People risk their lives on a daily basis crossing the Basia River on a cobbled-together bridge of bamboo sticks between two villages in rural north east Bangladesh.

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A woman in her 90s died there last year because a doctor, who wanted to help her, could not risk crossing the bridge at around midnight one night when she fell ill.

Now her grandson, Mujibur Rahman, who lives in Fakenham, wants to ensure that others don’t suffer a similar fate.

This week, Mr Rahman is beginning an ambitious project to raise about £100,000 to enable a concrete bridge to be built there.

He said the bridge, which would connect the villages of Konaraibazar and Khaighatbazar in the Syhlet region, would greatly improve the lives of thousands of people.

Mr Rahman said: “We take some simple things for granted here. But over there if parents want their children to go to school they have to cross that dangerous bridge.

“People will risk carrying heavy items over there as they work to feed their families.

“The river is very unhygienic and people who can’t swim are risking their lives every time they cross it. It’s particularly dangerous for elderly people and children.

“There are boats that go over the river but many people can’t afford to use them. And in the rainy season it can be impossible to use the bridge.”

Mr Rahman, known in Fakenham as Diego due to his love of football and his admiration of the Argentine football legend Diego Maradona, said building the new bridge would benefit people from approximately 50 villages.

He has spoken to an architect in Bangladesh and had plans for the bridge drawn up.

He has had the cost estimated to between £90,000 and £110,000.

Mr Rahman said: “It is a lot cheaper than it would be over here because our money goes so much further in Bangladesh.

“Building that bridge would make a massive difference.

“Farmers in the area could use it to take their cattle to their fields to draw their ploughs. This would help their chances of making a good living from the land, which would improve the local markets and the area’s entire economy.

“Children could go to school easily and people could get better access to doctors so they don’t have to suffer in the way that my grandmother did.”

Mr Rahman, 41, who owns the restaurant Fakenham Tandoori, lived in Bangladesh for the first six years of his life.

He then moved to England, living firstly in Birmingham before moving to Fakenham more than 20 years ago. He is well-known in the town for his voluntary work which ranges from running a community football team to collecting medicines for elderly people.

He ran the Olympic torch through Fakenham last year and in 2010 was named Community Hero of the Year in a North Norfolk District Council awards scheme. In the week leading up to his participation in the Olympic torch relay, two other Bangladesh-based relatives, an aunt and a grandmother, died.

Mr Rahman said: “On the day of the torch relay I was very emotional. I had to hold back the tears and stay positive.

“It was a great honour to be selected and I didn’t want to let anyone down.

“The support that came out in Fakenham on that day was phenomenal and that gives me hope with the bridge project because I will really need everyone’s support.

“I will work with groups like Kick Start Fakenham and First Focus. First Focus has been a big help already in setting up a website for me.

“I will look to possibly organise some charity football matches and to do lots of other things.

“I want to get schools involved and as many people as possible organising fund-raising events and doing what they can.

“I will also be visiting Bangladeshi communities around the UK and asking for support. It is a lot of money to raise but once I start something I don’t give up.

“I am doing this in memory of my three relatives who died and particularly my grandmother who couldn’t see the doctor because her death was directly the result of there not being a proper bridge in place.

“I believe if we all work together we can make this happen.”

The website, www.diegosbridge.com, giving more details about the project, is due to go live on January 18. You can donate by sending money to a specially-created bank account, which has the account number 93131920, sort code 203081, and name ‘Help Our World.’ Alternatively, you can call Mr Rahman on 07957 153645.

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