food for his family.

He gets another two trips at evening and earns 80 taka ($1.16) more. At 7 p.m. Kamrul meets the Compassion child development center manager at the market, who is buying rice for the center children.

Kamrul greets him and says, “Sir! Can I take you to the center?”

The project manager agrees; Kamrul lights the small lantern, called a haricane, and hangs it under the cycle van. He carries the manager to the center at Suagram, happy that he can help.

Kamrul is not ready to take money for his service, but the manager insists and gives him 50 taka ($0.72).

Kamrul returns to Kotalipara again but without any passengers.

He has 197 taka ($2.86) in his pocket. He earned 202 taka ($2.93) and spent five taka ($0.07) at lunch. He separates 120 taka ($1.74) for the owner of the cycle van and with the remaining 77 taka ($1.12) he buys rice, oil, a small fish and some vegetables for his family.

Kamrul returns the van to the owner’s garage and heads home. Mukta comes to him running with a big smile. He grabs his little daughter and takes her on his shoulder. He gives the stuffs to his wife and asks her how her day was.

young child writing on a chalkboard The family doesn’t have electricity at home so they put on haricane lamps. Kamrul goes to the pond and takes a bath. When he gets inside the house he finds his daughter studying in the light of the lamp; this makes him happy.

Kamrul made a partition inside the house with an old metal sheet. On both sides they have two beds. He also made two shelves to keep pillows and bottles of oil, medicines and boxes. There are two pictures on the bamboo wall. One is of two little children wearing traditional dresses, and the other is of Kamrul’s daughter and son. His wife, Rehana, cooks outside the house, but they keep all the cooking stuffs inside. They have a common latrine just behind their house.

Rehana completes her cooking and calls the family for dinner. Kamrul carries his son in, and they sit on the ground. Mukta has already completed her studies and joins them.

After dinner they go to sleep. Kamrul and his wife hang the mosquito net over their bed to keep them safe from bites. Kamrul is thinking of the whole day and is unhappy with the behavior of the rude passenger. But the generosity of the Compassion manager refreshes his mood. He is praying for his children that they will be highly educated and successful in life.

He closes his eyes and falls to sleep.

family sitting on the floor inside a home

*August 8, 2008 – Comments 26 and 30 discuss this term.

68 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Mike Stephens March 27, 2009

    I didn’t realize the cycle van originated on this blog!!! I saw the picture awhile ago!!! It is great to hear and see!!!

  2. Lindy September 24, 2008

    Oh, I’m so sorry to be late! My computer has been in the repair shop for a week, so I have just now been able to get on here and discover the progress that has been made. I sent in the donation tonight. Blessings on you, Chris, for coordinating all this!

  3. Sara Benson September 17, 2008

    Thank you so much for coordinating this!

  4. Chris Giovagnoni September 17, 2008

    We have received $190 already.

    Please feel free to continue contributing to the Where Most Needed fund, but we have enough to buy the cycle van for Kamrul.

  5. Melissa Coast September 17, 2008

    I donated my money last night. I hope everyone is still following this blog too!

  6. compassion dave September 17, 2008

    Thank you Chris!

  7. Chris Giovagnoni September 17, 2008

    Great news everybody!

    Make your contribution by this Sunday, September 21, and the money will be sent to the Bangladesh country office on September 23. Mucho quicko!

  8. Andrzej Gandecki September 17, 2008

    Great! There is finally a way to do it. Maybe we could use it in some future similar situations. One I can think of is Selvie from the Elohim Project in Indonesia.

  9. Heather September 16, 2008

    I am so happy I could finally help with this!! I hope that the others are still watching this thread! 🙂

  10. Amanda September 16, 2008


    I also want to thank you for helping us with this! It will be so exciting to see the pictures when they come in! Won’t he be so surprised when he hears that people on the other side of the world care about him and his family!!!

  11. Abbie H September 16, 2008

    Thanks so much Chris for doing all the leg work to be able to do this!

