The children who live in Robindra Shorbod, a small park in Dhaka, Bangladesh, are some of the country’s poorest. Some are orphans, and some are children of families in extreme poverty. They have few material possessions beyond the clothes on their back, and they collect discarded plastic containers for pennies here and there.
Despite the daily hardships they face, Australian photographer and documentarian Sam Edmonds says these children embody selflessness and compassion and could teach us all a valuable lesson about caring for beings other than ourselves. The park where the children live is frequented by stray dogs, which the Robindra children have taken it upon themselves to adopt and care for. The relationship between canine and child is incredibly “inspiring,” Edmonds says.
“In one of the largest and most population-dense cities in the world, both the [children] and the dogs are perhaps the most susceptible to go unnoticed and to struggle the most for survival,” Edmonds said in an email to The Huffington Post. “The dogs literally just wander into the park from the street and never really leave. The kids give them companionship, food and warmth and the dogs reciprocate.”
The children and their dogs spend practically all their time together, Edmonds says. What little sustenance the kids can buy or scavenge for themselves, they willingly share with their animals. In turn, the dogs offer their unconditional love and protection. These are “mutually beneficial” relationships, Edmonds said, “because like any family they are all members of a tight-knit group and they really rely on one another.”
In his artist statement for this photo series, entitled “Robindra Boys,” Edmonds said that these portraits reflect “the ability of these kids, so socioeconomically deprived, to shine as an exemplar of companionship between these two species. In a corner of the globe seen by most as the last place for animal rights consciousness, these kids show that the expanding circle of empathy is universal across economic and sociopolitical divides.”
Edmonds, who in recent years has focused his work on animal rights and conservation, said that in a world where animals are often treated with cruelty and indifference, the Robindra children are outstanding – though perhaps unlikely – ambassadors of animal rights. “In the West, a lot of animals are treated very poorly and even canines, the species we label ‘man’s best friend’ are often treated like commodities in a world of breeding and selling 'designer dogs’ and discarding our companions when they aren’t wanted anymore,” he told the HuffPost. “It is tempting to surmise the [children’s] and dogs’ companionship as a function of survival, but at the same time they demonstrate such an advanced version of the way people can treat animals.”