The humanitarian crisis caused by violence in Myanmar’s Rahkine State continues to cause suffering on a catastrophic scale. People were escaping Rohingya, mostly women and children, and arriving in Bangladesh, traumatized and injured, before any infrastructure and services could be established. Humanitarian partners are working hard to build ground work in very challenging conditions with limited space and supplies. We speak to Carry the Future board member, Sara Gilliam, to learn more about the crisis and how we’re helping.

Can you give us some background on the Rohingya refugee crisis?

Our Leadership Team heard loud and clear from our volunteers and supporters that they wanted Carry the Future to play a role in supporting Rohingya refugees. We were reading articles about this crisis right alongside our volunteers, and realized that we were uniquely positioned to get involved and support Rohingya families who have fled from Myanmar (Burma) to Bangladesh.

This crisis is noteworthy for its size and speed. More than half a million people have fled Myanmar since August of 2017 and experts suggest at least as many more will continue to seek refuge in Bangladesh. That would represent the majority of the Rohingya, a minority ethnic group, who live in Myanmar, where they are currently victims of what the United Nations calls a campaign “textbook campaign of ethnic cleansing.” (BBC News, 16 January 2018.) There have also been extensive reports of the rape and abuse of women and girls by military soldiers and personnel.

Can you describe how Carry the Future is helping Rohingya refugees?

Partnering with other organizations is an essential piece of the puzzle when it comes to Carry the Future supporting the Rohingya. Our international response team is dedicated and well connected, but we can’t be everywhere at once. The labor intensity of preparing teams and establishing them “on the ground” in Bangladesh could potentially overshadow or slow down our ability to do good, now. So, members of our board and response team have spent a great deal of time researching established organizations on the ground, developing relationships, and looking for opportunities to partner.

One great example of partnership is Refugee Support Europe, a trustworthy and talented group we’ve partnered with for refugee camps in Greece many times. They have a permanent team on the ground in Bangladesh, and we turned to them to see how we could bolster their existing efforts.

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What aid is Carry the Future providing the refugees?

Our ultimate decision was to fund two fresh food distributions in refugee camps, and also to purchase winter clothing for Rohingya children. We will also be partnering with a Rohingya-led nonprofit, the Center for Social Integrity, to provide hygiene kits for women. CSI ran focus groups with women in refugee camps, in order to determine which items they most needed to improve sanitation practices and quality of life.

These kits were priced out, and our Carry the Future board voted to provide $25,000 (in several installments) for the purchase and distribution of 1,000 kits. CSI’s Rohingya volunteers and staff have ready access to the camps, and understand Rohingya language and culture. They are well positioned to utilize Carry the Future funds in a meaningful, high impact manner.

Finally, we are partnering with a third organization, the Bangladesh-based Jaago Foundation, which has established an excellent reputation for supporting children’s rights and meeting children’s basic needs. We are shipping 1,000 baby carriers and 700 pairs of The Shoe that Grows, which will be distributed by Jaago staff and volunteers. These three partnerships highlight the potential of Carry the Future staff and funds to support work-in- progress in a rapidly evolving refugee crisis. From my perspective, this offers us a “best of both worlds” model, via which we can continue sending volunteers on distribution trips to countries we have an active presence in, while expanding our reach to support women and children globally.

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Want to help us do more on the ground? Donate today!

Carry the Future is 100% volunteer run by a worldwide network of dedicated staff who work daily to ensure that our organization is strong and growing, and all the while it is supported by the over 6,000 volunteers active throughout four continents of the world. With our volunteers and staff and your generous donations, we are aware of immediate needs and are able to consistently provide aid on the ground to refugees living in Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. Learn more about our work in our series, On the Ground.

*Images via Refugee Support Europe

Written by Melissa Francis