The Rohingya are a largely Muslim people who’ve lived in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar (Burma) for centuries. During the past two years, over half a million Rohingya have fled to southern Bangladesh to escape an ethnic cleansing pogrom in which they’ve endured arbitrary arrests, forced labor, torture, arson, rape, and summary executions. Many survivors have sought sanctuary in Kutupalong within the region of Cox’s Bazar, now home to the world’s largest refugee camp.
Here you’ll find a Shadowman Van.
The vehicle has become almost like an ambulance. No, it doesn’t dispense medicine, nor does it actually move. But it does offer other kinds of urgent care.
Cultural-Creative Community Space
Working with NGOs and the local Mermaid Group, Shadowman exists as a meeting place where people can learn job skills, find equipment, and share their dreams. We call it the Mermake Creative Hub. Our partnership’s aim is a 50-50 distribution of resources to refugees and host communities.
“I am working at the MerMake maker space. Here I saw many kinds of activities going on, and I thought about making some jewelry. The necklaces are my own design, and I feel good about the result. I like it here very much.”
Muntaj holding her latest craft designs
Mosheda has since started her own small business selling necklaces
Mobile Shadowman Reaches Refugees
While the government bars refugees from leaving camp, our on-site collaborators are working to teach them carpentry, computer literacy, graphic design, and other ways to advance. Outside the camp, the Mobile Shadowman program will teach trades and start conversations among Bangladeshis and Rohingya around the country. So far, we’ve helped start two small businesses, with more to follow.
Mermake Creative Hub, September 2018
Trained local carpenters are training inside surrounding refugee camps
Bangladeshi women making shadowman van necklaces to earn a living
Sewing station at Mermake Creative Hub
The Spirit of Shadowman
We also remember that the original Shadowman Van started life as an ice cream truck serving kids. Over half the Rohingya refugees are children — many of them orphaned and poorly educated. The team is setting up classes and art programs at 15 youth spaces inside the camp.
No matter their age or their country of origin, we hope the Van will transport its passengers to better lives.
Children inside Mermake
Children brainstorming new ideas at Mermake