Reaching families after a cyclone hits
28 June 2019
Meet Jamal – agriculture expert
Jamal works with families in southern Bangladesh. He knows what it's like to be caught up in a cyclone and what to do when a family's crops are destroyed. And – crucially – he can reach people living in the most remote, inaccessible places.
What's the best thing about your job?
Jamal: When I say, 'Hey sister, how are you?', the women smile and respond. We call each other 'sister', 'brother'. We are Hindu, Christian, Muslim and we are all equals. I love my work.
What's life like here?
Jamal: People make money through fishing, farming and construction. Sometimes families have food, sometimes they don't. Many live on their daily earnings. If there's no work, they have to borrow from friends or take out loans.
How easy is it to get around?
Jamal: It's a coastal area with lots of rivers. We don't have many good roads. Some villages are completely detached and isolated. We get frequent weather warnings for cyclones and storms. You never know what's going to happen.
What's it like to be caught in a cyclone?
Jamal: During Cyclone Mahasen in 2013, my wife and baby were in a shelter over the river. My mum begged me not to go, but I went anyway. I cried as I walked along the road, leaning forward against the gale. But the storm had washed the ferry downstream and I couldn't get across. It was terrifying.
What do you do after a cyclone hits?
Jamal: We assess the damage and people's need. After Cyclone Mahasen, 150 homes were destroyed. We gave out polythene sheets and money so families could buy bamboo and ropes to make a shelter. Some of the community helped us rebuild roads and got cash for their work.
How are you helping local people make money?
Jamal: We teach 'integrated' farming, where families have crops, livestock and fisheries. It's safer than having one source of income. We've built embankments and dams to stop salt water flooding onto people's land. We also have a mobile training school. So far, we've trained 16 mechanics and 24 dress-makers.
Thank you for your donations
Your generous donations to our Lent appeal mean that our local experts like Jamal can help those who need it most. He's part of our Church network with a local presence in 165 countries worldwide.
Thank you for helping us get closer to a world where no one is beyond reach of the love and care they need.
That's the power of the Catholic network. That's the difference you make.
This story originally appeared in the spring issue of Side by Side magazine.