This summer Cassidy, a Grade 8 student, led with her heart while working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Prior to her journey Cassidy did extensive research, identifying the problem in the region with guidance from her social studies teacher, Heather Smith.
Myanmar’s Muslim minority, known as the Rohingya, have been attacked with impunity, driven from their homes through violence, murder and rape, and forced to seek refuge. The UN considers the Rohingya people to be the most persecuted people on earth. Starting in August of last year, their plight worsened when Myanmar’s military started systematically killing them and burning down their villages. Since then, over 900,000 refugees have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh. The UN has described the situation as a textbook case of “ethnic cleansing.”
Cassidy then created a plan of action to address this challenge of her time. Below is her plan, in her words.
I am passionate about ending Human Trafficking in the world and had already arranged to work against trafficking with activists in Dhaka. As the refugee crisis developed and worsened, I knew we had to do something to help in the camps as well. This summer, I will volunteer in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2 shelters that protect trafficking victims, I will put together survivor kits, give hugs, play with the children, and do whatever the organizations need me to do. Then, we are traveling to Cox’s Bazar to provide aid and assistance in the refugee camps.
I am working to bring awareness to this horrific event and the bigger problem of human trafficking and thought others would appreciate the opportunity to support these refugees in a very direct way. 100% of the funds donated would go straight to the refugees. There will be no overhead costs, no middle man, and no organization taking a cut. All funds raised will go directly to the refugees in need. We are providing all of our own travel costs and related expenses.
Determined to help out, Cassidy was able to raise over $12,000 in donations that went toward alleviating the humanitarian crisis.
Below is an excerpt from Cassidy’s blog about her volunteer experience:
Today, I better understood the needs of the refugees. We started out the day by packaging food that we later distributed in Camp Leda. (300 hot meals that those who donated to the crowdfunding provided – thank you!) In each box, there would be rice covering the bottom and a small bag where we packaged broth, meat, and potatoes. While we were working to put together the hot meals, two goats that we bought to support 30 families (thank you if you donated to the crowdfunding!) were being slaughtered right outside (so was my inner vegetarian). The goat meat was handed out later in Camp Hakimpara. After we finished packaging the food, we walked over to the border. The river that separates Bangladesh from Myanmar is massive, and I can only imagine what it may be like to cross it while fleeing their homes. Even with a huge body of water in between Myanmar and Bangladesh, our friends from the Amal Foundation said that they could smell the smoke and see the flames of the burning Rohingya villages last August. I can’t imagine how it must have felt to be so close to this terror and suffering and not be able to stop it. It’s even harder to imagine being the victim of that.
Once we got back from the border, we headed to Camp Leda. For me, this was the hardest part of the day. As we walked through the camp, everyone was smiling at us, and upon entering the open-air bamboo structure where the food was to be distributed, we saw children looking at us, separated only by a short bamboo wall. In the room itself, there were a few people waiting for the food, but it was mostly police, who were there to protect us and the food. Once the food arrived on the tuk-tuk, it was clear how much the refugees needed the food – they seemed to appear from everywhere. While we piled food containers onto the tarp of the room, people poured in. There are larger aid organizations that coordinate all of the smaller groups that are contributing to the Rohingya support and they try to ensure that everyone takes turns at access to a hot meal – they provide tokens to the various parts of the camp and it is supposed to be different people each time. The group today was Rohingya volunteers. As I handed out food, I could nearly hear the whole room buzz with anticipation. Normally it went smoothly. We somehow managed to get the refugees into a line- most of the time. At times, though, it felt as if the line broke into a circle surrounding the operation, and I could feel the desperation radiating from each outstretched hand. During every occasion in which this happened, I internally wept for each individual and had a pang of despair that I could not give them as much food as they needed.
To read more about Cassidy’s experience, please visit her blog here: https://fightagainstmodernslavery.wordpress.com/