  12. Chris Giovagnoni September 16, 2008

    Hello everyone. Are you still out there? 🙂

    This is how we can help Kamrul and his family.

    Go here and make your contributions.

    At the bottom of the form, be sure to check the box that says “I have special instructions regarding this donation.”

    In the special instruction area you should include, “Donation is for the Bangladeshi cycle van.”

    By contributing this way, each of you will receive a tax-deductible receipt.

    The cycle van is expected to cost about $150.

    If we receive more than what is needed to buy the cycle van, the extra donations will be used by Compassion “where most needed.”

    Please make your contributions by 9/30.

    Funds are transferred in batches at certain times of the month, not as they arrive. That’s why the deadline is necessary. And this deadline ensures that Kamrul will get the money as quickly as possible.

    Once Kamrul gets the cycle van, I’ll get some photos for you.

    It’ll probably be early next year before we get any follow-up on this because the funds have to be distributed to Compassion Italy, then to the Bangladesh office, and then to the church partner and Kamrul.

  13. Amanda September 4, 2008


    Thanks for keeping us updated! God Bless!

  14. Chris Giovagnoni September 4, 2008

    The person I need to speak with in the Compassion Italia office is in Bolivia until September 8.

  15. Vicki Small August 29, 2008

    I just realized I never thanked Chris and Gin for the link(s) to country-specific information, including gift ideas. So thank you! I promptly bookmarked it, too.

    Andrzej, Compassion works with Opportunity International to make small microenterprise loans. I’ve just told you everything I know about it, tho! I’ve wondered whether my oldest sponsored child (approx. 15 years) or her parents would be eligible. With somewhere around 5 or 6 children in the family, I’m sure a good income-producing opportunity would be welcome!

  16. Andrzej Gandecki August 29, 2008

    Just an idea that came to my mind: what if we could loan money to sponsored children’s families?

    I’ve read a bit about microloans – and it looks like they are very effective.

    I have a lot of sponsored children and I can not give family gifts for all of them. However, I could give a lot of loans, knowing the money would be returned.

    What do you think?

  17. Jenny August 27, 2008

    Could a fund be set up that families could access to buy things like this? It would be great to see more families have the option to generate a better income. Maybe a story a month could be featured on a different occupation and the equipment needed.

  18. Chris Giovagnoni August 26, 2008


    It’s my turn to apologize. I didn’t mean to sound abrupt. Sorry about that.

    I had hoped to hear something by now. My problem is trying to find the right person to talk to in the Compassion Italia office.

  19. Amanda August 25, 2008


    Sorry about that…I didn’t mean to rush! I know you must be covered up with a million things after being gone. Patience is a virtue I will work on (smile). Thank you for all you do for the poor! God Bless!

    P.S. If you end up running a little short for the cycle van please let me know.

  20. Chris Giovagnoni August 25, 2008


    I have not. I was out of the office all last week. I will follow up.

  21. Amanda August 24, 2008


    Have you heard anything from Compassion Italia yet? Just wondering…God Bless You for all you do!

  22. Compassion dave August 11, 2008

    This is gonna be so cool.

  23. Chris Giovagnoni August 11, 2008

    According to Compassion Bangladesh the estimated cost for purchasing a cycle van is between $118 and $147.

    I contacted Compassion Italia today. Waiting to hear back.

  24. Sara Benson August 9, 2008

    I would love to help with the funds for the Cycle Van if there is still a need or one for another family if there is enough interest.
    Thanks for coordinating this Chris.

  25. Kees Boer August 9, 2008

    I asked several of the children how often the mail comes. I got several answers. From all of the answers, I came to conclusion that it depends on the project. It probably is also a factor of the distance/accessability from the project to the country office and various factors like that.

    On the way back, I know about Bolivia for instance that once a week, they sent all of the letters from the country office to Colorado Springs. My experience has also been that my letters tend to come in spurts. (sp?) I won’t get very many for a month or so and then all of a sudden, I get a lot of letters in one day.


