When I was in middle school, I was given an assignment which entailed choosing a country to research and then presenting my findings to the class. We were given a flip book containing all of the flags of the world. I distinctly remember coming across this one and feeling intrigued.
Evidently the book we were given in class was a bit outdated. Not only was this flag from 1941, but at the time of my project the country was no longer referred to as Burma but as Myanmar. Although the actual flag was not as exciting to my middle school mind, I had never heard of the country of Myanmar and neither had any of my classmates so it seemed the perfect country to research. Before I knew it, I had buried myself in country fact files and world almanac statistics. Remember when we actually used those? The more I researched the more intrigued I became. I started reading about Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation's fierce female leader and freedom fighter and I was hooked. Aung Saan was released from house arrest in 2010, has won a nobel peace prize and today leads the National League for Democracy. She has been one of my heroes over the years, however I currently find myself saddened and confused by her seeming lack of interest as it concerns the plight of the Rohingya. I keep hearing that she simply has no power against the militant government. Perhaps this is true. Regardless, this is a topic for a different entry.
You may have heard of the Rohingya because they have been on the news quite a bit recently. They are one of the most persecuted groups of people in the world. They are a Muslim minority who have lived in the Buddist country of Myanmar for centuries. Since 1982, they have been denied citizenship by the Myanmar government, thus rendering them stateless. To be stateless essentially means that you have no rights, no home and are not recognized by any country. The Rohingya must seek government approval before traveling outside of their state. This means that if a Rohingya mother needs life saving medical care for her child, which most likely is not available within Rakine state in Myanmar, she will most likely be denied the access to travel. The Rohingya have been fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh for years, however after an army post was attacked in Myanmar this past August, military crackdown ensued, resulting in what the UN is currently calling ethnic cleansing (AKA Genocide). Recent statistics indicate that since August, more than 650,000 Rohingya have fled into the already overwhelmed camps in neighboring Bangladesh. Coupled with heavy rains and hurricanes, water-born diseases are rampant, including a recent Diptheria outbreak.
I have the great privilege and opportunity to travel to Bangladesh in January where I will be assisting Medical Teams International and their work to manage a diarrhea and Diptheria treatment center, primary health care center and community health worker program.
While my airfare and lodging will be provided for me, this is a non-salaried position which means that I will be missing 5 weeks from work. I also just found out that I may not have a tenant in my home in February, which means additional, unexpected expenses. In order to help supplement the expense of the trip and to help relieve some of my stress regarding how to pay my bills while I am away, I have decided to do a little fundraising.
For anyone who feels led to join me in this work through a financial donation, any support received would be incredible. For more details, please see my fundraising page https://funds.gofundme.com/dashboard/help-support-my-work-in-bangladesh
As internet allows, I will be posting regular photos and updates on my blog as my desire is to shed light on the realities being faced by the Rohingya and to share with you the stories of my patients and colleagues. I feel beyond honored to be able to engage in this work and give a million thanks to all of the people in my life who have supported me over the years and who continue to pray for me, offer me encouragement and undying support.