What You Need to Know About the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

Noor, a young mom, gave birth on the run. A month later, her malnourished body cannot produce milk to feed her baby. Every day Abu, her baby, grows weaker. She tries to crush rice and mix it with water, but it’s not enough. Her other five children run around and drink from contaminated ponds. If Noor isn’t eating, her children aren’t either. 

Banu and her two children sleep in the town’s chicken coop, cramped between 30 other refugees. With no money to buy shelter materials, they have no other option. Banu’s one year-old is sick, but she cannot buy the medicine he needs.

rohingya refugee crisis camp
A refugee camp with makeshift shelters for families                                                          Photo courtesy of Medair

Conditions in the Rohingya refugee camps are dismal, with hundreds of thousands in need of help.  Families are without the necessities to live, with thousands more flooding in each day.

We are doing what we can for the Rohingya, but without increasing help from the international community, this is now the largest refugee crisis in the world.

World Concern is responding, but needs support in order to reach the Rohingya refugees in greatest need.

What is the Rohingya Refugee Crisis?

An ethnic group of about 1 million, the Rohingya people have lived in the Rakhine state of Myanmar for centuries.

Over the past few decades, the Rohingya began to suffer increasing persecution and violence. Without the ability to own land and seen as “illegal,” the Rohingya have little to no rights in Myanmar. At the end of August the violence escalated after a police and army base were attacked. Violence ensued, and families fled their homes in search of safety.

This mass exodus creates an enormous problem, as Bangladesh does not have enough support or resources to help this many people.

What’s Happening in the Rohingya Refugee Camps?

Lala is very thin, and very pregnant. Standing under three sticks of bamboo held together with twine, a team member asked, “When was the last time you had something to eat?” She responded, “Someone gave me a biscuit 24 hours ago.”

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A Rohingya refugee mother with her starving baby                       Photo courtesy of Medair

Forced to flee with barely their lives, families have nothing. No food, clothes, shelter, or the ability to take care of themselves.

Temporary hospitals overflow with refugees suffering diarrhea, skin diseases, and gruesome wounds suffered during their escape.  Latrines are rare, adding to the already high risk of spreading deadly diseases. Families drink, wash, and bathe in ravines flowing with polluted water. Reports of trauma and shock are common, most all refugees having lost a family member or friend to violence.

“Three weeks ago, I had a husband and four children. Today, I have two children . . . my husband was decapitated. My house was burnt to the ground. While fleeing, I lost two of my children. I say I lost them because suddenly they were nowhere to be seen. I do not know if they are dead or alive.” – Selima, age 27.

rohingya refugee family
Selima and one of her surviving children                                     Photo courtesy of Medair

It’s difficult to reach families that live deep within the camps to provide emergency services and healthcare. With the sudden rush of refugees, official camps were not enough to house everyone, so makeshift camps sprung up along the border. The lack of planning, overcrowding, and poor hygiene make for a despairing situation for families in the camps.

Currently, the greatest needs in the camps on the Bangladesh – Myanmar border are:

  • Clean water and food
  • Sanitation
  • Permanent shelters
  • Safety for women

What is World Concern Doing in Bangladesh?

The World Concern team and our partners are providing hygiene kits and shelter materials to newly displaced families. As we’re able, we’ll reach more families and meet additional critical needs.

It is our mission to go to the hardest places, to serve the most marginalized populations, and to reach those who have yet to be reached. Rohingya refugee mothers and children are waiting, their hope and strength fading, for someone to come to their rescue.

If you would like to be part of the solution for Rohingya families, visit the World Concern website to learn more and give to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Can a goat really change a life?

Give a goat, change a life. If you’re anything like me, you may be asking yourself, How does that work? This time of year, we talk a lot about goats and the impact they can have on a person’s life; especially those living in extreme poverty in places like Haiti and Southeast Asia.

You can give the gift of a goat to a child in places like Haiti can earn a stable income and provide opportunities for kids to go to school and save for the future.
A single goat given to a child in places like Haiti provides nutritious milk and a stable income.

Maybe you’ve seen our photos of cute kids from around the world with their goats playfully draped around their necks and maybe you’ve even given the gift of a goat to someone in need, but have you ever wondered if and how a goat can really change a life?

