Jul 24, 2014

Out of Africa: Himeji Central Park Safari

In both Swahili and Arabic, the word “Safari” means “Journey”. Well, over the long weekend, my family and I made this journey to Himeji Central Park, which is a Safari Park, in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. This Park opened in 1984 and is the only safari park in the “Kansai” region of Japan.
While the safari is the main attraction in Himeji Central Park, it also includes an amusement park, a number of swimming pools (in summer) and a skating rink (in winter). My youngest son, who is 9, is really enjoying swimming this summer and one of his biggest plans for the summer is to go visit as many water parks as he can, during his six-week summer vacation.
The Safari park in Himeji is, in fact, quite amazing and one can either drive through the safari in their own car, or take the cute animal faced safari bus, and also walk through a part of the safari, to get a first-hand experience watching aquatic birds, kangaroos and other animals from close quarters. For an aerial view of the safari animals, the overhead gondolas take you through the “sky safari”.

The Drive-through safari includes:
Cheetah Section/ Lion Section / Tiger Section

Bengal Tiger

Herbivore Section A: Somali Giraffes, Lone Antelope, White Orix, Chapman Zebras, Axis Deers and Sitatunga
Herbivore Section B: Mufuron, Himalayan Tahrs, Black Back, etc.
Herbivore Section C: Hippopotamuses, American Bisons, Lama, American Back, etc
Zebra Section: Grevy's Zebras, etc.
Larger Herbivore Section:  White Rhinoceroses, African Bush Elephants, Two humped Camels, etc.

Lone Antelope
Himalayan Tahrs
Black Elephants
The Walking Safari includes:

Child's Farm
Walking Avenue: White lions, White tigers, etc.

Kangaroo Park
Bear Park
Monkey Mountain

Elephant Kingdom

Sky Safari

The Amusement park has the following rides:

Free Fall

Giant Ferris wheel


Finally the seasonal attractions include:

Aquaria: A number of swimming pools with high rising sliders (in summer).


Ice Park: Ice rink (in winter).

Whether you’re an animal lover, or want to enjoy the high speed rides or just need to take a dip in the pool to cool down in summer, Himeji Central Park ensures you a fun filled day! Oh! and the restaurants serve really great, delicious  but reasonably priced meals...!!!

Jul 14, 2014

Struck by an Angel

Hi Friends! This month in my “Diamond in the Dust” category, I’m going to introduce Farzana Faruk,
Farzana Faruk, 2nd from left
who is extremely kind and devoted, with a heart of gold. She has been like a younger sister to me, ever since we met in 2005, and I have always been in awe of her infectious smile! She is a very strong person and I always admire her for her courage to start a school for “challenged children” in Bangladesh, with very little start-up help. I strongly believe her dream of helping these special children will come true, because she is consistent, hardworking, honest, and has a wonderful support system , which includes her loving husband and parents. Please take time to read her interview and if possible lend a hand in her great cause. She has taught me that if you really believe in something, nobody can stop you and reminded me again that "when the going gets tough, the tough really get going"!! I wish her nothing but the best in all her courageous endeavours!
Q1: Please introduce yourself and the main members of your institution and briefly introduce your school.
I am Farjana Faruq working voluntarily as Principal in the Angels care special need school. This school is one of the major projects of the Angels Care Foundation (ACF) which works for education, training and rehabilitation for Autistic and other intellectually disabled (ID) children in Bangladesh. Angels Care Foundation (ACF) is an independent, non-profitable, non-governmental, voluntary welfare organization and is registered with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Bangladesh (Reg. no. Dha-08791).  It was established on the 28 th October, 2009 by concerned and dedicated persons in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
At present, there are 30 children in our specialized school. Most of them are Autistic and some other having disability either with intellectual disability, multiple disabilities or cerebral palsy.
Present Activities of ACF
  • Runs education and training centre for Autistic and ID children
  • Runs early intervention program for children below 5 years
  • Runs vocational training programs for older children and adolescents with ID
  • Arranges training program for parents and teachers
  • Arranges seminar, workshop for Teachers and Parents
  • Provide outing program for the students for improving social behavior
  • Offers free services for poor ID and orphanage children
  • Arranges programs for creating awareness on Intellectual disability and autism
The Angels of ACF
Q2: How did you start this school and when?
To provide them all these facilities through a methodical and affectionate way, we have established a specialized school in a rented house, at Tajmohal Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka with facilities of education through amusement. It has been in operation since 6 th December, 2009.
Cultural Performance in the Bengali New Year

