When two of Singapore’s UWCSEA international school Grade 9 and 10 students, Alisha Malhotra and Sanya Shete, were interning at billionBricks (a non-profit innovation studio) this summer, the Rohingyan refugee crisis was beginning to unfold in the northern state of Rakhine in Myanmar.
The teenage duo were horrified to read about the plight of the thousands of Rohingyan refugees, who were fleeing Myanmar to escape the persecution by the army and its people, which the UN termed “a textbook case of ethnic cleansing”. When they learnt that the migrants, the majority consisting of women and children, were staring at an uncertain future in Bangladesh with no shelter or food, they wanted to do something for them.
“We decided to spearhead a campaign for Rohingyas to make a difference,” Malhotra tells e27. “We launched a movement called “Youth for Impact”, which believes in the power of Youth x Tech x Humanity, and reached out to billionBricks’s Co-founder and CEO Prasoon Kumar with our idea. Kumar readily agreed and brought in charity organisation Mercy Relief to help us get WeatherHYDE (a reversible, light-weight, all-season tents) for the people who need it the most. Our target is 100 homes for 100 families.”
Without wasting much time, the duo started working on this cause. They started creating awareness and put up a fundraising campaign on the billionBricks platform.
To their surprise, the campaign received a great response from people in different parts of the world. Within just three days of the launch, the campaign got 46 tents.
“We are excited to say that the first 50 tents are being dispatched on Monday, but we still have a long way to go to reach our target. A representative from billionBricks will be accompanying Mercy Relief to transport and distribute the tents to the Rohingya refugees,” said Shete.
What is WeatherHYDE tent?
A fully insulated, lightweight and all-weather tent, WeatherHYDE protects people from extreme weather. It is a reversible women-friendly shelter which is useful both in winter and summer. Typical camping tents have skins which are translucent and cast shadows in evenings. WeatherHYDEs skin is opaque, thus giving privacy to women where they can comfortably change inside, feed kids and even take a shower without worrying about the eyes outside.
Plus, WeatherHYDE enables a single person, tool-less installation within 15 minutes without any need for anchoring.
“Each tent has a unique QR code which enables the sponsors to track their tent and know which family has benefited from their efforts. We really wanted to go along with the teams to help distribute the tents, but we have been advised against it as the situation is bad. We really hope to go soon and keep up with the efforts,” added Malhotra.
According to billionBricks’s Kumar, the non-profit is working with local NGO partners in Bangladesh to make this campaign a success. “All refugees are deserving and in need of shelter and food. Our partners will assess which families have not received any shelter protection and WeatherHYDEs will be provided to them,” he said.
For Malhotra and Shete, the immediate plan is to raise funds for the first 100 tents. At the same time, the teens are creating awareness about the crisis with the help of friends and family. “We are also spreading awareness through social media about this cause. People can sponsor one or more tents or even contribute to part of a tent. Every contribution matters,” the duo said.
billionBricks, the creator of weatherHYDE tents, is a non-profit innovation studio that uses design as their primary tool to solve one of the most pressing global problems: homelessness. Mercy Relief, on the other hand, was established to respond to human tragedies and disasters in Asia Pacific.
The Rohingyan refugee crisis, which was started in late August following an attack on Myanmar’s army post by an insurgent group, is fast turning a humanitarian crisis. Hundreds of people were killed and many homes were torched by the army. To date, more than 400,000 refugees, who are considered by the United Nations as the “most persecuted minority group in the world,” have fled to Bangladesh. The refugee camps capacity in Bangladesh is exhausted and thousands are suffering in makeshift shelters, and many have no shelter at all.
Image Credit: billionBricks.org