For me, it wasn’t until I heard Khuki’s story that I began to understand…

Khuki is among the poorest of the poor in her low caste community in Bangladesh. For her, every single day is a struggle. Growing up, she barely had enough food to eat or a shelter to sleep under, let alone the opportunity to go to school. Life after childhood only became more difficult for Khuki.

Like many young girls whose parents can’t afford to care for their children anymore, Khuki was married off by the time she just 15 years old. Five years and almost three children later, Khuki’s husband began abusing her and eventually left Khuki for another woman. Unfortunately, this situation is not uncommon for many women like Khuki, who end up alone, rejected and without any hope in a country that does not typically value women.

Pregnant with her third child and fearful that her two daughters would starve, Khuki had no other option but to go door-to-door begging her neighbors for help. Khuki had reached the end of her rope.

Soon after her son was born, she heard about World Concern’s micro-credit program for the poorest women in her community. She learned how something as simple as a goat given to women just like her —widows, the poor, the hungry and the uneducated—can help give them a second chance. This was the opportunity that Khuki needed to get her life back on track.

A single goat gave Khuki the start that she needed to support her family and gain a sense of dignity.
A single goat gave Khuki the start that she needed to support her family and gain a sense of dignity.

Before she knew it, Khuki finally had a stable source of income. She was now the proud mother of three children and one kid goat. Khuki began selling the goat’s milk, allowing her to earn a stable income, save money, and eventually purchase more goats. For the first time in her life, Khuki is able to provide for herself and her family. More than that, she now has a sense of worth and dignity that she has never known before.

the gift of a goat to a woman like Khuki enabled her to build a house for her and her three children.
A single goat multiplies and people like Khuki can earn even more income from the offspring of their goat gift.

“I understand the importance of education and sending my children to school,” Khuki explains, “…the support has opened new doors for me and my family.”

In fact, recently, Khuki has been able to build a small home for her and her children to live in, something she never before would have thought possible. And to think, it all started with a goat!

Now through midnight tonight, Tuesday, November 28th, your gift will multiply when you give a goat to someone just like Khuki, changing not one but two lives this Christmas season!

Students before brides – how scholarships are changing girls’ lives in Bangladesh

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

The country of Bangladesh—with more than one-quarter of it’s population living on less than $2/day—can be a difficult place to grow up. But 11-year-old Dina is a light to her destitute homeland.

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11-year-old Dina was on the path towards child marriage before getting a scholarship.

Dina was born into a very poor family in a rural community and until recently, her life was going down a seemingly dismal path. Like most young girls in her community who spend their days working for their families—cooking, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of younger siblings—Dina was soon to be married.

Married… at 11-years-old. 

Unable to afford to send Dina to school or support her at all, her father was prepared to make an agreement with another family and sell his daughter off to marry a much older man. By God’s grace, however, Dina’s story took a drastic turn. One day, a local teacher visited Dina’s neighborhood. When he first saw Dina, he felt bad for the thin young girl in tattered clothes that stood before him. “But as we talked,” the teacher explains about first interacting with Dina, “I was so impressed by her and her dreams.”

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Educating girls in places like Bangladesh drastically reduces the likelihood of them becoming child brides and teenage mothers.

After talking with Dina and later meeting with her parents and telling them about an opportunity for her to attend school on a paid scholarship through World Concern, the teacher was able to re-direct Dina’s path completely.

Today, Dina is the top student in her fourth grade class. “Without your assistance, it was not possible for us to send Dina to school and lead her on a track of development to a brighter future,” Dina’s parents explain.

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Ultra poor women like Faranza are becoming empowered through their involvement in micro-credit programs in Bangladesh.

Families around Bangladesh are learning about the importance of sending their children to school. In a male-dominated society that does not traditionally support education for girls, this is a vital step in the right direction. In the past month alone, 60 new households heard about the scholarship program for the first time and 92 sponsored students had their tuition and exam fees paid for. As a direct result, there has been an increase in overall school attendance as well as major improvements in the way that parents are prioritizing and taking better care of their daughters.