  26. Amanda August 9, 2008

    Kees and Shelly,

    Thank you so much for the information…and the reminder to be patient…which I definitely needed! God Bless!

  27. Chris Giovagnoni August 9, 2008

    Mukta is sponsored through Compassion Italia, which adds additional flavor to buying her family a cycle van.

    I will contact Compassion Italia next week to see if they will be able to accept a non-sponsor family gift, if so how do we do it, and if they will contact the sponsor on our behalf.

  28. Chris Giovagnoni August 9, 2008


    Yes. We are working on a forum solution. I’d like to say it will be available “soon,” whatever that vague term means, but depending on how the chips fall, it could be “later.”

  29. Heather August 9, 2008

    If the money hasnt been raised for this mans family yet count me in also! Feel free to email me any info: [email protected]

  30. Gin August 9, 2008

    I think I recall a few posts about letters to children and how they receive them on special letter day… does anyone know how often special letter day occurs? Is it something that is different in each project but maybe is there a “typical” schedule at a minimum?

    Also, this is such a great “forum”, Chris (or anyone else from Compassion…), any thought of actually adding a forum link to this site? Seems like in addition to it being a great place for sponsors to chat that it’d be a marketing dream for getting ideas, etc… from a broad perspective of current sponsors. We seem to have a lot of the same people commenting but I am sure that’s just a sample of the readers. Just seems like a neat thing… a thought anyway! 🙂

  31. Shelly Quigg August 8, 2008


    I was very impatient when I sent my first child gift. I waited for what seemed like forever and received several letters from Eliana with no mention of the gift. I contacted Compassion through the website and was told that it would take about two months for the child to recieve it and then however long it takes to get a thank you letter back from the child. She said they would look into it if I hadn’t heard anything in another month.
    Well, without meaning to be pushy, I wrote a few letters mentioning that I hope she received her gift and liked it. I ended up receiving three letters at once from her (all written at different times) mentioning the gift. The first one thanked me and told me what the gift was. The second one told me again what the gift was and thanked me. The third one said something like, “as I wrote to you before…” and told me what the gift was and thanked me again! I felt awful and that has cured me of my impatience. Now I will wait till the cow jumps over the moon before I inquire about a gift again. I will just wait for my letter like a good sponsor!

  32. Kees Boer August 8, 2008

    Hi, Abbie,

    Thank you so much! I’ll tell you what, I’d be happy to do that! If you give a gift, then I’ll write you a personal inspirational post! ;-P

    Actually, all kidding aside. Giving a personal gift to a family like that can really make a huge difference in a family. One of my children’s family has two cows, each giving about 1 gallon of milk a day. I spoke with a friend of mine, who is a large animal veteranarian. He told me that a cow should be able to give a lot more milk than that. When I was in Bolivia, I checked into it with the project and the child and his family and found out that they had to give the cow cheap food and hence the little bit of milk. Give the cow better food and the cows would increase their milk by 150% or 2 1/2 gallos/cow/day. Thus it was all a matter of getting the cows started on better food and after a while it would increase their profit margin by a lot. It is more of a matter of finding this out, because I didn’t know. That’s why I asked the question first if there was a way to find out for each child if there are some real needs like that, that could be met.

    Amanda, I asked the same question to Compassion about special gifts 5 days ago and I was told that it would take about 3 months like the letters.


  33. Amanda August 8, 2008

    I was just wondering how long it takes for a gift (birthday or family) to get to the families. I know letters take approximately 3 months. I am also sure it varies from country to country. But I can’t help but be curious about how long it takes for my kids to receive gifts once they are given???

  34. Abbie H August 8, 2008


    Will do, but you have to give us a 1000 word inspirational post about them and pictures!

    haha-kidding! I’m sure if I went looking I could find a few already!!! 🙂

  35. Kees Boer August 8, 2008

    Thank you, Chris, I really appreciate that integrity! It’s very refreshing and gives me more confidence in Compassion.

