Blog

May newsletter

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So here comes a copy of the newletter, sent out to my friends: 


'Dear Friends, 

I hope that this email finds you well!

A few months have passed without news from here, so I thought that it was time for a short update from me. 

I will start off from some potentially positive news. A little over a week ago, Tahir was approached by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and invited to attend his medical check up, which took place a few days ago. A fact that IOM got in touch with him suggests that Tahir’s criminality and security checks (related to his resettlement to Canada) had been successful (Canada does not ask IOM to perform medical check-ups before these checks are completed successfully). Our understanding is that the medical check-up is the last step, before the final resettlement offer is given. Although, we have not secured the final resettlement decision yet, we are obviously very, very happy. If all goes according to plan, the Canadians should have all results of the medical tests around end of June (the medical procedures actually take time, as they involve obligatory vaccinations that are administered over the period of 4 weeks). After the receipt of the medical results, the Canadian authorities will need between 4 to 12 weeks to issue Tahir’s travel documents (assuming that he will have a positive decision). That means that we may see Tahir packing and travelling to Canada in August/September! ❤️❤️❤️ Please your fingers crossed that all goes well!

While we are optimistic about the resettlement progress, we are slightly worried about Tahir’s mum. She has been ill for some years, but recently her health deteriorated. We are not sure at this stage what the health issue is, but she stopped walking. Getting help that she needs is quite complicated. As you may remember Tahir’s family belongs to a Muslim religious minority that is called Ahmaddyia. Unfortunately, the Ahmadis are subjected to a severe persecution in Pakistan (very reason, why Tahir needed to flee the country), which manifests itself in various ways. Access to medical services (especially for a poor and illiterate woman, as Tahir’s mum is) is constrained too. Fear of not being accepted by the doctor, lack of money, physical distance to a decent health facility all contribute… This is why Tahir’s mum has never been able to visit a proper specialist and has not been diagnosed properly. However, like in many seemingly hopeless situations, there are amazing people that are willing to go an extra mile or two to help! Together with some wonderful friends, we started looking around to see how we could find someone try finding the sources of illness and suffering. The people that we connected with have been absolutely amazing and helped us find some of the best facilities in the province where Tahir’s mother lives. Not only this, we managed to find a doctor that has already called his mum and reassured her that she was going to be safe and comfortable with her. She also agreed to make all necessary tests without charging any consultation fees, and committed that she will try to be as helpful as she can be. Not only this, our Pakistani friends promised to help us in making all transfers of funds that may arise (there may be some expenses beyond the consultation fees) during the process! Clearly we are so grateful and happy to our friends (they know, who they are)… A BIG, BIG THANK YOU! Mum is scheduled to travel to hospital, most probably on Thursday. Please keep your fingers crossed that we figure our how to help her, and that we will be able to actually make Tahir’s mother a little bit better!

Professionally, I have been heavily involved in Bangladesh projects for quite some weeks. As you may know Bangladesh hosts nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, and is home to the largest refugee camp in the world (if you are not aware of it, please google up ‘Kutupalong mega-camp’). Working on this crisis is a real emotional drain. The level of misery and suffering that the Rohingya and Bangladeshi host communities go through is so immense that is difficult to describe… Visiting the camps, reading about the challenges, and then trying doing something that would at least minimally eased the situation is a roller-coaster. One day you are happy with very small successes – that may be important at a given time, then next moment you get depressed when you realise that these small advances actually do not solve the overall situation and are not going to end the sources of the crisis. The humanitarians may be successful (to a smaller or bigger degree) in providing basic life sustaining services – or even successful in actual saving some lives, but we are absolutely not equipped in fixing the problem. It is the mighty and powerful world decision makers that need to make the change happen. Sadly today, in my mind, we do not see a lot of signs that the change will come, which means that the most likely scenario is that we will see the crisis continue for years to come.

Personally, I have restarted my Portuguese lessons. I have skype lessons with my new amazing teacher, who is based in Lisbon. I am enjoying them tremendously, and always look forward to them. The lessons are not only stimulating, but make me feel happy about having my little place in Portugal!

I am trying to plan some of my holiday movements for next months, but it proves to be challenging, as we still do not know when exactly Tahir may be able to travel Canada, and there are still quite lack of clarity over how much of my time I would need to invest in supporting our Bangladesh projects (which involves frequent trips there). I hope however that I will be able to travel to Europe (Poland and Portugal) sometime soonish! I guess that I would also travel to Tornonto too, so that I can make sure that we all welcome him in his new country, when the time is due!

