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Be a frog or a king. Be happy.

Children endure terrible times.

What does it take to bring a smile?

Here in Cox’s Bazaar more than half of the 600,000+ people who have arrived from Myanmar are women and children. Most have suffered sexual and gender-based violence.

On Hamida’s first day as a counsellor here she saw a young mother struggling with a heavy load. With her, four little children without clothes in the midday sun. The next day she found a child who had collapsed, and an exhausted little girl with no parents who had been wandering alone for hours.

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Every child has witnessed unimaginable situations.

Hamida explains: “It was so difficult at first, most of the children were quiet, some would not speak at all, and others were restless to leave. On one of my first days here I saw two babies, only a few months old, sleeping naked on a mat in a corner. Their older brother told me there was no other place for them to sleep.”

Every child had witnessed unimaginable situations back home in Myanmar.

The counsellors like Hamida work to spread positivity and joy, and strengthen a sense of family and belonging.

“The children are very enthusiastic and responsive. They are always helping each other.”

Deep inside the chaotic makeshift settlements is a spacious, shaded, colourful place. A bamboo structure with handmade decorations hanging from the walls.

A group of young women clad in vibrant headscarves have formed a moving train, hands locked to each other’s shoulders. They stop, look at each other and smile, clapping their hands together, and exploding into song:

We are all together in harmony, we are all together.

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We are all together in harmony.

“While the situation outside may be uncertain, they can come here every day and be themselves – or kings, queens, lions or frogs. They can be happy and free. This security is the strongest tool in combatting the uncertainty outside.”

Thanks to BRAC and partner organisations there are around 200 of these child-friendly spaces across the makeshift settlements in Cox’s Bazaar.

Good ideas are for sharing. Pass them on. Thank you.

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