Q3: What influenced you to take up such a big project?
My only daughter is Renita. She was born with Down syndrome. So is to better understand of their disability as well as autism we have initiated some activities related to their needs through Angels Care Foundation. In Bangladesh, there are some special schools but number is not sufficient. Therefore to cope with this problem we have decided to run a school for them.
Renita rendering a song in the Bengali New Year
Q4: How is your school specialized and different from other public institutions?
In our school only special children are studying and receiving different training according to their level of understanding. All the activities in our school is monitored with CC camera, we have monthly scientific presentation, well trained special educators, Daycare facility, Regular Health check up, Music, Dance, Art, Computer, Cooking and Craft training, Cultural and outdoor activities, Free studentship for poor student, 2 exams per year for each student, tri-monthly excursion, regular parents-teacher meeting.
Q5.How long did it take to set up this institution?
As soon as registered with Social welfare ministry of Bangladesh we have started this school on 6 th December, 2009 and initially we have only 4 students and 2 teachers. Presently we have 30 students and 8 special educators in the school.
Craft Projects
Q6: What motivates you to continue this work?
In Bangladesh, the number of intellectually disabled and autistic children is increasing day by day. They suffer from severe problems in speech and physical disorder. Since our general education does not cater for the need of these children and their intelligence is far below the level of normal children, they need special attention and prolonged period of education and training to build up them, as far as possible, capable of leading a self-independent life.
Regular Health check

Another Brave Angel Performing
There is very little number of Schools available for them. Many children are coming from very poor family and they do not get proper schooling due to higher tuition cost. As social responsibilities we have established the school for all the children having those disabilities. In our school we provide free studentship for poor and orphanage children.
Q7. What are the struggles you faced or still face while running this institution?
In Bangladesh these children are not so well accepted in our society. In 2013, our annual expenditure was around 12 lac taka (equivalent to $15,000), covering salary, allowances of teachers, other staffs, rent of school premises, purchasing of teaching materials & equipments including amusement items and training for the teachers.
Visit to the Museum
Q8. What kind of aid or help does your school need at present?
To run such school privately is so difficult. As they are unable to live independently, they require specialized educator, multi therapist like physical, occupational, speech and psychotherapist. To provide these services to them huge monitory support needed which cannot be provided personally. Since the tuition fee cannot cover even 20% of the total expenditure, we need generous contribution from different organizations and persons of the society to support the activities of the school. Presently we also need to buy a student transport van, exercise equipment, books, teaching material etc.
Q9. What is the future plan of this institution?
·         Establish Foundations own complex comprising training and education centre
·         Provide transportation
·         Arrangement of in house doctor available
·         Teachers training at home and abroad
·         Lifelong residential accommodation for the children
·         Provide one-to-one student/teacher ratio
  • Arrange job opportunities for more able adult with ID
Q10. If others wish to help your institution, how and where can they contact you?
Here is the account detail
Name of the account: ANGELS CARE FOUNDATION
Account Number: 148-101-103779
Name of the Bank: DUTCH BANGLA BANK LIMITED, Ring Road Branch
Address: House: 99, Road: 11/A, Mohammadpur, Dhaka- 1209, Bangladesh


Jul 7, 2014

Tanabata Festival

On July 7th every year, the Japanese celebrate “Tanabata” or the “Star Festival”. Translated into English, Tanabata means “The evening of the 7th”.
This celestial festival came to Japan from China and became popular among the Japanese in the Edo era. The actual date of celebration varies slightly from place to place, between July 7th and August 8th. 

Tanabata celebrates the coming together of the two stars “Vega (Ori hime = seamstress) and “Altair (hikoboshi = cow herd).
Legend has it that these two stars are separated by the Milky Way, due to a curse imposed upon them by the angry Sky King (Orihime’s dad), and can only unite once a year on July 7th of the seventh lunar month, provided there are no clouds! Unfortunately, in Okayama, it rained on July 7th this year, so I guess there was no starry reunion! Perhaps the distance will make their hearts grow fonder while they wait impatiently for next year!

Originally, this festival was an opportunity for young boys and girls to wish for “acquiring new skills such as sewing, craft work, handwriting," etc. In present day Japan, the custom in Tanabata is to write ones wishes on small strips of colored paper called Tanzaku,
and hang them on bamboo branches, decorated with ornaments and colorful streamers. Tanabata is now mainly a custom followed by young Japanese women, who wish for that “special person”; an extended opportunity to find their love, in time for next year’s Valentine's Day! 

Although, Tanabata is celebrated nationwide, the biggest and most famous Tanabata Festival in Japan is held in Sendai City, in eastern Japan. Happy Tanabata, my friends!!  
When you wish upon a star, Makes no difference who you are, Anything your heart desires, Will come to you…….

Tanabata Decorations around Okayama City
Tanabata decorations around Okayama City
Tanabata candle light up in Okayama City 2014
Tanabata candle light up in Okayama City 2014
Tanabata decorations in Sendai
Tanabata decorations in Sendai