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As parents are seeing the impact of education on their children’s lives, they too are becoming motivated to learn and improve their own lives. For women like Dina’s mom, this means getting involved in a women’s micro-credit group. These groups allow women to work together and save money as well as invest in their own small businesses. Not only does this directly impact their economic stability, but it empowers them to stand up for their rights and learn new skills such as how to read and write. In one community this month, advocacy and counselling sessions helped prevent a divorce and two child marriages!

“World Concern showed me the light in my life,” Dina explains, “Otherwise I would grow up as an illiterate woman…in the future I want to be a teacher and teach the poor children in my community.”

To help more girls like Dina become lights in their communities, you can provide a scholarship for $50 and send a girl to school today!

 

Smiling All The Way To School

The high-school scholarships are arriving in Bangladesh, and girls are grinning from ear to ear.

A small team of our staff recently visited a handful of Bangladeshi villages, and got to see first-hand how your gifts are not only making a difference, but bringing smiles to young faces.

We met some remarkable girls who, after bravely sharing their fears of becoming child brides, couldn’t stop thanking you for giving them a one-year scholarship to stay in school.

For many girls living here (some as young as 10), child marriage is a terrible reality, and one that won’t seem to go away. It’s a generational problem that’s fueled by warped cultural beliefs and choking poverty; the effects of which see desperate parents marry their daughters off to alleviate the financial burden of care. So when 16-year-old Happy learned that her father had plans to marry her off, she threw herself at his feet and begged him to change his mind. It’s heartbreaking to know that girls like Happy are losing their childhoods and being placed in danger, largely because their parents see no way out.

For Happy, a scholarship means she can stay in school and avoid child marriage.
For Happy, a $50 high-school scholarship means she can stay in school and avoid child marriage.

The solution is education, and girls like Happy rely on the generosity of people like you to help make it happen. The more time we spent with Happy, the more we realized what a scholarship gift really meant. She (like every other girl we met) cried tears of joy and relief knowing that she could now attend school and avoid child marriage.

“Without this scholarship, I would already be married,” shares 15-year-old Dipa, who wants to become a doctor when she’s older. Dipa has such a heart for learning that it’s hard to imagine her not in a classroom, let alone bound to a complete stranger. But like Happy, getting married was a fear that Dipa lived with daily until her sister did something unthinkable.

When Dipa was just 13, her sister volunteered herself to live as a stranger’s wife to save Dipa and give her the chance to stay in school. “I was sad and I felt lonely when my sister got married and left,” explains Dipa. “She didn’t want to get married, but she knew if she did it would take the pressure off me,”

But as Dipa grew older, the risk of her being married off returned, as did her fears. So when your one-year scholarship arrived, Dipa couldn’t stop smiling!

Dipa's mother was a child bride, and her sister, but this scholarship has broken the chains and given her hope.
Dipa’s mother was a child bride, and her sister, but this scholarship has broken the chains and given her (and others like her) a reason to smile.

She feels safe for the first time in years and now has the confidence to finish school and chase her dreams—maybe even one day marry the man that God has intended.

In the rural villages of Bangladesh, girls like Dipa and Happy are smiling once again thanks to you.

Living in fear of child marriage

I sat down on the steps of a small rural high school in Brahmanbaria, Bangladesh, expectantly waiting to talk with some of the girls who have received scholarships from World Concern. Dressed in her blue and white uniform, 16-year-old Rima sat down next to me. I started asking questions about school – what she enjoys studying and her future plans.

With her first words, tears spilled down her cheeks. Staring off into the distance and weeping, she told me that from the time she was 14, her father has been trying to marry her off.

Rima lives in constant fear of being married off to an older man.
Rima lives in constant fear of being married off to an older man.

“My father works as a guard at the hospital. He works all night, but only earns 4,000 taka ($52) per month,” Rima explained through her tears.

The oldest of four children, Rima carries an emotional burden for the constant struggle her family experiences living in such poverty.

“We don’t eat well,” she said.

“My father keeps telling my mom, ‘I am only earning so little, how can I afford to pay for education? I want to get Rima married,’ but my mom says, ‘No, no, no, she must go to school.’”