    (Having said that, if any of you want to donate any financial gifts to my children’s families, you have my permission. LOL ;-P )


  36. Melissa Coast August 8, 2008

    That totally makes sense…we definitely want to respect the sponsor!

  37. Chris Giovagnoni August 8, 2008

    Before a family gift can be given to Kamrul, we must contact Mukta’s sponsor and obtain permission.

    As you all know, our program is about one-to-one relationships and it would be improper to proceed without involving the sponsor first.

  38. Chris Giovagnoni August 8, 2008

    @ Audrey

    Mukta is sponsored. The reference to her being a Compassion “registered” child is misleading.

  39. Chris Giovagnoni August 8, 2008

    Hello everyone.

    Regarding the gift you want to give Kamrul’s family, it can be done.

    Each person that wants a receipt for a tax deductible contribution will have to give a separate check.

    I will get back to you on the best way to handle the contribution, from Compassion’s perspective (i.e., processing, receipting each person, distributing, follow-up, etc.)

    Once I have that, we can talk about who is giving what and how.

  40. Lindy August 8, 2008

    This is so encouraging! How do we get the funds together and sent in? Can each of us send a check to Compassion designated for this family?

  41. Kees Boer August 7, 2008

    I think the money is raised for this special bike. I’m sure there are many other families in Bangladesh, who are in very similar situations.

    I like these types of donations, because they really help in a long term type of way. It would be nice to know with each child, if there is some income producing item that can be purchased for the child, that could like double the income or something of the family.


  42. ~audrey~ August 7, 2008

    This story was extremely moving for me as well. The author wrote that Kamrul is the father of a Compassion-registered child Mukta. Does this mean that she is not yet sponsored? It would be so awesome if we as bloggers could get this family both a cycle-van and get his daughter sponsored. I will step up and cover Mukta’s sponsorship if she is in fact in need of one. Can someone from Compassion look into this?

    [email protected]

  43. Melissa Coast August 7, 2008

    I’m in for a donation to Kamrul’s van! I’ll pitch in $20!

  44. Compassion dave August 7, 2008

    If we are taking a collection to get this dad a bike, put me down for $100.00.

    Whoever is going to head-up the collection, my email address is:
    [email protected]

  45. Gin August 7, 2008

    Vicki — here’s the link for all the countries: https://www.compassion.com/where-we-work.htm

    You should be able to click the links from there.

  46. Linda W. August 7, 2008

    I loved reading this story! It is wonderful to see how much love for his family this man has. How HARD he works for such a small amount of money! (What an eye opener that is!) I agree with Lindy that this story has really inspired me to send family gifts. I also would be happy to join in with the Compassion bloggers to help buy a cycle van for Kamrul. (I could send $10.)

  47. Lana I August 7, 2008

    I enjoyed reading this blog. What an incredible story, as we all have said. People with so little, yet have such love in life. They look at the little things to find thankfulness in, whereas we rarely can say thank you for anything. God bless that man and his family.

    I’d also be willing to help in any way if something could happen for this cycle van.

  48. Abbie H August 7, 2008

    I’m again reminded that people in poverty know more about life then I think we ever will and they understand love more than most Americans.

    If it is able to be done, I wouldnt mind giving some for the bike as well.

  49. Beth Ingersoll August 7, 2008

    And we think we have it tough…

  50. Amber Van Schooneveld August 7, 2008

    Hello! I’ll get a figure for how much a cycle van costs in Bangladesh from David.

    I know that cycle vans have been given in the past as family gifts in other countries, and it has significantly helped the family’s lifestyle.

    Although your sponsored child doesn’t write to you to say WHAT they need, if you give a gift to the child/family, project workers counsel the family and help them decide what to buy that will be most beneficial in the long term, such as an income-generating item like a cycle van.

  51. Chris Giovagnoni August 7, 2008

    @Vicki Small

    Country specific gift ideas for Tanzania

  52. Jill Foley August 7, 2008

    Wow…what an amazing, humbling story. I love learning insights into what life is like for the families of the children we sponsor. Thank you for sharing this and keep them coming!

