The last day with the first group of students was an emotional one. Even though I only spent a few short days with them, it was incredible to see their growth and their walls come down. On the last day every single student came running up to me with a huge smile, tears in their eyes and embraced me in the most heart-warming hugs. And you need to keep in mind that hugging is not really a thing here because of how conservative their culture is. So these hugs was such a huge gesture of love, trust and comfort. Each student took time to share why they wanted to become a CHW (community health worker). I had tears in my eyes for the entire time. They shared how little they have in their communities, how people are getting sick all the time with no help available. Hearing how they all feel empowered and equipped now with this huge desire to help their communities makes me feel so proud! They want to go out and teach others what they have learned this week with us. And that’s the goal: to have this be sustainable and multiply all throughout the camps. It was hard saying goodbye. Hard knowing what they are going back to. And hard not knowing if I will ever see them again.
Hearing how they all feel empowered and equipped now with this this huge desire to help their communities makes me feel so proud!
The second week of teaching came and went so fast! I became so attached to the first group of students, I didn’t want to leave them and meet a whole new group. I couldn’t imagine becoming just as attached to a new group….but man, was I wrong. This new group of students blew me away just as much. This group was made up of mostly Christians who have faced a lot of persecution due to their faith. Because of that, and because they are Rohingya refugees who had to sneak out of the camps to get this training, we met in this little village outside of the city. Lowered the risk of them getting caught. This village was extremely basic, we did our teaching in the school which was essentially a tin shed. And once again, these students started out extremely weary and cautious but by the end of the week they were all smiles and hugs and many tearful goodbyes. Probably no surprise here, but I’m already planning my next trip back! It’s incredible to see their heart and passion for helping their community. It’s amazing to come alongside the students and help prepare them anyway so they can do just that.
On our last day in Bangladesh, Cayla and I got the opportunity to go to the refugee camps. We had to go through many police check points, having my purse searched, a lot of questions and skeptical looks but thankfully no real issues. We were just “tourists going to look at the beach”. The Bangladesh government makes it nearly impossible to be allowed to provide any sort of aid to the Rohingya refugees. I’m still processing everything that we saw. It was thousands upon thousands of falling apart tin shacks crammed so tightly together. With garbage piled on all the roofs to provide any sort of protection from the rain. There was zero space or capacity to grow any of their own food, they are not allowed to work or make any kind of income and are not allowed to leave… which means they are completely trapped with very little hope or freedom. Some people are able to find work illegally just to obtain any sort of food for their family (which they have to buy at the market run by Bengali’s) and others are able to get food rations and money from NGOs that are set up. Apparently the NGOs are currently only providing help to 33% of the refugees in these camps…that’s only accounting for the registered refugees, not the thousands of unregistered ones. They are doing what they can, but it is not nearly enough. It’s one thing to keep hearing these stats and reading about it in the paper but to actually see these inhumane conditions in real life is a whole other thing. And on top of that, what makes it a thousand times harder to see is that I now know and love so many people that are currently living in these conditions. The thought of the incredible students who have so much potential in life and have the most generous and loving hearts, these students who are intelligent and funny and weird, the thought that they have to live like this is almost too much to bare. I had tears in my eyes the entire ride through these camps with my heart just breaking for them. This is not how God intended it to be. I’m not sure what the solution is. I’m not sure how to make it better for them. But for now I will choose stay encouraged at the growth I saw in the students and knowing they can move mountains and make such an incredible impact in their communities.