The following collaboration was very special for us, not only it returned us to the field work and it meant collaborating with a new organization, but it was also for people who are now in a critical situation. This is the Rohingya refugees, expelled / escaped from Myanmar by the bloodthirsty repression suffered by the country’s military.
The Rohingya people are an ethnic group of Muslim religion living in the state of Rakhine, called Arkan by the Rohingyas, in Myanmar. Its antiquity in those lands is one of the main disputes between the Rohingyas and the government of Myanmar. Today the number of refugees amounts to 1.2 million people, crammed into very basic conditions, living in tents, without any internal security control, with a growing dominance of mafias and without the possibility of any solution or hope to short term.
In addition, the reluctance of the Bangladeshi government to invest in these fields and create a minimum infrastructure, with the idea of ensuring that these refugees are only temporarily and do not settle on these lands permanently. Nor do they allow schools to be created, which is why Caritas has created Child Friendly Spaces (CFS).
These spaces provide a safe place where children, 60% of all refugees, can be safe and have minimal development, learn basic hygiene, eat properly and can develop minimally through complementary education.
Our collaboration was through the Jesuits Refugee Service (JRS) that operated through Caritas, so for practical purposes our work directly reported to the staff and facilitators of Caritas Bangladesh. Caritas is a huge international social service organization started in 1897 that is dedicated to providing worldwide support for the defense of the poor and disadvantaged.
We flew from Barcelona, for about 14 hours. Once in Bangladesh, and after endless passport checks, we met our contact, Mr. Shishir, one of the Caritas managers in Dhaka, the capital of the country. With him we were visiting the surroundings of Dhaka to take a domestic plane to Cox’s Bazar, where we would carry out the workshop.
The organization of Caritas Bangladesh had everything ready. We were housed in a hotel and the workshop would take place in the conference room. Everything was ready so that the next day we would start 7 hours a day of workshop during the following 5 days.
At 5 minutes by 8:30 we were all in the workshop room, observing each other, curious, eager to start. You could see in the face the intrigue …: what is done in a Clown workshop …? Hahahahaha … shortly you were going to discover it!
We gave the start bell and Mr. Shishir was responsible for initiating the presentations … what nerves! We really wanted to start, to share together the following days of intense work, mutual knowledge, effort and a lot of truth.
In total there were 26 people, half Caritas staff, some senior and others junior, and the other half were facilitators, all women, who would be responsible for teaching CFS in the refugee camps.
At first the atmosphere was a bit more rigid, of shyness, there were some cultural barriers that we had to overcome, it was difficult to get used to our way of doing things, taking care of and looking for your own opinion, your own expression and each of them.
The facilitating girls, Muslim majority, at first cost them to integrate the exercises to their schemes, I do not blame them, jejejeje … but little by little we all merged into a fantastic and wonderful group of expression and play, learning and experimentation.
The dynamics raised more and more volunteers. Those and those who at first looked down to ask for collaboration, now shone their eyes with emotion, the need to say their opinion, to share with all of us the essence that they had inside. In the common bond: all for the children and learning to offer more, we all immerse ourselves in this trip that lasted 5 days.
And this feeling was palpable, the final opinions, the recognitions, the expressions of gratitude of the group left us on the verge of tears. Our different way of dealing with the concepts surprised them greatly, they told us that they had not been bored for a single moment, that the treatment of the concepts had been so simple, very clear … This is the prize for what we do … Happy people !!!
Through our technique, from us, leaving a memory and knowledge that will now reach the Rohingyas, their children, to a part of the world that needs to laugh and express, are limits or barriers, so we can say that the voice of the world is also yours.
After this experience, intense, emotional, with images that we will not forget, with looks, gestures, laughs and smiles that remain engraved on us forever … Good luck in your incredible mission, we will see each other again, without a doubt …
From Cox’s Bazar we fly to Dhaka to catch another plane to Chennai, India, where the next collaboration awaits us … Let’s go !!!