In 1972, Allan Cheyne came to newly liberated Bangladesh as an employee of Save the Children Fund US to look after some development work. Then he worked as a field coordinator of the organization at Satkhira. His work demanded that he would make journeys to and fro Dhaka and Satkhira and during these travels, he sighted many homeless children detached from their families. These out of school children of 10 to 12 years had to work under severe hardships just to live on. For them, no public or non-governmental initiative or planning was in place then. This experience prompted him to do ‘something’ for these floating children. With that urge and dream within him to ‘do something’ are connected today some thousands or lakhs of people. From the seeds of his dream came out the blossoms which are now grown together into something like a large tree with branches spread to countless acres. And that lofty tree has acquired a brand name- UCEP Bangladesh.
Cheyne wanted that these children should have also access to education while they work. And their rights must be ensured so that they can get some decent jobs in future. But as a foreign national coming over to Bangladesh, a land simply turned into ashes through a war, the task was too big for him at the individual level.
In 1972, Ahmadullah Miah, an assistant professor of the Institute of Social Welfare and Research, University of Dacca conducted a research work on the working children in Dhaka and published his study titled Child Labour in Dacca City. Cheyne read the report and felt particularly attracted to its contents. Prompted by it, he developed a project plan that included basic education for children coupled with hands-on training. He submitted a proposal to Save the Children Fund with a request for funding to help out the floating children. But regrettably, Save Children Fund did not respond positively. Then Cheyne decided to realize his dream program out of his own purse. Driven by this thought, he left Save the Children Fund, came back to Dhaka and joined Terre des Hommes, the Netherlands.
One needs a livelihood to live on. Such a necessity chained Cheyne to a job. However, the intense urge deep within him to do ‘something’ for the working children of Dhaka perpetually monopolized his within. So, to translate that urge into reality in the face of various odds and difficulties, he finally succeeded to establish Underprivileged Children Education Program: UCEP. This was a dream that did not allow him to take rest. But with the inception of UCEP’s activities in 1973, he did not look back. The program started rolling and growing in diverse dimensions. The poor working children occupied the center of all his attention. He took care of all aspects of their life: food for the hungry, outfit for those who had none, healthcare for those who were in need of that, boarding facilities, physical exercises for fitness and recreation. The next chapter briefly describes these humanitarian involvements of Cheyne.
However, as Cheyne’s initiatives earned a positive boost up and UCEP, as an organization was getting consolidated and its activities showing signs to grow luxuriantly at its own address at Mirpur, a tragic shock brought in the quake of a bolt from the blue. Lindsay Allan Cheyne, the great empathizer of children, the idol of development, the visionary and the great humanist left this mortal world on September 15, 1986. A massive cardiac attack took him away from us. His untimely death at 55 put UCEP to a deep crisis. But the organization experienced its resurrection. It became possible with the assistance, dedicated initiative and workforce of the Government, overseas donors as well as national entities and some of the enterprising persons. Even today, UCEP Bangladesh reflects the passion to realize Cheyne’s dream in all its activities. His dream, his life and work still inspire us and drive us to move ahead.