A shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen at the Red Cross field hospital in Bangladesh

By Angela Hill

On a stifling and humid afternoon in November, Julekha ‘Juli’ Akter sat on the floor of a small tent for families in the transit camp for vulnerable people arriving in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar.
The 18-year-old Bangladesh Red Crescent Society volunteer held the hand of an elderly woman, never breaking eye contact as the newcomer tearfully explained her journey.
The conversation came to an end, after the woman, too overcome with emotion to continue, sobbed into the arms of Juli. Juli embraced the woman and the pair sat together quietly for a long time, before the woman took a long, deep breath, let go and said thank you.
Julekha ‘Juli’ Akter, an 18-year-old Bangladesh Red Crescent Society volunteer“People tell me their story, their sadness story,” Juli said in her beautifully accented English, about her work as a psychosocial support (PSS) volunteer.
“We go to their house because they need someone’s help.”
Juli said people tell her they are sad because they have lost friends and relatives in the journey, they miss their homes in Myanmar and they are worried for the future because they don’t have any money.
There is a team young female volunteers that work as PSS, helping the arrivals from Myanmar feel heard. They wear matching red head scarves, tucked into their beige Bangladesh Red Crescent Society logoed vests.
Along with their work at the transit camp, the team works with parents of sick kids at the field hospital and talk about services with people who don’t know where to get food or supplies.
“‘If you feel like crying, you cry.’ If you feel emotion we say, ‘please cry,’” Juli said, adding that the work is worthwhile, but it can be hard.
“When I see them crying I also cry, it is very difficult, but I am very happy to do this.
“We are all human. So when one person is [facing] danger then our responsibility is to support and be beside that person, to help the sad person feel better.”
There are also days of joy, when the PSS volunteers spend the day with the children in the camps and makeshift settlements - giving children a chance to play. This is some of Juli’s favourite work.
 “We play many games football, skipping rope and drawing and singing, dancing and also some Bangladeshi games we play with them,” she said.
“They are so happy.”
At the end of the day all of the volunteers gather to debrief, reflect on what they heard and support each other.
Juli and dozens of Bangladeshi young adults are giving of their time and of themselves to support the resilience of the people who have fled their homes. These are the Faces of Humanity.

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