“My dad says, ‘There is no use of her studies because she is going to get married anyway and go to the house of her husband and she will end up washing dishes in the kitchen…’”

Rima’s mother was married to her father at just 13. She knows the reality of being a child bride and bearing children far too young. She wants Rima to have a better life than she’s had.

“My mom is preventing him from marrying me off,” Rima said. “I don’t want to get married, but my dad keeps telling me, ‘If you left, then I would be able to take care of my other children better.’”

In Bangladeshi culture—especially amongst the poorest people—it is common for girls as young as 10 or 12 years to be married off to men in their thirties or forties.

Rima is at such a tender age. She dreams of finishing high school, going to college, and becoming a teacher one day.

“I want to be a teacher and teach poor children in my area, free of cost,” she said.

Rima dreams of finishing school and becoming a teacher so she can teach children from poor families like hers.
Rima dreams of finishing school and becoming a teacher so she can teach children from poor families like hers.

But instead of dreaming about her future, she lives under the constant threat of being sent to live with a man she doesn’t even know. Some of her friends have already gotten married. And some already have babies.

“Please don’t cross my name off the [scholarship] list,” she pleaded. “If World Concern didn’t help us, I would have gotten married a long time ago, and my life would have been in the darkness.”

No adolescent girl should have to live in fear of being forced to get married. An educated girl is six times less likely to be married off during her teen years. You can provide a scholarship for a girl like Rima for an entire year for just $50 and change her future.

An Educated Way To Stop Child Marriage

When Karima was just 8 years-old, her father left. And she took it hard.

She had not lived a day without him by her side.  This man had protected her, and worked to keep her in school.  So when he abandoned her mother and two sisters, Karima’s world came crashing down. Nobody came to console her. Nobody was there to wipe away her tears.

Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.
Karima (right) stands with her mom outside their home.

And sadly things would only get worse.

Karima’s village is in Bangladesh, and while she was too young to know it, it’s a country where many young girls are married off as child brides.  Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 1 in every 5 girls is married before they turn 15.

Mired in poverty after her husband left, Karima’s mother managed to survive in a small dilapidated shack, no bigger than your average kitchen.  She fiercely protected Karima, and fought to keep her in school, knowing that an education was the only thing that would help her escape this life.

So she did what any mother would—she worked to find a way.

But with no money, and never having worked before, it was close to impossible.  She finally found a day laboring job but the wage was small, barely enough to pay for food.  There were days when the family would go without just so Karima could stay in school. It was an overwhelming sacrifice and money was quickly running out.

In Bangladesh, stories like this are far too common. In this article, a 15-year-old child bride sadly reflects on her situation saying, “We were very poor. Sometimes we would eat every two or three days,” she says. “Even though they [parents] really wanted all three of their daughter to study, it wasn’t possible –so they got me married.” Her older sisters married at 11 and 12.

Ratna (Karima) studying
With her scholarship, Karima hopes to finish school and become a teacher.

So for Karima’s mother, it was no surprise when a friend suggested her daughter be married off as a child bride.  This is the shocking reality for girls like Karima. They have no say, no choice.  Their only hope of avoiding this terrifying prospect is to stay in school.

At World Concern, we consider every child precious.  And for that reason we’re focusing our efforts on preventing girls like Karima from becoming child brides, by doing all we can to keep them in school.

We do this by providing scholarships for girls like Karima.  The scholarship gives them an education and keeps them from being married off too young.

And a scholarship only costs $50… for an entire year!

Please pray for girls like Karima, and for their brighter futures.

The Power of 44 Cents

So many of the issues we face combating poverty are incredibly complex. Thankfully, some are simpler to solve than others.

IMG_0994 - low resParasites cause children to suffer and families to struggle. Sickness, absenteeism from school, loss of work for parents, malnutrition—all of these things worsen poverty. But the ripple effect of deworming medicine makes it one of the most effective ways to fight poverty. It’s so simple, and it costs just 44 cents.

Luxmi’s children experienced immediate relief after receiving deworming medicine.

Luxmi, a mom of two living in the Rishipara slum of Bangladesh’s capital city, was overjoyed to learn that World Concern was distributing deworming medicine in her neighborhood. Her children were constantly suffering from stomach aches, nausea, vomiting, and the effects of malnutrition. At a time in their young lives when they should have been growing and thriving, parasites were feeding off their bodies, sucking the vital nutrients from their food, and causing intense pain.

