Written by Lara Salam, Consultant, UNICEF
2017 saw the largest influx of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. Amongst them are thousands of adolescents braving the dangers that come with persecution and displacement in a foreign country. No child should have to face these challenges on top of the difficulties associated with entering adulthood.
Yet even in the most difficult circumstances, heart-warming stories of kindness and friendship can be found. One such tale belongs to Hasmida and her friend “Happy” who was given the nickname by her friends because of her high spirit. The two inspiring adolescent girls have bridged borders and cultural differences to quickly become friends. When Happy first encountered the refugees, she felt very sad when she saw their condition and wanted to help. She asked her father to let Hasmida, a Rohingya refugee, and her family stay with them for a few days while they got their bearings in a foreign land. As a result, their friendship blossomed.
These young women found each other again when UNICEF and the European Union launched a peacebuilding programme for 20,500 adolescents and youth from Bangladeshi and Rohingya communities to strengthen social cohesion in Cox’s Bazar. Five centres called “social hubs” have been established beside refugee camps in local villages, where the peacebuilding sessions are taking place. They offer adolescents like Happy and Hasmida a chance to build ties and bridge gaps in culture, language, and other differences. But most importantly, these hubs allow young adolescents to build life-changing friendships that can support them through difficult times and have a positive impact on the rest of their lives. During their time at the social hub, Hasmida says friends share their stories of what life is like growing up in different countries, "I share my problems with her, and she shares hers with me."
You can view a video featuring Hasmida and Happy’s story here
This story is an example of the support the EU has been providing through the Instrument Contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP) in response to the Rohingya crisis, in particular to promote peaceful coexistence and social cohesion between the Rohingya refugees and the host communities by providing a safe haven for the youth and by promoting their role as active drivers for peace within their respective communities.
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