Play puts the smile back on the faces of child refugees
A terrible wave of violence is currently in progress in Myanmar/Burma, with the Rohingya people being banished from the country. Since August 2017 more than 650,000 Rohingya people have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh. One of these is 11-year-old Halima.
This is Halima’s story, told by her parents to Diakonia’s staff in the field.
Halima was visiting her grandfather in another village when it happened. At night, when she was sleeping, the army came and set fire to the whole village. Everyone ran into the forest to seek shelter, but Halima lost her relatives in the tumult.
“When we found out what had happened, we desperately tried to find her. Everyone else in our village had already fled, but we couldn’t just leave Myanmar/Burma without Halima. We travelled from village to village and searched the forests and the markets to try to find her. The feeling was indescribable when finally, after ten days’ searching, we found her staying with another family that had taken care of her.
We then left on foot for Bangladesh. It was very tough, as we had six young children with us. We walked for 16 days. We put the two youngest children in buckets that we carried with a yoke on our shoulders. There was no food and our feet were torn to pieces. We didn’t manage to get hold of a boat, so we made a vella (simple float made from banana leaves) that took us across the sea. When we finally got permission to enter Bangladesh, our children were given food, and they really needed it.
Halima saw people being killed, and several dead bodies during her time fleeing in the forest. She was extremely scared, and the memories of the bodies keep coming back to her all the time.
We’re so glad that she can go to school here in the camp; she couldn’t do that in Myanmar/Burma. She’s having fun, and we notice that she feels better when she’s playing with her friends. We hope she can become a teacher. If she learns to read, people will respect her, and she’ll be able to understand documents concerning our family.”
Diakonia’s local partner organization, Unite Theatre for Social Action, uses play and theatre to enable children to process their traumas and experiences. In the children’s activities in Kids Corner, the children learn things but also have fun together. Taking part in the activities makes a huge difference to the children and their families.
*The girl’s name has been changed. The story is not verbatim but is instead a summary of conversations with the family during the visit of our country office in March 2018.