I’ve had a difficult time writing about Bangladesh. Even as I write out all that I can remember I feel a little hesitant about posting it. I don’t want human suffering to become a spectator sport. Not that any one of my friends reading this-and especially not those who personally sacrificed to support me-would view it that way. I have just been stuck. And I want to make sure it doesn’t come across as me taking exotic trips and coming back to tell the tail.
That isn’t what it is like. These are serious problems and real people living them. And very real evil causing painfully real suffering to more of our fellow man than we can understand. Even being in the camps I don’t think my brain, heart or soul was able to fathom the magnitude or severity of the situation. And I don’t want to exploit or romanticize it in any way.
It’s difficult for me to get the stories of those I met this time out there because of the language barrier. I did not have a translator to help me. All the work I did was done through non-verbal communication. Whereas I do think it is beneficial to share individual stories-I feel that each person deserves to be seen and heard-I can’t do that for anyone this time. (I also think it helps those of us who’s worlds feel so far removed from the situation that it renders us unable to comprehend the Rohingya (and other) refugee crisis or other deprivations and horrors going on throughout the world.)
I will tell you that I think the heaviest person we saw, including men, weighed 119 lbs. I saw 60 lb women carrying 30 lb bags of rice. I saw too-skinny people walking up and down steep hills to carry water and rations they’d waited in line for back to their makeshift tent-homes.
We saw several cases of the mumps, a few cases of the measles, lots of chicken pox, (completely preventable diseases with vaccination) and there was an entire clinic set up for the treatment and containment of diphtheria (also preventable by vaccine) by Samaritan’s Purse. Unfortunately, we saw several cases of very young children who have already developed cataracts and are losing their vision. I don’t know if this is from the sun, dust, or disease but we saw it more than we should have. I don’t know if anyone is there doing anything or screening for this but I sure hope so. To see people have permanent damage, to go blind or even die from preventable circumstances is so frustrating.
The need for basic life necessities was incredibly scarce, despite the amount of aide attempting to be provided by the host country of Bangladesh and from various groups and NGO’s from around the world. I saw unimaginable-and even as I witnessed them- imaginative feats of pure survival. Despite the incredible lack of resources the camps are always bustling with industry and invention. The people are not lazy. They are industrious and fighting to survive and have done an impressive job of making a homes, a city really, out of nothing.
Throughout my time in the camps as I went about trying to do what little I could while there, I kept finding myself grateful for the little things. Seeing all the dirty, swollen, busted up feet I suddenly found myself very grateful for shoes. I was more appreciative of each bite I took while there. And, oh, how thankful I was for a hot shower at the end of the day. To rest, relax, and be very clean after being so hot, dusty and sweaty. And I’d think as I indulged in what felt like a much “needed” shower and washing away of a long day: most of these people had likely never had a long hot, shower like that. Even before they escaped across the border after being chased from their home country of Myanmar/Burma, they likely did not live in such a way that afforded for much rest, let alone a long, hot shower with running water with the turn of a knob. And I grew more and more thankful for little things.
This trip for me personally, turned out to be a lesson in gratitude. I know that is a feeble a weak thing, a true luxury really, to take away, but it made a difference in me. And as I grew more thankful, I wanted to give more. Another thought I had briefly was that I really should fell guilty for all that I do have but then I quickly realized that giving out guilt doesn’t do anyone any good. Me not taking a hot shower is not going to save the world any more than me not taking it is going to vicariously allow someone else to have it. But an increase in gratitude made the shower fantastically better and made me both able and willing to give much more. I think it magnified both how much I gave and the attitude with which I was able to give. Giving out of guilt I think takes some of the dignity away from the receiver as well. They can feel the intent with which it is given I believe. When given from a positive place, such as gratitude, I believe it can be received a little better as well. I know I would having an easier time accepting something from a friend who is happy to share than one who feels obligated by guilt. You become a little more sensitive to stuff like this I think when there is a language barrier and you have to go more off of “vibes” than verbal communication.
Thank you again, to those who helped make this trip possible. The work we did there was good but it was minimal in comparison to what is needed. Nevertheless, I am glad we were able to do something, even if it was something small. Because doing something is always better than doing nothing.