Rukea, who is seven years old, will remember the day May 16, 2020, for the rest of her life. The day super storm Amphan slammed through Binara, her town in the Sundarbans, destroying lives in its wake. Rukea’s shack, where she lived with her parents, grandmother, and younger brother, was demolished. In a matter of a few hours, they were left with no home, no belongings, nothing to show for their lives. That was the first time Rukea saw her Abbu weep and pray to Allah to bring them assistance. She became abnormally quiet as if all the joy had been sucked out of her life. Amphan had changed the little girl’s life.
It was as if Allah heard the plea of the poor fisherman. Volunteers from Swapnopuron Welfare Society swung into action with the necessary relief aid and went about rebuilding their hut and those of their neighbours. In this emergency situation, the Society’s school building threw open its doors to provide temporary shelter. Still, Rukea’s anxiety knew no bounds. She had reason to panic. The super cyclone had devastated the region and had uprooted the few streetlights that illuminated the area. Once night tiptoed in, people went into utter panic in the pitch-black darkness. Not only were they haunted by the genuine terror of the fearsome Bengal tigers that cross the river and creep into the village in search of prey – people are routinely attacked, carried away, even eaten – but also by the fear of snakes. After all, this was the Sundarbans, home to many venomous snakes and reptiles.
Rukea’s anxiety heightened when a venomous snake bit a 13-year-old girl from the village. She prayed as often as she could for the safety of her family. Often, Abbu returned late from fishing, and there was no light to guide him. Though he had a torch with a pencil battery, the light it emanated was too weak to light up the surroundings well. One day, Abbu too stumbled upon a snake, but luckily for him, the snake was non-venomous. He was safe.
Things brightened for this little girl and her family when Swapnopuron gave Abbu a solar torch. Operating on in-built solar panels and charged by the sun, these torches are perfect for emergencies and everyday use. Now there was no need to go to the distant market to buy batteries, as the torch would work without them during the night. As they survived on the bare minimum, buying a torch would have been an impossible burden for Rukea’s family, and Swapnopuron Welfare Society filled the gap.
For a year now, Rukea is back to her former self. She runs about, laughs and plays with her friends in the neighbourhood again.
But that’s not all. There’s more to her story. After Abbu comes home, Rukea fixes the solar torch to the thatched bamboo ceiling of their house. The little cottage is lit up, and she can study late into the night while the family goes about its evening chores. Rukea now nurtures a dream to be a great doctor one day. Her school, Swapnopuron Shiksha Niketan, encourages her to cultivate this dream for a bright future.
Swapnopuron Welfare Society runs completely on donations. Having to brave a turbulent year in 2020 has not been easy. Funds have dried up. After all, people must be reached immediately in times of crisis. On top of that, Swapnopuron urgently needs to upgrade its school to the higher secondary level. If this is not prioritised, the school children will not graduate with an acknowledged certificate. Rukea’s dream will be crushed.
Even a little help goes a long way. Extend your helping hand to strengthen ours.