He could have lived his life like others in his own country, New Zealand, but Lindsay Allan Cheyne thought differently and decided to dedicate his life for the welfare of the children of Bangladesh. His endeavors made him a true friend of Bangladesh. He proved that friendship knows no nationality, race or background.
Today, the non-government organization founded by Cheyne, UCEP (Underprivileged Children's Educational Programmes) Bangladesh, is one of the best education and technical training providers serving underprivileged children and youth who either did not enroll in school or dropped out before completing their primary education.
Cheyne came to Bangladesh on a British relief mission after a tornado devastated the country in 1970. In 1971, the Liberation War broke out. The plight of the affected children had a significant impact on him and he decided to do something to help.
Cheyne decided to quit his job and stay in Bangladesh. He developed the project “UCEP” in 1972 aiming to provide basic education and training of working children but could not find donors for the project. But he was determined, so he initiated the project with his own savings, involving 60 working children.
He reached out to Dhaka University's social welfare department, who permitted Cheyne to use the corridor and three of its classrooms in the evening. In the 1970s, Cheyne lost his family -- wife and two sons -- in an accident. It is believed that the grief and emotional void motivated him to work for the distressed children. Cheyne reached out to various donors and travelled to different countries with some of his students for raising funds. By the end of 1974, he was able to mobilize some external support and eventually set up one hostel and several schools. Students and staffs of UCEP Bangladesh believe that Cheyne was not just a teacher; he was a friend, mentor and guardian.
Ramiz Uddin, one of those 60 students remembers him with gratitude “We used to polish shoes or sell peanuts on the road for a living. Cheyne managed to convince some of us to join his evening classes after work. Back in 1972, there was a dormitory in Segunbagicha where I lived with other underprivileged children”.
"One day, I was burning up with fever and developed blisters. All I can remember is that I closed my eyes in pain, at the dormitory. When I opened them at night, I found myself in Cheyne's Dhanmondi residence. He cleaned my blisters and nursed me until I got better," he added.
Simplicity, hope and love for mankind -- Cheyne had them in abundance. He often arranged food for street children," said another student Abul Hashem, a readymade garment factory owner. This great human being was born in Wellington, New Zealand on November 3, 1931.