Jannatul is a 5-year-old Rohingya refugee girl. Her life was turned upside down when she and her mother fled Myanmar. They settled across the border in Bangladesh in what is now the world’s largest refugee camp.
Jannatul’s name means “heaven,” but her life is anything but heaven.
For 12 hours, walk with Jannatul through what a typical day might look like for her.
7 a.m.: Jannatul wakes up in a 10-by-10-foot shelter — made of bamboo and a plastic tarp — that she shares with her mother. There’s not much in this simple home beyond basic necessities and the little her mother could carry when they ran for their lives. Jannatul’s father and two younger siblings were killed in the conflict.
8 a.m.: Jannatul finds joy in small things like a snack and tea. They remind her of home.
9 a.m.: Twice a day, Jannatul visits a religious school in the refugee camp. She survived what one U.N. official described as “textbook ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya — a Muslim minority ethnic group — in Myanmar.
10 a.m.: Jannatul enjoys her breakfast. Food means a lot to her — perhaps more than many 5-year-olds. When she and her mother fled Myanmar, they walked for a week in the rain to find safety in Bangladesh. They ate little for three days. Jannatul was extremely weak when another family on the journey shared their rice with her.
11 a.m.: Up to 2,000 children on average attend World Vision’s 12 learning centers each week. At the center, Jannatul enjoys looking at picture books and drawing. That’s what we love to see: kids being kids!
12 p.m.: In the camp, Jannatul is beginning to recover and can play, laugh, and smile.
1 p.m.: At midday, Jannatul enjoys lunch, remembering the fruit she ate back in Myanmar. “At home, we ate mangoes and jackfruit. I miss those,” Jannatul says.
2 p.m.: Faith plays an important role in Jannatul’s life. This is her second visit to the religious school she attends twice a day.
3 p.m.: Children need to feel safe when they play. At World Vision’s learning centers, Jannatul and her classmates can play and feel free to be kids! “When they come here, they can forget those things. They can have fun,” says Jannatul’s teacher, 20-year-old Farjana Faraz Tumpa. “When they come here, they feel good. They are treated nicely.”
4 p.m.: Jannatul enjoys helping her mother with daily chores. She buys potatoes and helps collect water for cooking and cleaning.
5 p.m.: Jannatul and her mother, Salima, chat during dinner, sharing highlights from their day.
6 p.m.: Salima holds Jannatul as she finally falls asleep after a long day of playing, praying, and chores. They are thankful every day that they still have each other.
Thank you for walking with us through a day in Jannatul’s life. If you would like to make a difference for Jannatul and other refugee children who need our help, please donate today!
Every day of the year, World Vision works around the world to help refugees in need. On June 20, World Refugee Day, we highlight the plight of the 68.5 million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes and the innovative ways we help them cope. Massive numbers of refugees have left Syria, Myanmar, South Sudan, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Venezuela. More than half of the world’s refugees are children.
Through innovative responses to these crises, World Vision is investing in a better life today and a better future for refugees, especially children. Learn about the unique solutions World Vision implements in refugee camps.
Last Mile Mobile Solutions
Last Mile Mobile Solutions, developed by World Vision and now being used by more than a dozen other organizations, is revolutionizing how refugees and disaster survivors receive food, cash assistance, and relief supplies in their time of greatest need.
With this innovative software, aid workers quickly register beneficiaries and record their names, pictures, locations, and eligibility for assistance — all on a smartphone. Information is then transferred to a computer for verification and tracking. The same process that used to take four minutes now takes four seconds, shortening lines and getting essentials to families faster.
Overall, Last Mile Mobile Solutions improves the accuracy of remote data collection, helps manage aid recipients’ information, enables faster and fairer aid distributions, and delivers real-time reporting to aid workers.
World Vision is privileged to provide not only life-saving interventions, but also innovative solutions that provide hope. Community kitchens equipped with gas stoves help refugee moms feed their families nutritious food without having to cut, carry, or buy firewood, and they also help avoid the dangers of open-fire cooking.
“We are also training them to cook nutritious food [and about] hygiene,” says Subash Chandranath, a World Vision staff member who works at a community kitchen in Bangladesh. “We teach how to cook the [food] properly — to wash [vegetables] first.”
But community kitchens are so much more than a safe place to cook. Through World Vision workshops, staff help women learn how to be leaders in their communities, empowering them to solve problems and make good decisions for their families.
Community kitchens also serve as gathering places where women can share concerns. “We have independence here,” says Muhcena, a Rohingya refugee who visits the kitchen daily.
Hand-washing stations with mirrors
Overcrowded conditions and limited access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities put refugees at high risk for communicable disease outbreaks, including diarrhea and hepatitis. Regular handwashing with soap greatly reduces the risk of disease.
Installing mirrors at hand-washing stations has been shown to increase handwashing among children and adults. Because most refugees don’t have mirrors in their simple shelters, they are drawn to the shiny surfaces. Placing them on the water barrels at hand-washing stations draws people — especially children — to the mirror, which reminds them to wash their hands.