As soon as her children took the medicine, they started to feel better. “After a few days, their health problems vanished,” Luxmi said.

They are healthier, happier, and full of energy. They’re even completing their chores enthusiastically—something any mom loves to see!

“This tablet saved my daughter’s life”

A girl stands by one of the slum's few latrines.
A girl stands by one of the slum’s few latrines.

Amidst the muddy, narrow streets and dilapidated shacks Kalyani and her neighbors call home, toilets are almost nonexistent. Diseases like diarrhea and parasites spread rapidly.

Kalyani’s daughters were sick and malnourished. Her infant daughter was extremely weak and suffered from constant stomach pains. Since Kalyani could not afford medicine, she had taken her little one to the local monk for help, but her daughter’s symptoms only worsened.

A few months ago, each member of Kalyani’s family received deworming medicine, and the results were dramatic. Her youngest daughter’s stomach pains completely stopped, and she started absorbing nutrients from her food. Today, she is a healthy, smiling little girl—full of life and bounding with energy.

Kalyani's youngest daughter was sick and malnourished from parasites. Today, she's a happy, healthy little girl.
Kalyani’s youngest daughter was sick and malnourished from parasites. Today, she’s a happy, healthy little girl.

“This tablet saved my daughter’s life,” exclaimed a grateful Kalyani.

With healthy kids, Kalyani can now focus on growing her small business and paying for her older daughters to attend school.

When children are free from parasites, it opens the way to addressing the larger problems of sanitation, hygiene, and access to clean water. That’s how a simple pill helps combat poverty.

Click here to cure a child from worms for just 44 cents.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resilience For Life: Ages 0-100+

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans in the United States in 2005, three-quarters of the people it killed were over 60.  This is unfortunately not an isolated incident.  Often, older people are the ones most affected by a disaster event.

Today, on the International Day for Disaster Reduction, the international community is coming together to recognize the critical role older people play in building more resilient communities by sharing their experience and knowledge.

At World Concern, we’re joining in this call to include older people in planning and preparedness activities while recognizing the value they bring to their families and communities.

We’re currently working with older people and their communities in eight countries to help reduce risk and save lives.  What does this look like?

Building more secure homes to protect families.

Shelter beneficiary Rozario
Photo credit: Medair
women with house
Photo credit: Medair

Improving sanitation through the construction of latrines to prevent the spread of water borne disease.

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Teaching communities about soil retention and reforestation to protect the land.

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Developing early warning systems and evacuation plans that include people of all ages.

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women in bangladesh

Strengthening infrastructure like flood water canals to keep water away from homes and people safe.

 

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“The older person is often invisible in our communities until they show up in the mortality figures after a disaster event,” said head of the United Nations Disaster Reduction Office, Margareta Wahlström.

By working together towards the common goal of focusing on inclusiveness of people of all ages in disaster preparedness, we can ensure that no one is invisible and that everyone becomes resilient for life!

 

The Photo That Changed My Heart

Bangladesh boy

It’s not a particularly artistic or perfectly composed photo. It’s even a little hard to tell what’s happening in this photo, which is probably why I paused for a moment while browsing through photos of Bangladesh’s slums.

It was my first week at World Concern, four years ago, and I had looked at thousands of photos of the places World Concern works as part of my orientation. There were many stunning photos of beautiful people, faces, families, and extreme poverty. But this is the one I’ll never forget, because it’s the one I was looking at when it “clicked” for me.

I stared at the image of a little boy, not more than 8 or 9 years old, wearing pants that are cinched at the waist so they won’t fall down, standing in the midst of a sea of garbage. He is smelling what appears to be a piece of rotten fruit. He was doing this, I’m sure, to try to determine if it was edible.

My stomach turned.

Several thoughts slammed into my mind as I stared at the boy in the slum:

  1. He is a real person.
  2. He is hungry enough to consider eating from that pile of garbage.
  3. I must do something.

When I came to work at World Concern, I considered myself a compassionate, caring Christian. I gave regularly to my church, donated to our food bank, and supported a few charities, including humanitarian organizations.

