Sadia: Linguist, Volunteer, Diagnostician

Narrated by: Bipasha Khatun, Friendship Medical Assistant at Balukhali 1 at the Forcibly Displaced Myanmar National (FDMN) camps in Ukhiya:

I came across a little girl who was helping the medical assistants usher in patients. Named Sadia, this 7-year-old was also acting as an interpreter between the medical staff and their patients, speaking in the camp-dwellers’ language to the patients, and broken Bangla to the staff. Upon asking, I found out she is an FDMN (Forcibly Displaced Myanmar National) herself.

She lives right next to the clinic. The first time she came with her mother, but after that she’d wander over now and then and observe us. She’d just arrived four or five days prior, but very quickly she learned about our activities at the clinic. Once a patient is received, we have to note down their name, block address and signs and symptoms. Often we couldn’t understand each other. That’s when Sadia volunteered to translate. This helped a lot.

Asked about family, she tells me “when the Myanmar Army captured my father in the front yard, we were behind the house and managed to escape. As we were running away, we saw them shoot him twice in the chest. After that we walked for four days straight before getting on the boat, which took another 2 days”. She recounts all this without shedding a tear.

She managed to escape with her mother and elderly grandmother. Afterwards she spent her every waking minute trying to find ways to help, starting with translations to manually assisting the doctors and patients from her own free will, with maturity beyond her years. She even dispensed advise to her fellow camp-mates about hygiene and sanitation that she’d only just learned herself.

Sadia’s mother told me “I love that she is helping people. Bangladeshis are helping us so much, how can we not help in return, at least a little? Everyone at Friendship is so magnanimous that I truly believe it will be a good influence for her to be there.”

I asked her what she wanted to be when she grows up. “A teacher, like my father before me” said she.