Myanmar refugees: A young girl's determination

Somira and her sister Asia in a refugee camp in Bangladesh

“Dad,” she whispers into her sister’s ear, “Say 'dad',” she reiterates and tries to hide a smile, knowing that she is prompting her sister’s reply.

When Asia is asked what she misses most about Myanmar, her little sister, Somira, cannot stop answering on behalf of her. The 9-year-old is a bundle of joy. She smiles like a sunrise and her cheekiness is refreshing in a camp full of sad stories. At first sight, it would be impossible to tell that she carries one on her little shoulders herself.

The four sisters had to flee to Bangladesh all by themselves. They all still vividly remember the night when armed men entered their home and dragged their parents out. That was the last time they saw them. Having escaped through the back door in panic and rush, they hid in the nearby jungle for the night, hoping patiently that their parents would join them. They never came. When the sisters went back home, the only thing they found were the remnants of the burnt village they once called home.

Somira at the school she attends in a makeshift refugee camp in Bangladesh

Four months into living in a new, crowded and terrifying environment in Bangladesh, Somira and her sisters found their uncle in the camp.

“We now call him our dad,” 11-year-old Asia says. “But if our parents were here we could lead a better life,” she adds. Now, the sisters rely on each other. From making their bed, going to school, fetching water and eating, they do everything together. Some of their friends from back home have also sought refuge in in Bangladesh. But in a camp of over nearly 900,000 people in total, most of them live too far away.

Access to education in Myanmar was limited. Restricted movement and overcrowding due to the limited amount of schools available for Muslim minority children has seriously compromised educational opportunities for girls like Somira. But against all odds, Somira says “I don’t want to get married, I want to become a teacher.”

The memories of her old life back home are still fresh. “My mother used to cuddle with me and kiss me on my cheeks,” Somira recalls. “She used to get food for us and we used to go for walks. I miss home,” she adds looking far into the distance. Although life will never return to what it used to be, CARE has been helping Somira and 22,000 other refugees in the camp build a temporary home by providing bamboo, plastic and tools – thanks to support from CARE's donors. Determined and strong-minded, Somira wants to turn this hardship into a bright future when she grows up.

Learn more about how CARE, thanks to your support, is helping refugees from Myanmar like Somira and her sisters.