Abdul Karim and Rabeya got married 34 years ago when he was 26 and she was 16. Although they had other children, only two have survived, a son and a daughter, who are both married.
Abdul says: “We’ve never had our own home and have struggled to make ends meet, but there has always been peace in our family. We work very hard and felt it was our destiny to spend the rest of our lives toiling like this. But Cyclone Sidr has changed our destiny forever.”
As 15 November 2007 dawned and the cyclone approached Kuakata from the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers went from house to house, telling people to be careful. But many people living on the coast were so used to weather warning signals, they didn’t think it was going to be that dangerous. In the evening, the warning signal was raised suddenly, and volunteers started moving people to safer ground, including Abdul Karim, Rabeya and their two grandsons.
Surviving the cyclone
Abdul Karim says: “As the storm winds shrieked, we spent the whole night praying. The next morning we went back to our tiny hut with little hope and sure enough, the sea had washed away everything. There was nothing to do but cry. Everyone around us had lost everything and there was no one to ask for food or money.
“It was a terrible and hopeless time, just waiting, not knowing for what, or for whom. It felt as if time was standing still. But at last a tourist came with some muri (puffed rice) and guri (made out of palm or sugar cane syrup). Then many organisations began to arrive, providing food, but still none of us had safe shelter.
“When we heard that the Red Cross was coming to help us build new homes, we could not believe it. We thought it was just a daydream, but sometimes such dreams do come true.”
Red Cross support
The British Red Cross is now working with more than 780 families who lost everything in Cyclone Sidr, providing them with safe shelter as well as money and training to help them restart their livelihoods.
Abdul Karim used to work on other people’s farms and although Rabeya was a traditional housewife, due to their poverty, she also had to work as a casual labourer. But they are now planning for their lives ahead with bold new hopes. Since the day they moved in, they have been making the tin and timber shelter their own, planting trees and developing a vegetable garden. They are also digging a little ditch to enable them to farm fish and are planning to rear hens and ducks.
Rabeya says: “Having a shelter on our own land has completely changed our lives. The day we moved in we could not stop crying.”
Read more about recovery after Cyclone Sidr