“We all know how important it is to wash our hands to stay healthy, but for children like this in a refugee camp, it can make the difference between life or death,” says Rachel.
Good lighting can help keep people safer in a refugee camp where there is no electricity. Nighttime can be particularly dangerous for women and children who must walk to outdoor latrines and wash areas after dark.
That’s why World Vision has installed solar-powered lights in places like the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.
“When World Vision started working with these refugees, women told us, again and again, that they needed to feel safe at night using the bathroom and using bathing facilities,” says Response Director Rachel Wolff. “World Vision has installed solar-powered street lights across the camps, particularly where women need to bathe and use the bathroom so that anytime, day or night, girls and women feel safe.”
Kari Costanza, Heather Klinger, and Kathryn Reid of World Vision’s staff in the U.S. contributed to this article.
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I’ll never forget returning to the country where I was born but barely knew. It was 1982, and I was 18. Arriving alone, I stepped off the plane in New York with everything I owned stuffed into my dad’s green army duffle — $50 in one pocket and my U.S. passport in the other.
My life in Venezuela — my home for 14 years — had fallen apart under the strain of my father’s unemployment and my parents’ divorce. I had just graduated high school, but there was no money for college. We couldn’t even afford rent and food.
I returned to the U.S. in hopes of studying here. I didn’t speak English. I felt lost, lonely, and poor. Compared with others who come to America, I had advantages — starting with my U.S. citizenship. And my older sister was already here. But we had to scrimp and save and live on $13 a week for groceries. I worked low-paying jobs and learned the language. I felt like an immigrant in my own country.
I learned something true of all people: Nobody wants to leave home and the people they love. It’s tough to start over in an unfamiliar and often unwelcoming place, where you’re not treated the same as others and you have to work twice as hard for everything. But my situation was a far cry from the way some people leave their homes today.
More than 30 years since I left, 3 million people are leaving Venezuela due to economic catastrophe, political turmoil, hyperinflation, and widespread hunger. Venezuela has gone from the once-prosperous and stable country I knew to a place where parents can’t feed their children. My heart is with them.
Our Lord Jesus knew how it felt to be a refugee — a stranger.—Edgar Sandoval Sr., World Vision U.S. president
For others, leaving home is a terrifying life-or-death choice, as it was for 1 million Rohingya people now taking refuge in Bangladesh. They escaped extreme violence, only to end up living in flimsy shelters in overcrowded camps, vulnerable to monsoons and cyclones. My heart breaks for them.
I thank God that I’m in a position to help people in such dire need. World Vision is caring for Venezuelan migrants in four neighboring countries — Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru — providing food vouchers, cash transfers, child protection, education, and other programs. In Bangladesh, World Vision is working to improve living conditions for the Rohingya people by supplying clean water, mother and child healthcare, cash for work, child protection, and more.
This is among the most difficult work World Vision does. For us, it is an act of faith.
Our Lord Jesus knew how it felt to be a refugee — a stranger. As a child, he fled with his parents to Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod. The Son of God willingly took on the painful experience of living in exile. He did it because he loves us.
It’s this powerful and transforming love that propels all of us at World Vision to serve others, especially those the world neglects, like refugees. We care for them in the ways Jesus specified in Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you invited me in …”
Maybe the Holy Spirit is prompting you to do more for strangers — globally or locally. Inspired by Jesus’ love, how might you reach out to people in need?
The post ‘Nobody wants to leave home and the people they love’ appeared first on World Vision.
Atul Mrong, 42, is deputy operations director of World Vison’s response in Bangladesh. Atul, who grew up in a poor Christian family in Bangladesh, says he feels a connection to the displaced Rohingya. “They remind me of me,” he says. “Our financial situation was not good. I had six sisters. I was the only son. My parents were not educated; they were illiterate. My father could only sign his name.”
One memory stands out. “When I was studying in grade eight,” he says, “the most money I ever received was 10 taka. My mom said I could use it for anything I wanted.” Atul kissed her. He was overjoyed even though 10 taka is just 12 cents. “That memory helps me remember how poor I was,” he says. “As a child,” he says, “I could not even think about what would happen in the future.”
Atul’s life changed when he was sponsored through World Vision. “The sponsor who helped me came into my life as an angel of God,” he says. “From class three to now — my education, tuition, moral education, school fees, tuition — all came from World Vision. They really helped me grow.”
Atul, like many of the refugees living in Bangladesh now, was surprised that someone would invest in him. “The sponsor did not [meet] me,” he says. “He was just looking at my picture,” he says. “Based on that, they trusted me. Out of that trust, they sent generous support. That generosity and confidence in me changed my life.”
What Atul’s sponsor poured into him, he now pours out. “Sponsored children become good people,” he says. “It makes us good employees.” And working for World Vision is different, he says. “It is not just work. It is the call of God. God chose us to work with the vulnerable. It’s a call we must answer.”
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