A Girl I Met in Bangladesh

by Christena Dowsett, photographer for World Concern 

I knew she was on her way, so when that smile showed up around the corner, I hoped it was her.

A smile so pervasive, so out of place.

Surrounded by tattered tarps and sticks, drab and dank.

And then, a smile.

Here was a child who would change my world…

children in the kutupalong refugee camp in bangladesh
Nasima (far right) plays with a group of children in the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh.

Nasima was just a girl. An 8-year-old who loved to play with her friends and go to school; a natural leader.

One day, her family took a vacation to the popular tourist town Cox’s Bazar, and she spent the week swimming on the beach. She wasn’t scared of the water like most in her family. She scoffed at them. “The water is home to many and it can be home to me too!” she thought as she flapped her legs like a mermaid. Day after day she swam and drank deeply of the childhood dreams that found her. Of hugging dolphins and riding off into the sunset.

At night she set out the seashells she had collected one by one, and imagined the creatures that once lived in them. She gave them names. One for each of her six family members. The prettiest one was her mother, of course, and the second prettiest was Nasima herself.

Maybe this would have been her story if she had wound up in the water by choice. If her family had come to Bangladesh on holiday, rather than fleeing as their home burned down.

Nasima is not just a girl anymore.

She grew up the night she clung to a dead body to stay alive after the rest of the family drowned. Their boat sank, leaving her the lone survivor.

kutupalong refugee camp Bangladesh
Almost 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh and live in overcrowded camps.

Now she’s alone in a camp of hundreds of thousands of other survivors. Nasima doesn’t know what her future or even the next day holds.

If you think of her, please pray for her.

Learn more about the Rohingya refugee crisis and how you can help by sending urgently-needed emergency supplies. In doing so, you’ll let those who are alone, like Nasima, know they are not forgotten.