Halifax student helping Rohingya Muslim refugees find food and shelter

The Nova Scotia Community College student has collected $400 since the beginning of the month.

Nova Scotia Community College student Farzana Islam is raising money for refugee camps in Bangladesh

Farzana Islam with a picture of Rohingya children in camps. (Aya Al-Hakim/CBC)

A 26-year-old student from Halifax is raising money to help improve the living conditions of Rohingya Muslim refugees in Bangladesh.

Farzana Islam is a permanent resident who came from Bangladesh two years ago to further her education in information technology web development at the Nova Scotia Community College.

This year, she raised money for the flood victims in her home country, but then decided to also help the Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh from the violence in Myanmar.

Islam said she was inspired by her sister and brother-in-law in Bangladesh, who were part of the first fundraiser.

"They will make sure that the people will get the help that they need, so I'm really grateful for that," said Islam.

Violence in Myanmar

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority in Myanmar who have been denied citizenship in that country since 1982.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, about 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled violence in Myanmar by crossing into Bangladesh in the last two weeks.

Scarborough has seen the biggest increase in food bank visits since April 2016. (CBC News)

The mass exodus began Aug. 25, after Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts. The military responded with what it called "clearance operations" to root out any fighters it said might be hiding in villages.

Those who have fled their homes say Myanmar troops and Buddhist mobs have set fire to their homes, shot and stabbed civilians and ordered them to leave their homes or be killed.

"They didn't bring anything with them, so they need food, clothing, money and a place to stay," said Islam.

$400 collected so far

Islam launched her fundraiser in early September and has collected $400 so far. She's been appealing for funds through word of mouth and on Facebook.

"I'm hoping to collect as much as I can," said Islam. "Every dollar counts."

Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh. (As-Saadiq Foundation)

With the help of her sister and brother-in-law, the money is going to be sent to As-Saadiq Foundation, a charity group in Bangladesh that has been created to help Rohingya Muslims find food and shelter.

Islam has contacted the foundation to learn more about what it is like in the camps, what has been done so far to help the refugees and what their main needs are. Food is the foundation's top priority, Islam said.

Fundraising challenges

She said even though many want to help, there are still some who feel unsure donating money to a foundation they've never heard of.

"As human beings, when we see something we feel it more, and I can't always explain what's happening because I am not in the field. So I think that's what makes some people hesitate in giving the money," said Islam.

Rohingya children in one of Bangladesh's refugee camps. (As-Saadiq Foundation)

People can find pictures of what is being bought with the donated money on the foundation's Facebook page. "This will hopefully gain their trust," said Islam.

She says the best way to reach her is through Facebook.

About the Author

Aya Al-Hakim


Aya Al-Hakim is a journalist with CBC Nova Scotia. She can be reached at aya.al-hakim@cbc.ca.

With a file from The Associated Press