Miles2smile Stories

The Promise of Dignity 

6 Min Read

The Rohingya refugee crisis is one of the most pressing issues of our time. The Rohingya people, a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar, have been subjected to violence, persecution, and displacement at the hands of the Myanmar military. 

The situation in Myanmar can be traced back to the country’s struggle for independence from Britain in the late 1940s. Following independence, the country fell under the control of a repressive military dictatorship, which ruled for decades. 

The result? Widespread poverty, civil war with ethnic minority groups, suppression of freedom of speech, religious persecution, and genocide. 

As a result, many Rohingyas have fled to either neighboring Bangladesh or taken refuge in India, where they live in bamboo-woven camps and face ongoing challenges in accessing basic necessities like food, water, and healthcare.

Their future in a new country is far from easy

In the face of this crisis, Miles2Smile foundation from India is working towards providing support and hope to the Rohingya refugee community.

Recently, the foundation launched Dignity Day, a special event to reiterate the foundation’s commitment towards its vision for the Rohingya refugee youth, and acknowledge the incredible resilience of the community.

The event was a resounding success, with young people from all over the camp coming together to celebrate their culture, their community, and the inherent talents that they hold. 

At the heart of the Dignity Day initiative, was the ‘Promise of Dignity’ which  entails the  belief that education is a key factor in promoting dignity and empowering young people to take control of their futures. This is something that Miles2Smile understands implicitly. 

The foundation operates several learning centers in the camp providing a safe and supportive environment where children, and young people can learn, grow, and thrive.

Having been displaced for years and still stuck in a limbo, the Rohingyas continue to face barriers of entry to receiving a formal education. Additionally, with their unwritten native language, Rohingya  kids have been deprived of mother tongue-first literacy programs. 

The question of whether to implement the Myanmar curriculum, with the expectation that the Rohingya will eventually return to their homeland under a government that so brutally drove them out? Or, will they ever be recognized in their new home in India and finally be allowed to integrate into the public school system is a complex one. 

Education in the refugee camps is often fragile and inconsistent, due to changing politics of a host country, and natural and human-caused disasters such as fire, flooding, and even global pandemics. 

While others choose to stand on the sidelines and wait for the politics to play out, Miles2Smile believes, in the meantime, ‘learning must continue’, regardless of where the Rohingya will end up. Time spent in a refugee camp shouldn’t be seen as a waste, but rather a productive time of growth.

I didn’t have any material to read and write. Finally I’ve received books along with a school bag and pen for the first time. My studying journey started with Miles2Smile

Mohammd Noorul Islam, A Rohingya Student

One example of the impact that Miles2Smile’s work is having on the lives of Rohingya refugees is the story of Mohammad, a 14-year-old boy who was forced to flee his home in Myanmar. Mohammad now attends a Miles2Smile school, where he is able to learn, play, and connect with other young people. In an interview with Miles2Smile’s field operation staff, Mohammad said, “I feel safe here. I feel like I belong.” This sense of belonging and safety is a testament to the transformative power of organizations like Miles2Smile.

One Day, At a Time

Miles2Smile is running five centers of learning, including two Madrasas (Religious learning). These centers of knowledge and brotherhood are creating a safe space for them to learn and grow. The centers are located within the settlements, allowing the children to retain their ethnic and cultural identities while also receiving an education. 

Inclusivity should not mean erasing identities; it should mean creating a safe space where refugees can collaborate, contribute, and support each other to grow together.

Miles2Smile’s work is having a positive impact on the lives of Rohingya refugee children. The foundation’s initiative ‘Dignity Day’ in 2022 celebrated the accomplishments and resilience of refugees, and included cultural performances by Rohingya children. Such events are crucial in helping refugees retain their cultural values and ethnic identities, which are vital for their mental and emotional wellbeing.

The event also brought back memories of their homeland ‘Arakn’ and its ethnicity.

Help support the education of Rohingya refugee children

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