I miss hearing from you! Please do forgive me not being in touch often enough. I guess my age is catching up with me, and I do get tired quicker than some years ago 😉. 

Sending hugs to all of you!
Roman (and Tahir says hello too)'

Hospitals and medics

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Last week was all about doctors and hospitals. For now, all is good news, but there was definitely some drama happening in between. However I will start with the best news first. Tahir finally got called to do his medical tests, which means that he had successfully passed his security and criminality check in his resettlement process! Those of you, who know the story of Tahir, and are aware about all the hurdles that he has gone through in his strive to search for a safe place to live will appreciate how happy this piece of news has made us. Now, we need to wait for the results of various tests, and hopefully start thinking of the last phase of his struggle: packing for Canada! :) This is likely to take another 2 - 3 months, of course given that all goes as we hope it will. 

Staying with Tahir: his mum, who is in Pakistan, has become ill. We do not know what the problem is, but she can now hardly walk, and her condition is getting worse. Being a poor, and an uneducated person from a religious minority does not make things easier to help her. Access to medical services is limited. This is mainly out of fear that one will be mistreated, if the doctor, nurse, etc. will find out what one's religion is (which is not that unlikely). Also poverty and consequently, lack of education, makes you more vulnerable, as you do not know what your rights may be. Tahir’s mum for example, was already brave enough to visit a doctor in her little town, but all what the doctor did was giving her multivitamins, even if it was clear that she was seriously ill. He just did not bother helping, and only wanted to make sure that he receives his fees. She was obviously too shy, or possibly even unaware that this was not fair, and that the doctor simply did not do a good job (either intentionally or not). Bottom line is that we wasted lots of time, before we found out that nothing was done to investigate the source of her problem, and that she was not treated adequately at all. It all resulted with her health deteriorating further (while taking her multivitamin pills). We do however, potentially, have some reason for hope now. A very good friend of ours, who is in Pakistan started helping us out in admitting Tahir’s mum to a very good hospital in Lahore (not far from where she lives). She reassured us that Tahir’s mum would be well treated, and the doctors in that establishment are all open minded, and do not mind treating patients of various backgrounds and religion. Not only this. They also said that they would not charge us for the service and would do whatever they can to help, until she feels better! She should be admitted to the hospital still this week, and hopefully, soon we will be able to plan what we could do to make her feel a little bit better! Watch this space for more updates, as they are likely to come soon!

Finally, just a day before I was about to leave Dhaka for Bangkok, I had a small incident in Bangladesh. When I had my lunch, I consumed a hard object that somehow ended up inside my sandwich (as it turned out, it was a small nail/hook). I will spare you all the drama and details, but just mention that the whole situation ended up in emergency endoscopy and colonoscopy and two days in the hospital. Luckily all ended up well, and I am now in Bangkok recovering and getting better! 

What a week!

Rains, rains, rains...

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The rainy season has arrived to Dhaka, and to the rest of the country. Rains here are impressive. It just gets very, very dark and it feels like late at night, even if you may be in the middle of the day, and then it pours buckets of water… it carries on like that for 30, 40 minutes, and then it clears up. I love rain here in Dhaka, it helps keeping the air pollution down, and makes the temperature bearable. 

Each time it rains, I am also getting scared though. Just 300 km south of Dhaka, we have one of the largest concentration of refugees in the world, living in camps that are among muddy and sandy hills. As you may expect, there is no proper infrastructure to withstand bad weather. Each rain session there potentially means floods and landslides - which can kill people, block roads - and thus access to basic services, and compromise sanitation systems - contributing to a possibilities of spreading diseases such as cholera… We are bound for the disaster in the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. A part of optimistic me hopes things will not be that bad, but the optimism is based on nothing but wishful thinking. Things are very likely to be bad, and we may be experiencing emergencies within emergencies… Scary indeed. 

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One of the camp roads right after a small shower.

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Imagine this kind of environment exposed to heavy rain pour...


I am going to be travelling to Cox’s Bazar and visiting the camps this week. The main reason for the visit will be an attempt of understanding what else we all could do to minimise the suffering of people, when the bad weather becomes a reality in the area. 

On another note, we are still waiting for the news from the Canadians with regards to Tahir’s security and criminality clearances. I still have not managed to control being anxious. I wished so much that we already have some answers!

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