Dear lovely father

A letter from Kutupalong refugee camp

My name is Hafsa Aktar, I am a Rohingya from Rakhine State, Myanmar. I am keen to share my story as a forcibly displaced person and the letter I have written to my father, who we left behind.

Hafsa Akter sharing her story during a WFP Storytellers training. Photo: WFP/Claire Nevill

We are temporarily living in Kutupalong Refugee Camp, Cox’s Bazar District in Bangladesh: the world largest refugee camp. We are a family of nine. Eight of us managed to escape along with millions of Rohingya displaced after 25 August 2017 while my father is left behind in my homeland. Now, we became separated from him. However, we children are surviving under the good guidance of our lovely mother. We remain hopeful we will reunite as a family one day.

We fled to neighboring villages where we hid for almost a week while looking at whether we could survive or return to our home. Finally, we decided to follow most of the community. We reached a place bordering between Myanmar and Bangladesh, the so-called no man’s land or zero land, after almost 10 days. We walked such a long journey, crossed many hills, mountain ranges, many creeks and rivers with bare feet, without umbrella and without enough food.

While thousands of families were unable to bring anything, very fortunately, my family brought legal documents such as National Registration Cards, Household list and other land documents. When we arrived in Bangladesh, it was hard to find a place to shelter but now we have a small shelter of tarpaulin.

We are here only for a while, but not forever and we want to go home to Myanmar. We deserve to be protected as refugees and as human beings by the international community, world leaders, and every society around the world including the government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. We would kindly urge the international community to help safeguard fundamental rights and develop durable or sustainable solutions that ensure we have a safe place to call home where we can build better future.

I want to be a storyteller because, in our current life, I must tell my story to the world, for it to be known who I am.

After the WFP Storytellers training I learnt how to write letters, interview people and how to structure a story. Here’s a letter I have written to my father back home:

Dear lovely father,

Assalamualaikum. I hope you are in good health and safe in our motherland. I am missing you and my motherland, Rakhine. I remember all the things which I have left with you in my old house. Don’t worry for your family, we are all fine.

Daddy, I know you have much more experience than me about life as a refugee. It is very hot here due to deforestation in the camps. This plastic roof has no resistance to the power of high temperatures. You know we are living here in a small house. If two visitors come to my home I cannot provide a place overnight. We are living in a crowded area. Our children cannot access formal education. We are not getting any freedom of movement in the camps. Here there are many health facilities, but we cannot access them in an emergency as they are too far from us. We have no safety. If it is windy, our shelters can be blown away. We are suffering from many things. Your children’s lives are being damaged as we cannot study here. As you know, your children have many ambitions, but they cannot achieve these goals.

But don’t worry for your family papa. We can resist and bear everything in our life. This is our life and we must struggle. Most of the international community is trying to help us.

Papa, I want to see your face and want to talk face-to-face. I don’t know why I cannot control my tears while I am writing this letter. They’re falling down from my eyes.

I hope and always pray for one thing, that is to come back to our original country of Myanmar. I hope we can meet soon in our motherland of Rakhine.

Your lovely, delightful daughter

Hafsa Akter

Hafsa Akter shares her photo story of a family headed by a single mother. Photo: WFP/Hugh Rutherford

My photo story: This is a vulnerable family without a breadwinner.

Her husband died while fleeing from their village in Myanmar. They now live in Kutupalong Camp.

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