By Formosa Relief Team (Originally in English)
In September 2017, Supreme Master Ching Hai contributed US$30,000 to help the Rohingya refugees from Myanmar who were in Bangladesh, especially the children, women and elderly, and instructed our Association members to render aid. Our Association members added US$20,000 to Master’s fund, and on September 25, a relief team of three from Formosa left for Bangladesh.
Our team arrived in the capital city of Dhaka early on September 26 and met with a local Association member. Together we took a flight to Chittagong, an important commercial port of Bangladesh.
Later in the evening, another local Association member brought a food supplier with some food samples to the hotel where we were staying to discuss food orders for the refugees. Since there were a great number of refugees, the food supply order was very large. After careful consideration and a lengthy discussion with the supplier, we were able to purchase 7,000 relief packages. Each package contained one kilogram of lentils, one kilogram of chickpeas, four kilograms of rice, one half kilogram of sugar, one pack of candy, six candles and two sets of matches. It was enough provisions for a family of six for a week. A total of 45 metric tons of food would arrive in the next 24 hours. The next morning, we were able to rent a warehouse we could use for packing. We also hired some local workers to help with the packing and the loading and unloading of trucks.
While we were waiting for the food to be delivered, our relief team went to the location the refugees were staying in at Cox’s Bazar. After an eight-hour trip by car, we saw the refugees’ makeshift shelters over a stretch of low hills spanning several kilometers. Whenever our car stopped in the area, refugees would come over asking for food. It was heart-wrenching for us. With the help of a local Association member’s uncle, a retired Secretary of the Red Crescent Society Chittagong District Unit, we were able to visit Bahukhali, a new temporary site for refugees who had just arrived. When we reached there around 3pm, already a long line of refugees were waiting for relief packages.
Later that night when we returned to Chittagong, we held a meeting with our team and decided to contact the Cox’s Bazar High Commissioner for approval to distribute relief packages in the camp, and to contact the army to ask for assistance for our own distribution. On Friday, September 29, we secured a distribution permit and the help of the army.
The food we ordered began arriving at the warehouse. Eight members of a local Association member’s family, including the 70-year-old father, voluntarily came to help with packing. We all joined together for two days of intense packing operation, finishing all 7,000 packages late Friday evening. Five trucks were rented for all the packages, which we started loading on Saturday morning, and by late afternoon we had finished loading. However, due to a local Hindu community celebration, the street was full of traffic. It was midnight before we started to drive to Cox’s Bazar. At 6am on Sunday, we arrived and waited until 8am to visit the army base to get our distribution permit.
When we arrived at the army base, we were told we were not allowed to distribute all of our relief packages because there was a massive influx of humanitarian aid that had arrived internationally, and the Cox’s Bazar High Commissioner and the army did not want the relief items distributed all at once. We were only allowed to distribute one truckload of relief packages and the rest we had to hand over to the army for later distribution. Master taught us to always respect and obey the law, so we signed over 5,385 relief packages to the army and took one truck with us to the designated camp with a solider as an escort.
We were assigned to Bahukhali, the makeshift camp for newly arrived refugees that we visited earlier. An army officer in charge of the camp, Major Nafsi, told us that the army put the new refugees of the same village in one place and appointed an elder as the village chief who would represent the villagers and be the communication liaison between the army and the villagers. We commended the army’s thoughtful concerns for the refugees.
We drove our truck between two lines, one for men, one for women, and handed out relief packages to each one who came in front after they had been screened by the United Nations official at the beginning of the line. The army thoughtfully managed the distribution so it remained peaceful. After we finished and were driving back to Chittagong, we saw refugees along the way with at least one relief package. We passed by another camp and saw that another distribution was in full swing.
We thank all international agencies for their swift and kind response to aid the Rohingya people. Our deep gratitude to Master for Her loving and generous example and Her blessings during this relief mission. We pray that the situation of the Rohingya people resolves quickly and peacefully, so they may return to live a normal and harmonious life.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Rohingya Refugees Relief Work in Bangladesh
|Relief items (rice, chickpeas, lentils, sugar, candy, candles and matches)||3,895,500||A|
|Warehouse rental, packing bags and workers’ wages||293,000||B|
|Transportation (trucks rental)||106,500||C|
|Total||BDT 4,295,000 (US$53,447)|
Our Formosa Association members and relief team contributed about US$2,528 to cover travel, food and lodging expenses of the relief team.