By Inshra Sakhawat Russell, Creative Director of Guba Publishing and Illustrator of The Unexpected Friend, A Rohingya Children’s Story.
It is extremely rare to see children’s stories that reflect upon world events, let alone the condition of the Rohingya people of Myanmar.
The Unexpected Friend: A Rohingya Children’s Story is a fictional story for children aged 4-8, based on the real lives of Rohingya children living in the refugee camps of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Persecuted for their religion and ethnicity, more than 600,000 were forced to leave their home in 2017 to escape the violence and genocide. They had to seek refuge in neighbouring country Bangladesh which now houses 1.1 million Rohingya refugees.
Save The Children interviewed hundreds of children and their caregivers to create a report, which they asked us to turn into a storybook for children. The findings or the report demonstrated how, despite their environment, all children want the same things. That is, to feel safe and protected, and have opportunities to learn and play.
I gave birth to my son in 2017, around the same time as the displacement of the Rohingya people from the Rakhine State in Myanmar to Bangladesh. To know that so many babies the same vulnerable age were going through such suffering was really hard for me to swallow. As publishers, we value the subtle impact that storytelling has in exploring feelings of empathy, humanity and awareness in young children.
We want to share this authentic story, which centres around children affected by a humanitarian crisis, with the rest of the world. We are so thankful to be part of this initiative. We hope this contributes towards giving a voice to these stateless children.
The book will be released in August 2019 and profits will be donated to the Save The Children Rohingya relief fund. You can pre-order it on from the UK on www.gubabooks.com