By Diana Coulter, a Canadian aid worker currently in Bangladesh
It’s hard enough to help people when you clearly see the pain, exhaustion or panic on their faces. But when thousands file past in the dark, as they arrive from Myanmar at the Bangladesh transit centre - stumbling, moaning or just staring blankly - all a small team of Canadian doctors and nurses could do was try their best.
Dr. Ola Dunin-Bell of the Canadian Red Cross mobile medical team
“It was so terribly difficult,” recalls Dr. Ola Dunin-Bell, pictured left, about the first time the Canadian Red Cross mobile medical team assisted at the transit camp for new arrivals.
“I just remember busloads of the very sick, and hundreds of others walking with children, arriving in waves, and it was so dark that I still worry that we missed people who really needed us.”
Arrivals generally happen during the day, but the Canadian team’s first experience happened long after nightfall on a Friday, which is a day-off for local translators and support staff. The team scrambled to gather headlamps, and recruited field hospital technicians and others to help. A parked car with headlights pointed down the transit camp path so people could see their way to medical help.
Recalling that night, each Canadian doctor and nurse stopped a moment as intense emotions and sometimes tears overcame them. They remembered pain and suffering beyond imagination, but also incredible strength. Here are a few of their memories:Maria Munoz-Bernard, team leader and doctor 

Maria Munoz-Bernard (team leader and doctor), pictured right: “So many shadows of people with children filing past, scared and so physically exhausted that they barely made it to us. But so brave. One of the saddest things was an old woman being carried in a tiny wooden box suspended between two men who were also terribly frail with very thin arms, but they were obviously determined.”
Ola Dunin-Bell (team doctor) – “A pair of ladies came into the area, one was pregnant and the other, I think, was her mum. Both were absolutely exhausted. The young woman was afraid whether things would be alright for her baby. At the time, I don’t know how honest I was, but I reassured her that yes, she was now in a place that was safe, and her baby would be alright. I could see her whole body just relax a little. She and her mum picked up their tiny load and went back and joined the lines.”
Gerardo Escalante of Mexican Red Cross working with Canadian team
Gerardo Escalante (Mexican Red Cross working with Canadian team), pictured left: “There was a little girl, about 10 or 12 years old, just walking alone and confused at night. I asked her where her family was and she just told me: I’m alone. All my family was killed.”

Lynn Henderson (team nurse)  loading up supplies for those in needLynn Henderson (team nurse), pictured right – “The morning after our first transit camp, I went to check on a woman who had given birth right after arriving that night. I remember walking into a wall of heat in her tent. I checked the baby and the mother, who was still covered in blood from childbirth. She had no other clothes. We did as much as we could, but it is so horrible to see humanity at such a terrible low.”
Since that first night, the Canadian mobile medical team continues to assist at the transit camp, where people arrive often by the thousands.

Canadians can help by donating to our Myanmar Refugee Appeal. This work is made possible in part thanks to support from the Government of Canada.