Karim, 11 years old,
can dream again

In the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, Karim has recaptured some of his childhood and is able to dream again thanks to one of the Terre des hommes (Tdh) children’s spaces in Cox’s Bazar.

Karim* has drawn a small orange house with apple-green trees in the background. “There are no plants here in the camp. Just mud.” It’s hard to imagine that the denuded hills of the Cox’s Bazar Bangladeshi camp were once covered with forests before being replaced with homes for the thousands of Rohingya refugees fleeing attacks in Myanmar. “At home, we had a house with trees,” explains the 11-year-old boy.

Sheltered and protected in one of the Terre des hommes children’s spaces in Cox’s Bazar, the boy relives in his imagination the trees that he misses so dearly. It is a way of pushing aside other memories, such as the images of terror the child brought with him on his journey. “At first, I was always terrified that the people who hurt us in Myanmar would come and find us.” His mother watches him in silence and then adds, “When we arrived at the camp, Karim was very stressed and ill. He’s better now that he can take part in Terre des hommes’ activities. It’s also reassuring for me to know that there’s a safe place where he’s cared for; the camp can be a dangerous place for children.” The family lost almost everything when they escaped a few months ago. “Even the two chickens we managed to bring with us died along the way," she tells us. However, for her, the greatest loss is still her children’s education.

“Karim has regained his curiosity.”

Rohingya people cannot attend Myanmar’s state schools but Karim's family managed to afford to enrol him in a private school. “Karim was very hard-working, and his results were good, but there’s no school for the refugees here.” He makes up for this by joining in on activities at the children's centre. “He’s regained his curiosity. He loves telling his little brother and sister about what he’s learnt, and he adores reading. Karim has gradually overcome his traumatic experiences; he’s also found a space where, once again, he can dream: “When I grow up, I’d like to be a doctor and an engineer. Yes, both. Why not a teacher too!”

Our six children's spaces provide activities for 1500 children per day in Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh. 1200 adult and adolescent volunteers from the Rohingya community are trained in child protection best practice.

*The name has been changed to protect their privacy.