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Hold the front page: Tomal’s* dreams of being a writer

Living in a refugee camp is no barrier to Tomal making his dream of becoming a writer a reality

Tomal* is one of almost a million Rohingya who’ve fled violence back home in Myanmar, and are now living in Cox’s Bazaar refugee camp in Bangladesh. The 14-year-old is determined to record his people’s stories and make sure they’re not forgotten. “If the international community aren’t there for us, we’ll die here,” he says. “I want to be a journalist. The world needs to know about us.”

How Tomal got started

With the help of staff at one of our 75 child-friendly spaces (CFSs) in the area, he is learning how to compile reports and practising his interview skills on other children. “I read leftover papers from the roadside and things on people’s walls,” he adds. “[Articles] about Myanmar or children being kidnapped. I want to work out what is true and what is fake, and to learn from the writing style.”

The situation in Cox’s Bazaar

More than 80,000 refugee children at the camps have severe mental health issues, often as a result of witnessing family members being murdered. We’re giving thousands of them vital psychological support. And through his reports on the likes of 12-year-old Jannat*, who arrived in Bangladesh two years ago, Tomal shows that such youngsters can overcome the trauma they’ve experienced.

“The sisters (facilitators) play and chat with us at the CFS,” Jannat* tells him in an interview. “Before, I didn’t feel good. Now, I am very happy.”

Our child friendly spaces

The CFS also provides a safe place for Tomal and Jannat to play, eat and hang out with friends. “I’ve been taught life skills, how to have good manners and all about my rights at the CFS, too,” Tomal says. “When I came to Bangladesh, I was so afraid. There were poisonous animals and we didn’t have regular food rations. I’m not afraid anymore.”

Tomal and other Rohingya children want to hear from you: Send them your message of hope 

*names changed to protect identity

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