At the end of summer, in August, the news headlines were heavily featured with the Rohingya crisis which has seen at least 500,00 Rohingya flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. Although the crisis has intensified in recent months, the targeted, sometimes violent, discrimination of this minority group is anything but new.
With many babies and children without families and food, this week The Sreepur Village has travelled down to the South with supplies, which may seem a small gesture in such a grand scale crisis, but as a humanitarian charity we know that every little bit counts and we will do anything if it means helping to save lives, and provide comfort, food, warmth and shelter to those in need.
Today, our team drove from Cox's Bazaar to Teknaf and about an hour out of Cox’s Bazaar you started to see the signs from the various NGO's that have set up offices to help the refugees. There were lorries with sacks of food being distributed to a long and patient line of people and here, the health clinics and all of the large organisations had a distinct presence. Initially you saw the camps that were established in the 1990's and families sitting by the road but then, as you got closer, you started to see vast complexes of polythene sheet tents.
By the road mouldered clothes, that were donated with the best of intentions but are not suitable for the Rohinga people, stacked up in unsightly piles. Most Rohinga women wear a burka and it was good to see a focus on feeding centres for women and children. Those who have been here some time have, at least, the shelter of a plastic tent. Newer arrivals sat in groups or with their families beside the road sometimes with an umbrella to give them shelter from the rain or sun.
We spent some time in a large area of tents talking to the army. With such huge numbers, the army were supporting the organisations by helping to organise the distribution of food and a meal for the children - they brought order and efficiency to chaos. Tomorrow they will help make sure that our baby formula gets to the most needy.
Driving away from our hotel to get mobile phone coverage we parked then to meet two women from Myanmar - Yasmin and Farhada - both of whom had lost their husbands, killed by the army in Myanmar. We were fortunate to hear their stories which we will share with you another day.
Until Monday, we were unable to admit any new families to The Sreepur Village, but as identified cases of the virus are increasing daily, we are now able to safely admit some impoverished families who are in desperate need of shelter, food and care.
As Small Charities and Volunteers’ Week both fall in June, one of our long-standing supporters, Andy Bennett, has kindly offered to share with us her experiences with The Sreepur Village charity from the initial concept in the 1980’s to the current village today, which helps keep together 150 impoverished mothers and their 300 children, empowering families with hope for a brighter future: