Caritas Bangladesh, relieving the pain of a people, Rohingyas refugees

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 !!!

JRS Chin Refugees, the daily routine of saving lives

In New Delhi we contacted Jesuits Refugees Service (JRS), an NGO started in 1980 that comes from the order of the Jesuits. They have been dedicated for decades to the attention of vulnerable people, the result of armed conflict or natural disaster, sometimes running many risks. Above all, they are dedicated to assisting people in refugee or displaced camps throughout the world, to assure them a life as dignified as possible, to defend their rights in the countries where they are refugees and to implement development programs for individuals and communities so that they can re-enter society as soon as possible.

  

JRS covers several areas of attention. They work in education, personal and professional development, economic development programs, health, psychological support, functional diversity centers, emergency assistance, nutrition, and also provide legal and human rights assistance. With 1400 workers, not counting the refugees who train to be teachers, they have helped millions of people around the world, in 60 countries … almost nothing … from the first moment we were surprised by the incredible social and help work what they do, giving hope to thousands of people around the world …

We had already worked indirectly with them in Myitkyina, through Sister Rose Mary of the Sisters of Jesus. We sent an email and we did not take long to receive an answer, Father Stan, director of JRS India, summoned us to speak with us. He suggested that we take a workshop for Myanmar refugees from the Chin ethnic group in Delhi. We accept without hesitation, and agree that it could be the following Monday. In Delhi there are about 2000 refugees of the Myanmar Chin ethnic group, one of the 7 most important ethnic groups in this country.

Chin is one of the 7 ethnic states of Myanmar. It is considered the poorest region with a poverty rate of 73%. 50% of the economic activity in this state is agrarian. In 1962 General Ne Win gave a coup in Myanmar and has ruled the country for 26 years. During this period the government carried out a birmanization of the country for various interests, persecuting all ethnic groups other than Burmese. The Chin ethnic group has been escaping to the Indian state of Mizoram, bordering the Chin state, where they are not recognized as citizens. More than 12,000 of these refugees moved to Delhi, a large city where finding a decent job can be an impossible task.

So the following Monday we went to the place where we had been quoted, a JRS development center where the Chin refugees learn English, basic informatics, sewing, and other activities to give work to people from the refugee camp. We remind that the main objective of a refugee camp is its disappearance, due to the reintegration of its people in a society without violence and that allows them a normal development. However, there are many refugee camps that have been in operation for decades. For this reason, JRS provides resources for personal and professional development, to enable them to earn a living independently.

At the development center we prepared what we had been asked for, a relaxed and fun workshop for the women who attend there … that is, a Clown workshop! Hahaha … We greet Steffi, Jovin and Morning, part of the JRS staff. We entered the room, and there they were, all women. A group of about 20 women between the ages of 20 and 60, sitting on the floor, some with children around their necks. They had no idea what we were going to do, their faces were of extreme shyness !!!! hahahaha … no problem, that’s normal … Hands to work!

We started with warm-up, fun, all motivated and willing, laughing at the sight of their partners. At first it was noticeable that they were not very trained in attention exercises, but little by little the concentration was increasing, getting them to give everything … The timid ones were very shy !!! hahaha … but others pulled the car dragging the group. There was a sense of community, of support among them, and it was evident that they went to the development center to learn.

Among laughter they motivated each other and challenged each other, pushed each other out and laughed together with each other … The improvisation exercises went very well. They were very funny with the nose of clown … that cute … at first they were all super tense, but little by little they relaxed and allowed themselves to enjoy the moment, laughing and commenting, amazed that they could be acting in front of a public …

We all parted with laughter, it was really fun and tender to see them there, enjoying as little girls, offering generously to their companions those scenes of their lives …

It was a great experience, they made a great effort, we had taken them far away from their comfort zone, and they had responded very very well, with value and understanding the proposal perfectly, two very important values to take a step forward, to be willing to enter a society very different from yours … We wish you the best of heart, you have everything for to get it!!!!