  53. Lindy August 7, 2008

    My husband and I would be happy to join in on the Compassion Bloggers group gift to fund a cycle van for Kamrul. Who should we contact? We would like to add $20.

  54. Vicki Small August 7, 2008

    Chris, I followed your link to the country-specific page for BD, then tried to get the same sort of page for TZ, simply by changing the bd in the URL to tz. That didn’t work, and I couldn’t find any other way to get to the same country-specific page for any other country. What’s the secret?

  55. Andrzej Gandecki August 7, 2008

    We could send donations using the ‘Where most needed’ fund, adding a ‘special instruction’ that it’s for Kamrul’s van.

    But first somebody from Compassion would have to confirm it.

  56. Gin August 7, 2008

    Thanks Andrzej, I think there must be a slight lag in post time 🙂

    What a great idea to all pull together for this family. Wonder if that’s possible?!

  57. Gin August 7, 2008

    Chris — thanks for the link — I started to ask about other countries but took off part of that link. For others here, here’s the link to all countries: https://www.compassion.com/where-we-work.htm


    This is great information to have. While I realize that the gift amount is for the families to spend how they most need it, it is really nice to be able to see what the options may be for our families. Thanks for providing this information!

  58. Andrzej Gandecki August 7, 2008


    There is a Compassion Country News page here: https://www.compassion.com/about/where/bangladesh.htm

    It looks like the cycle van would cost no more than $200.

    Maybe we could finance one for Kamrul as the Compassion bloggers? I could give $10 to start with.

  59. Chris Giovagnoni August 7, 2008

    I suspect a family gift would cover the cost of a cycle van. A bike can be purchased for under $100. A rickshaw/rickshaw van can be purchased with a gift of $200.

  60. Melissa Coast August 7, 2008

    Yes, Prairie, I agree! I feel frustrated that I can’t know a little more about what the family really needs. But surely there is a way to let us sponsors know who WANT to know and do something without making anyone feel pressured! Even if we could call and find out, or something!

  61. Juli Jarvis August 7, 2008

    Thank you so much for sharing this true story in such an excellent way. It really opens my eyes to what life is like in Bangladesh. I have just bought a book about a mission in Bangaldesh; now I will have faces of this precious family to go along with the words I read. God bless Kamrul and his family! Also the project workers and children of this particular area.

  62. Gin August 7, 2008

    Is there any way to find out how much a cycle van would cost? Would a family gift cover the amount of something like this? Seems like it would be a huge help to boost the income of a family in Bangladesh.

  63. Melissa Coast August 7, 2008

    Wow. What an amazing story. Again, I’m reminded how much we take for granted. I’m so thankful that they have Compassion working in their lives.
    What a great husband, and father! I wish he could know how proud of him and in awe of him we are.

  64. Lindy August 7, 2008

    Oops! That should read, “clearer”.

  65. Lindy August 7, 2008

    This story REALLY encourages me to send family gifts for our sponsored children. It gives me a cleared idea of what their daily lives are like!

  66. Prairie Rose August 7, 2008

    And how much $US would his own van cost? If this were my sponsored child I would want to know about this need – the kids never ask for anything, of course, and I’m always wondering if there’s some need they have that I could easily fulfill if only I knew about it… is there some way that Compassion could start including this type of info about our kids in a way that doesn’t make people feel like they’re being asked for more and more? Make it as an available linkage on the child’s information site online or something only so someone can go in and look if they WANT to but doesn’t feel pressured?

  67. Andrzej Gandecki August 7, 2008

    In a way it is also a very encouraging story for me. Here is a responsible man who is working hard to take care of his family. What a beautiful example of love!

    Looking at the family picture I can see so much love in their eyes.

    I suspect a lot of our Western families with ‘absent’ husbands (and increasingly ‘absent’ wives) do not have as much love as Kamrul’s family…

  68. Heather August 7, 2008

    How sad this story is..What a job he has! I Thought mine was hard! God Bless this man and his family!

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