My Favorite Boy: Active listening–and remembering

It’s amazing how closely children listen, and what they remember.

Kamal Hussain has lived his entire life in the mega refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, knowing nothing but cramped and small temporary shelters made of tin, tarp and bamboo for a home. “There is no opportunity for higher education. There is no future for us,” shares the 18-year-old. Credit: Saikat Mojumder/MSF

My son saw the earrings I was wearing.

Lucas: Mommy, I like your earrings.

Me: Thank you! They’re a gift from Tita Polly. They’re from Bangladesh.

Lucas: Oh, that’s where the Rohingya are!

(Polly is my teammate.)

I was so shocked, and quite pleased.

It’s no secret that I love my job, and I thoroughly enjoy the work I do. I talk about work with my husband, with my family and friends. In my work as a Communications Officer, I go through a lot of pictures, I write articles and social media content, and I write scripts and produce videos. Inevitably Lucas comes to my office and sees what I’m doing, and I always try to explain the emergency we’re working on, the people we’re trying to help.

Doctors Without Borders Southeast, East Asia and Pacific Project (SEEAP) head Paul McPhun, assisted by a Rohingya translator, discusses with a mother at the Doctors Without Borders Goyalmara Hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit. Her son had suffered second-degree burns on his chest and hands after boiling hot water splashed on him. Credit: MSF

I recall Lucas climbing into my lap one day when I was working on a video, where our director, Paul, was talking about what he had seen in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, the health challenges faced by the Rohingya, and their uncertain future. I remember telling him about the Rohingya, how they were forced out of their homes, and how they now had to live in refugee camps, how children couldn’t go to school, and they didn’t always have enough food or clean water.

I don’t assume he remembers all these things, but I tell him anyway. Imagine my surprise when he remembered the Rohingya in Bangladesh.

It’s no easy thing to teach a child to be aware of what’s happening in the world, especially in places far away from their daily reality. It’s no easy thing for a child to remember other people’s suffering and hardships, much less the names of a persecuted ethnic group and the country where they are seeking refuge. It’s no easy thing, but somehow, much to our surprise, our child remembers, and I am beyond pleased.

I can only hope Lucas continues to be aware of what’s happening around the world, to realize that others lead very different lives from his, and face very different challenges. I can only hope he continues to remember, not just the Rohingya, but all the oppressed and the marginalized and those living in emergency.

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