By Formosa Relief Team (Originally in Chinese)
Over a long period of time, more than 300,000 Rohingyas in Myanmar have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to seek refuge. By 2015, about 32,000 Rohingyas were registered and living in the official refugee camps in Bangladesh, with the majority of them remaining refugees living unregistered in the country. To provide assistance to those in need as instructed by Supreme Master Ching Hai, our Formosa Association members formed a relief team and flew to Bangladesh on December 5, 2016, with US$18,000 allocated by Master and US$2,344 from Formosa Centers. Even though we were informed at the time that the government of Bangladesh would not allow any groups, international organizations or materials to enter the camps, we knew that God would have the best arrangement and there would be no problem.
After arriving in Chittagong on December 7, we discussed further with local Association members about the results of contacting government officials and the purchase of relief items. We also learned that there were about 83,000 refugees according to official statistics and the number of refugees was increasing. Therefore, we decided to purchase relief supplies, including 5,000 kilograms of rice, 1,000 saris, 1,000 kilograms of cooking oil, 5,000 kilograms of potatoes, and 1,000 kilograms of lentils. We planned to pack the relief items into 1,000 bags.
In the course of our discussion, a local Association member received a phone call from a friend, Mr. Masud, who informed us that discussions with government staff had produced miraculous results and the government-appointed camp managers were willing to take the time to meet with us to discuss matters relating to refugee camps. It turned out that the government unit that was in charge first checked on the internet and learned that The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association had done a lot of charity work in Bangladesh, which was the reason they were willing to meet with us.
On the morning of December 8, we went to the warehouse where the relief items were being packed and gave encouragement to the staff who were working there. We also suggested to our local Association members to pay the working staff twice as much as their typical wages to thank them for their selfless dedication for Allah, for God, and for their brothers and sisters.
We then drove to Cox’s Bazar, south of Chittagong, to meet with the Mr. Shalimullah, Mr. King and Mr. Rumman Chowdhury, the managers of Gumdum, Dakshin Nhila and Kutupalong refugee camps, respectively. At the beginning of our discussions, they agreed to help distribute the relief items privately to the refugees. In the course of our pleasant chat, they allowed us to enter the Kutupalong refugee camp and stay there for 20 minutes, but we could not distribute relief items directly. We knew very well that it was another miracle from God, because international aid organizations were not usually allowed to enter the refugee camps.
We decided to go directly to the Kutupalong refugee camp the next day. The relief supplies were delivered by three relatives of our local Association members who were coming to the camp overnight with the container truck. While waiting for the relief supplies to be transferred to three pickup trucks, two children came to tell us that they were brother and sister and they could not go to school, let alone buy shoes, because their father passed away. We asked our interpreter to take them to the nearby store to buy shoes. The little girl held the interpreter’s hand, and called the interpreter “sister” in Bengali all the time on their way to the store. In the end, each of them picked a pair of shoes. When the children came back from the store, the satisfied expressions on their faces, which we will never forget, moved us to tears.
After the relief supplies were loaded onto three trucks for the Gumdum, Dakshin Nhila and Kutupalong refugee camps, we immediately left to meet with Mr. Chowdhury, who took us directly to the refugee camp in Kutupalong where children followed us along the way. Mr. Chowdhury told us that the refugees started entering the Kutupalong camp 10 years ago, so the camp was divided into upper and lower districts. Longtime refugees lived in the houses in the upper district, which were more solidly built because the government was able to provide construction materials for the refugees to build the temporary shelters. However, because there were too many new refugees, building materials were no longer provided. Therefore, the new refugees stayed in very simple temporary bamboo shelters with plastic roofs.
Because of the increasing number of refugees, there were not enough goods for new arrivals. As a result, the new refugees had even less living resources. This was why after some discussion and coordination, the three camp managers decided to send more relief supplies to the lower district of the Kutupalong camp. We provided 250 bags of relief items to the Gumdum refugee camp, 200 bags of relief items to the Dakshin Nhila refugee camp, and 550 bags of relief items to the Kutupalong refugee camp.
On the way back to the car, we saw a small grocery store on the roadside. Seeing all the kids in the camp following us, we asked Mr. Chowdhury to buy all the vegan snacks from the grocery store and give them to the children.
On December 10, after we finished organizing some relevant materials, we planned to take a flight at noon back to Formosa. Suddenly, we received a call from Mr. Chowdhury, who told us that the camps’ management agreed to allow our local Association members to enter the refugee camps together with camp administrative staff to distribute the relief supplies on December 12. We received the pictures of one of our local Association members participating in the relief activities on that day. He conveyed the gratitude the refugees expressed to Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association.
This event again showed us that the boundless love of God could create miracles, turning what was impossible to possible. When we were about to leave after meeting with the three camp administrators, they asked us to join hands with them, following their tradition, making a vow to Allah that they would deliver in person all the relief supplies to every refugee. Their selflessness and dedication to work for Allah touched each of us deeply.
We presented them with medals we made specifically for them to thank these three great messengers of Allah. We know Master always blesses us silently with love in each task. We pray that a vegan world will come soon, and all that humans and all sentient beings can live together happily and peacefully like a family.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai and Her International Association for Refugee Relief Work in Bangladesh
Food (5,000 kilograms of rice, 1,000 kilograms of cooking oil, 5,000 kilograms of potato, 1,000 kilograms of green bean) and clothes (1,000 pieces of Sari)
Transportation (wages for drivers and truck rental expenses), gifts, medals, candies, plastic bags and tote bags for relief item distribution, wages paid for locals who helped with packing, meals
BTD 1,627,500 (US$20,344)
The relief team’s traveling expenses of US$3,938 was paid by our Association Centers.
Contents of the Medals:
God’s blessing is beyond glory.
Thank you for your kindness and selfless dedication for Allah to take care of our brothers and sisters.
With Supreme Master’s love and blessing
The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association
Be Vegan, Make Peace
Packing and Distributing Relief Items
Kutupalong Refugee Camp