As I was preparing to begin my career with UNHCR in 1992, I was in Bulgaria as a US Peace Corps, Associate Country Director for Administration. I had received a letter from UNHCR confirming my appointment to a post in Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh. Just before I departed Sofia in May 1992, I received orders changing my assignment to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Hercegovina (where the nearby European conflict, was resulting in millions of residents fleeing from their homes in former Yugoslavia (but this is a story for another day).
Background to THIS refugee crisis: Bangladesh has hosted refugees fleeing across the border from Myanmar (Burma), on a number of occasions (including in 1992 when I was first assigned to work in Cox Bazaar). Bangladesh has improved its living standards in recent years due to globalization, but still ranks among the poorest nations.
Since the latest conflicts in Myanmar causing almost 900,000 people to flee for their lives, beginning in August 2017, UNHCR has been grateful to the Government of Bangladesh for its generosity and leadership shown to host the massive influx fleeing from violence.
Allow me to digress briefly to show you what young children in Myanmar stated is important in their lives. The American Red Cross and Myanmar Red Cross are helping communities in Myanmar stay safe empowering students and teachers with lifesaving skills and equipment so they can take action in the face of emergencies such as earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones, floods and fires. https://vimeo.com/352083091 (More than half of the 900,000 who fled Myanmar since 2017 were children)
Last week, on August 20, USA for UNHCR hosted a video conference with Steve Corliss, UNHCR’s Representative in Bangladesh. Steve and I worked together in UNHCR. He began his career as a Junior Professional Officer (a post funded by the US government aimed at helping young professionals from the US secure UNHCR jobs. – Are you seeking global career opportunities, then spend some time researching applications to become a Junior Professional Officer).
(Note: when I traveled to Thailand in 2019 with my Arlington Rotary Club colleagues, I arranged for us to receive from UNHCR Regional Office in Bangkok staff a one hour briefing on then-current conditions related to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh. Rotary Clubs in our area are involved in many global activities…)
Steve spoke about ‘self-worth, and the importance of dignity and self-respect’. Refugees in Bangladesh want to go back. Parents are urging curriculum in their local languages in the camps. BUT schools are now closed, and only ‘home-based’ education is available in camps. There is NO INTERNET in camps today as the government can turn it off. BUT the government is planning to fully restore it to the camps.
There is drone footage of the camp areas. (Have any IE students taken a look? Hint: check for the elephant towers (which are helping to protect migratory paths of the animals, while not interfering with camp live).
Refugees are seeking pathways to citizenship in Myanmar. I wonder whether it might be possible for our IE students and young professionals to gain some skill sets and experiences that might both aid their career development, AND assist refugee children in Bangladesh who Need assurance of peace and trust for safe returns…. My question to you how: CAN Inland Empire STUDENTS AND YOUNG PROFESSIONAL PLAY A ROLE IN HELPING SET THE CONDITIONS FOR SAFE RETURN?
Steve Corliss was asked: What advise would you give to someone who wants to work with refugees in the future? Create history of engagement – try to work abroad. IRC, Save the Children, World Vision first bit of experience that creates the track record. Learn languages (let me know if you would like to watch the full video presentation)