When Menara arrived in Cox’s Bazar – the world’s largest refugee camp – she no longer spoke. Just a child, she made the harrowing journey from Myanmar to Bangladesh with her mother and father. They arrived with nothing – only the clothes on their backs. Here’s the story of how Menara found her voice again.
More than 911,000 Rohingya people made the same perilous journey as Menara’s family to flee violence in Myanmar. Of these, an estimated 7,700 are children. They are surviving in terrible conditions.
The camp is surrounded by the jungle. At night Menara* would regularly wake up, terrified by the animal noises she heard. Afraid, she would cling to her mother.
Sometimes Menara would express herself with gestures. Menara’s parents were worried for her.
Journey to healing
In Cox’s Bazar, Tearfund’s local partner runs child-friendly spaces where children can play, as well as take part in informal learning.
Menara was invited. At first, she would sit quietly in the corner, watching what everyone else was doing. Over time, she began to slowly mingle with the others. Then she started playing and joining in the activities.
These spaces have given Menara a safe space to finally feel like she can be herself and to process her trauma. Menara found her voice and began to talk about her feelings with others. She’s also learnt how to write.
Through the craft activities the spaces offer, Menara has found a love of needle and thread. She now talks regularly about wanting to be a tailor.
These spaces give children a space where they can feel safe and grow. And – most importantly – just be children again. But we’re also doing all we can to help make their homes a safer place too.
Our local partners installed a new bathroom next to where they live. This means the Menara and her family don’t have to travel in the dark to use the toilet. They shared with us that it makes them feel comfortable and safe.
And when the coronavirus pandemic hit, our local partners gave the family hygiene kits, as well as sharing tips on prevention, like washing their hands regularly, so they could protect themselves.
‘Children, like Menara, who arrive at Cox’s Bazar have witnessed horrific violence while fleeing their homes. Everything they know has been taken away from them,’ shares Sudarshan Reddy Kodooru, who leads Tearfund’s work in Bangladesh. ‘We could easily lose a whole generation to trauma. But thanks to the generosity of our supporters, children are breaking free of their trauma and are starting to dream again.’