When I was born in Kutupalong camp, Bangladesh, it was a very different place. I remember as a child laughing and flying kites with my friends. Kites are not flying around our camps any more. There is little laughter.
Just months ago, we lived in a different world. We used to go outside a lot, seeking freedom from our little bamboo and plastic homes. But with Covid-19 we cannot. Often we are told to stay inside. It’s hot and cramped, with nine of us in one room.
Social distancing is just not possible. It’s the same for most people here. We have hardly any masks or other protective equipment in the camps. We have no idea how we are surviving.
Most people here do not seem to care about much, certainly not Covid-19. Our main worries are our dignity, our safety and having hope for the future. I know about Covid but most people in the camps have not heard of it. Many don’t know what a virus is.
We have seen many organisations using loudspeakers to make people aware of coronavirus. It doesn’t work. They speak so fast and move too quickly. Our community Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers are doing a great job going door to door. I’m seeing people understand now. It helps a lot.
I see this place as full of suffering. From dawn to dusk, we endure challenges: finding food, repairing our homes, keeping safe or seeking water. Our lives are filled with limitations. Most of us do not have the opportunity to learn to read and write.
When I can, I pass the time reading. I love history and English literature. Ever since my childhood, I wanted to be a teacher. I studied up to my eighth year as we were not allowed more education than that. It was very difficult to accept. Since then I have been studying by myself. It would be my dream to become a teacher.
But my life has become difficult lately as my father is sick. For many years, he worked with the Bangladesh Red Crescent in the camps. Our whole family was dependent on his allowance and aid we received. He is 48 and has developed heart and other health problems.
Since I was 14, I have been volunteering, working as much as possible, around two weeks a month. I am paid a small allowance and this is all we have. I want to support my family with all my heart.
I am trying to protect my family from Covid-19. My parents came here after fleeing Rakhine state in Myanmar nearly 30 years ago. Every day I worry for my mother, who has chronic kidney disease.
Our shelters are getting old. The bamboo frames, plastic and tarpaulins are wearing out. When it rains, water pours in. It’s the monsoon season now and it’s raining a lot so it is very hard to sleep.
We queue for the toilet and bathing area. It’s shared with 25-30 people. My mother and sister are afraid to go out at night to use the toilet. There is no lighting and they must go in complete darkness. Often I go for support. Things are worse in the mud.
Staring at the roof of our shelter, I hear the sound of people speaking non-stop. We have no personal space. No privacy whatsoever.
As if life is not hard enough, there are mice and rats as big as cats. They often make more holes in our tarpaulins.
I help my neighbour’s children, teaching them maths, Arabic and English. I love teaching them. I don’t want children in my community to lose their future. Since official teaching activities have been halted, I think the children will forget what they have been taught. I also speak to them about the risks we face with Covid-19.
If I were a citizen of any country, I could finish my education. I would love to go on to higher education. If I could become a teacher and work, I would love to be able to support my family properly. But I am not that lucky person. I am stuck here. I do not know what will happen to me and my family in the coming days. Whatever happens, we will face it together.
All I want is to forget everything and start a new life. Earn a little to survive and live a very simple life with my family.
• Farid Alam, 21, was born and raised in Kutupalong camp. His parents fled Rakhine, Myanmar, nearly 30 years ago. He is currently volunteering with the Bangladesh Red Crescent
Source: The Guardian