Local man helps in plight of Rohingya refugees

Posted on: 3rd April, 2018

Category: Features

Contributor: Mary O'Brien

Yousuf Janabali, living with his family in Clonakilty since 2000, recently travelled to his native country of Bangladesh, to volunteer at one of the Rohingya camps.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have built makeshift shelters on steep, sandy hills in Bangladesh. They’ve fled what the UN has called ethnic cleansing in neighbouring Myanmar.

The refugees – more than 800,000 living in a series of camps covering 3,000 acres – are in urgent need of emergency food and nutrition support. Basic services, in particular shelter and sanitation, are badly needed. Conditions in the settlements and camps are now so critical that disease outbreaks are inevitable.

Yousuf Janabali (above) helped to build a water pump and a latrine during his time at the camp, which houses over 300,000 refugees.

This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world and refugees arriving in Bangladesh—mostly women and children—are traumatised, many arriving with injuries or having lost family and friends.

“It’s so sad and distressing”, said Yousuf, who visited hundreds of families while he was there. “So many children have lost their parents and have made this journey with neighbours, so really they are all on their own and have absolutely nothing. The children just cry all day for their mothers.

“One nine-year-old boy I spoke to sobbed as he told me his story. His family had a farm and didn’t want to leave the animals so the Myanmar’s security forces took his father away, raped his older sister in front of the family and shot the others. He and a brother were hiding in an outside toilet so they got away.”

Yousuf helped to build a water pump and a latrine during his time at the camp, which houses over 300,000 refugees.

As the monsoon season approaches in April, the Government of Bangladesh, supported by UNHCR and its partners, are in a race against time to ensure the refugees are as safe as they can be to deal with potential floods and landslides.

“It rained once while I was there,” says Yousuf “and it was very bad – the soil became very soft and muddy, and because the camp is on a hillside, it was very dangerous.”

Yousuf and his wife Salma have four children. “When I told my children about the plight of these people, they asked me if they could keep their own food to send over there!” he says emotionally.

Yousuf (47) is from a poor farming family in Bangladesh. His father owned two cows and a few goats and earned 15 cent a day working as a labourer.

“I remember one day needing a pencil, costing less than one cent, for school and my father could not afford to buy it for me,” he recalls.

Yousuf paid his way through secondary school by working as a tutor for the children of a wealthy family.

After finishing school, he was employed to run a shop and office, working seven days a week for seven years for the owner. “He gave me food and board and €150 at the end of the seven years.”

Yousuf needed €300 to travel to Malaysia to work in a factory, so his father sold his farm to make up the money.

“My first day there, I earned €4 for eight hours work, which seemed like a fortune,” he recalls.

After one month, Yousuf was able to send €150 home, which his parents used to buy a little house.

In 2000, after working his way up in a five-star hotel in Malaysia, Yousuf was able to afford to move to Ireland.

Today, as well as running his own business, a shop in Spiller’s Lane in Clonakilty selling Asian spices and products, Yousuf, a trained chef, supports his family by working as a night porter in the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery. He still sends money home regularly to his family in Bangladesh.

“My children appreciate how good we have it here in Ireland,” he says. “As hard as my childhood was, it was nothing compared to what the Rohingya refugees are going through. Never in my life have I seen anything like this. These people are badly in need of our support. We need to open our eyes to it”

Yousuf plans on travelling again soon to the Rohingya camp and hopes to raise enough funds to bring with him to help in building more much-needed water pumps and latrines.

If you would like to make a donation the account details are:

A/C name:
Direct Help for Rohingya.


IBAN: IE85AIBK93605714585183

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17th October, 2018  ·  

SuperValu and AsIAm host unique exhibition in Clonakilty

SuperValu and AsIAm.ie will host a unique exhibition which will enable the entire town of Clonakilty to experience what it is like for people with autism to deal with the world around them. The exhibition, which is free to visit, will be hosted in the Clonakilty Parish Hall from 10am to 4pm on Thursday 27th September. The exhibition represents the final part of the four month journey the town has been on to becoming Ireland’s first ever fully accredited Autism Friendly Town and guests are invited to join on a ‘pop-in’ basis.

The exhibition uses an engaging “questions and answers” format as well as a series of activities to answer people’s questions and enable visitors to step into the shoes of those with the condition. This includes using sound, smells, touch and sight experiments to bring neurotypical (those without Autism) people into the world of those with the condition.

“People with autism often experience a sense of being overwhelmed and confused by what others see as normal life, and this exhibition will allow those attending to understand this more than they have done before,” according to the CEO of AsIAm Adam Harris. “Through visiting this exhibition we believe people will be much better equipped to engage with people with autism who they meet regularly in their day-to-day lives.”

Visitors are given an MP3 player which gives them an audio guide through 15 stages which allow them experience different aspects of life with autism.

Under SuperValu and AsIAm’s guidance, the town of Clonakilty has undertaken a commitment to become fully Autism Friendly – a first for anywhere in Ireland. Over the last four months Adam Harris, founder of AsIAm, and his team have been working with the entire community to receive official Autism Friendly Accreditation.

To do this the town as a whole must deliver:

Engagement and training 25% of businesses and voluntary organisations
Engagement and training of 50% of public services
Engagement and training of 50% of school communities
Engagement and training of 50% of healthcare professionals
Engagement of 3 employers
Reaching 25% of the town’s population
The town has almost reached these targets with this exhibition representing the last piece of the journey reaching and educating as many of the community as possible.

The exhibition was developed by the AsIAm Youth Leadership Team, a group of young people with Autism who act as advocates for the organisation. It is part of a larger campaign to engage young people in Autism issues which includes a social media campaign and a website, youthhub.asiam.ie

Around 1 in 65 people in Ireland live with Autism and are to be found in every community and school in the country. They apply for every type of job but are often misunderstood, excluded or left behind due to a lack of understanding in society.
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