A Journey To Rohingya Orphans In Cox’s Bazar
I’m heading to meet the 120 Rohingya (from Burma) orphaned children in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. CAI donors pay for their daily upkeep, but more importantly, provide an opportunity for quality education. The kids attend a day school 6 days a week where they start with a nutritious breakfast, attend secular education, have activities, and return home after eating a hot meal. This service is offered to 120 lucky ones out of thousands who languish in the camps.
CAI has been sponsoring this project since 2017 when these persecuted, harassed people who were subjected to horrible atrocities committed by the Burmese army. They escaped to Bangladesh and now live in squalid conditions, with virtually little hope of returning home, non-existing education opportunities, or employment prospects. These people live off of handouts from the UN and NGOs like Comfort Aid International (USA).
I must fly from Dar es Salaam to Dubai, wait four hours, take a connecting flight to Dhaka, sleep overnight, and hop onto another regional flight to Cox’s Bazar. Then, it is a 2-hour car ride to the camp. More than the physical exhaustion from flying overnight and enduring the lack of sleep on such trips, mental trauma always hit me whenever I visit these refugee camps. It is good to have Shaida Hussein of TRS and Amin Oskoi accompany me to take the edge off the psychological strain. Their companionship, banter, and horsing around make the voyage somewhat bearable.
Dhaka airport is like a fish market, as usual, but they’ve streamlined the visa-on-arrival process a lot so we are out of the airport into a hooting, teeming mass of humanity fairly quickly. I’ve been visiting Bangladesh for business since 2001, when I was with corporate America and I’ve seen the country prosper. The infrastructure has been increasingly progressive, the constant famines are now history, the massive middle class is mushrooming, and the country, in general, has progressed nicely. It is sad that the goodwill towards their Rohingya brethren is grudging and niggardly, shaped by world opinion rather than natural goodwill, tied to aid money.
It is soopa hot when we land in Cox’s Bazar 95°F, with a feels-like heat index of 104°F. The drive to the camp from Cox’s Bazar is not for the fainthearted. Bengalis drive on the edge, not unlike maniacs on a mission and I’m genuinely surprised how Kausar Jamal, our competent host, has not wrecked his car when we turn off the main highway and drive towards the camp. Very little has changed for the hapless Rohingyas since the hellish days when I cried like a baby at their destitution in 2017. They eat decently now, defecate in privacy, adults don’t walk around naked, and the children smile when I prompt them. But they are trapped in a situation where there is no future. They have no opportunity for higher education, no gainful employment, and no chance to return home. The lanes between their squalor homes are full of filth, the air foul with the continuous sewer stench, and naked infants with runny noses buzzing with excited flies walk about with dazed, innocent looks on their drawn faces.
Of all the worldwide places of poverty, conflict, and natural disasters I’ve been involved with, none depresses me more than the Rohingya and their plight. The only hope for an enlightened future is through the CAI school for orphans, which offers opportunities to the young. There have been success stories. Five exceptional CAI school orphans were recently picked up for further education at a special school run by Bill Gates Foundation in Chittagong. This is by special permission from the authorities as Rohingyas are not permitted to leave the camps for any reason.
CAI has also been able to pipe potable water to about 40,000 people in this camp, thanks to the generosity of our donors.
You might enjoy some telling photos of my recent trip by clicking HERE.
My novels help pay for the education of these worldwide orphans. The last 3 have raised thousands of dollars and all of the money has been used toward their education needs. My next novel, Two Blue And Gold Diamond Earrings, will be published in September 2023.
Click HERE for a few excerpts from the novel for your reading pleasure, tempting you to purchase a copy or two or more. Even if you are not a fiction reader, or do not particularly fancy my writings, please consider pre-purchasing a copy or more (they can be a nice gift?) for the future of our orphans – click HERE to buy, priced at a modest US$77. Allah bless.
Note: My novels are works of fiction from my vivid imagination. Please do not assume that they are related to the work I do for CAI. They are also not religious works, as some had wrongly assumed from my past works – I am no authority on any religion. I love writing which is one way to pay for CAI’s orphan education.