But at that moment, my heart broke for the hungry, the poor, the forgotten ones in the world. I felt compelled to help. I believe God used that photo to break my heart for what breaks His.

I wiped my tears away, glancing around my new office to see if anyone was looking. Then I whispered a prayer: “Lord, help this little boy. Please reach down into that horrible slum and rescue him.”

I felt like God responded, “I will. And you will.”

I knew that didn’t mean I would hop on a plane to Bangladesh and find that one little boy out of the 162 million people in Bangladesh. It meant I would pour myself wholeheartedly into the mission and work of World Concern so that the experts in ending extreme poverty and rescuing children like this boy from its clutches can do their jobs.

Our 234 Bangladeshi staff members, along with our Kenyan staff, our Haitian staff, and all the others in the poorest countries in the world are pouring themselves wholeheartedly into this work. With our support, they provide real, tangible, lasting ways out of poverty. And my job is to spread the word about this cause, this mission, so people like you and I can do something too.

The Power of a Single Story – How the 44-Cent Cure Can Change a Life

Sarah Kaczka is a social media intern at World Concern and will be posting on the blog this summer. As a sophomore at Wheaton College, she is interested in journalism and humanitarian aid, and hopes to use her love for storytelling to spread Christ’s love and encourage others. 

As an avid reader and aspiring writer, I am fascinated with the art of storytelling. There’s something about a good story that pulls directly at my heart strings, and they often stick around in my mind for days after I hear them. Besides a riveting plot, intriguing setting, and a memorable cast of characters, a good story ultimately requires purpose and development, challenging the reader to consider a new idea or way of thinking. I especially love ones that have a redemptive ending.

Kahinur’s journey is definitely one of those stories.

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Kahinur and her son at their home in an urban slum in Bangladesh.

As a mother living in a crowded urban slum in Bangladesh, Kahinur feels helpless to care for her infant son who has been sick for months. Her little boy likely has intestinal worms caused by the filthy environment and lack of sanitation in the slum where they live. These parasites suck the nutrients from her baby’s food and keep him awake all night, crying in pain.

This sweet little guy rests his head on Kahinur’s shoulder as she talks. His eyes are half closed, and his thin body is limp in her arms.

“I took him to several places for treatment, but nothing is working,” she pleads. Beads of perspiration cover her worried brow. The stifling afternoon heat causes a nauseating stench to rise from the garbage piles in the slum.

“I don’t know what will happen next with my son, and I am scared,” cries Kahinur. “If I fail to provide, then I fear my son could die.”

Parasites, like the ones attacking her baby’s body, can lead to malnourishment, diarrhea, and even blindness. And they stunt the development of a young child, causing permanent deficiencies if left untreated.

I can’t even imagine the fear Kahinur must have been facing in that moment, or her desperate frustration at not being able to provide relief for her son. Here in my suburban home, I am blessed to have doctors and hospitals nearby, never once having to worry about not having access to medicine.

Thankfully, Kahinur’s story continues. After receiving the 44-Cent Cure (deworming medicine), Kahinur’s son was fully restored back to health. Now Kahinur’s overwhelming worry is replaced by joy, and her tears are replaced by peace of mind and gratitude.

As much as I wish the story could end here, the truth is that there are thousands of families still suffering from parasite infections in Bangladesh. And their cries for help are not fictional – they are heartbreakingly real.

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The 44-Cent Cure provides lasting relief, evoking beautiful smiles on the faces of cured children.

But the good news is, it isn’t hard to help. For a small handful of pocket change, we can provide medicine that changes lives. Isn’t that exciting? When I first heard about the 44-Cent Cure, I couldn’t believe that providing immediate relief for sick children could be that simple – but it is. Learn how to get involved and partner with World Concern today.

In Christ, our stories are beautiful ones of redemption and hope. Our stories are important – they shape our identities and are the means by which we connect with one other. It’s so exciting to think that through organizations like World Concern, the story of an American college student, like me, can intertwine with that of a woman in Bangladesh like Kahinur.

How does your story empower you to take action and make a difference in the lives of others?