"This shelter is my treasure. Now we can live in peace"
23 November 2020
Saba and her children live in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. They were forced to leave their home in Myanmar three years ago to escape horrific violence – violence targeted at them because of their ethnicity.
“We were being persecuted in Myanmar,” she said. “All the time, we were tortured. Women were raped, our houses burnt. We did not even have food for survival.”
Then Saba’s husband disappeared. He was abducted by an unknown group. That was when Saba knew she and her family had to leave. She had to get her children to safety. They fled in secret, travelling on foot through the jungle for days.
Thankfully, when the family arrived at the camp, exhausted from their harrowing journey, local experts from our church network were there to help.
Providing safe shelter in times of need
“When the Rohingya people first arrived at the camp in Bangladesh from Myanmar, it was totally an adverse place for living,” says Nazmul Hosein, a local shelter and campsite improvement expert working for Caritas Bangladesh. “They had to suffer a lot to adapt in this uninhabitable place. Gradually, we have been able to improve the circumstances.”
One of the most important aspects of Nazmul’s work is ensuring that everyone living in the camp has a safe place to live. He and his team are responsible for distributing shelter kits: handy packs of materials such as bamboo, tarpaulin, rope, sandbags, and metal footings – all the essential ingredients for a sturdy, safe home.
This work is more crucial now than ever, as coronavirus has made life more difficult for people in the camp. Metre for metre, the site is 10 times as crowded as London, so the only way to stay safe and to socially distance is to stay inside. The pandemic has only made having a place of your own to shelter in all the more vital. But it has also made Nazmul’s work more difficult – meetings with the community have had to be cancelled, and it has been more difficult to safely distribute shelter kits to those that need them.
Despite these challenges, Nazmul is determined to keep doing what he can to help people.
“Behind this job, humanitarian values are what drive me most. For example – I can say, I am a human being. They are the same, human beings like me.
“Recently, after arriving at the camp, an elderly woman met me and told me that her shelter had been damaged due to the last night’s rain. I took it to be a simple problem as we receive such issues a lot during monsoon. But when I reached her shelter I found it very badly damaged.
“Instantly, I took prompt action. I ensured labour with the adequate shelter kits to make the shelter as good as new by that afternoon. In the afternoon, the elderly mother’s happiness knew no bounds when she saw a strong new house for her to live in.
“This memory touches me whenever I think of it and I feel good inside.”
Your support this Advent could help families like Saba's get the comfort and joy of a place to call home
With the shelter kit Saba received, she was able to build a home for her family to live in – a place where they could finally feel safe.
“This shelter is my treasure,” she says. “Now we can live in peace. I feel peace when I am reminded of Caritas and its people who have been helping us continuously. Thank you CAFOD, for your support.”