Since Achia’s husband died 20 years ago, she has been living on a tiny wage doing household chores for other people. She has also worked as a manual labourer from time to time, on the roads, in the agriculture fields, and at the fish-frying works.
“I have four daughters, but they are all married. I would have liked to have had a son too. I am 80 years old and I live by myself, it can be very lonely,” Achia says, with tears in her eyes.
On the day Cyclone Sidr hit, Achia was busy working hard all day long. She recounts: “The whole day, strong winds had been blowing and it had been raining heavily. Most of my neighbours had already gone to the cyclone shelter, but I was still in my hut, wondering how to take my household items with me.”
As Achia sat and cried, Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteers came to her hut and helped her to the shelter. But she wasn’t able to take anything from her house and everything was lost in the storm. In the aftermath of Cyclone Sidr, Achia received rice, lentils, clothes, and cooking utensils from different organisations. However, she did not receive any materials to rebuild her house.
Achia said: “Then I found out the British Red Cross was going to build me a shelter and give me a cash grant. I was really happy at the thought of possessing a house made of tin sheets, as I’d never ever lived in a good quality shelter.
“If it wasn’t for the Red Cross I would probably be living under the sky or a tree, possibly as a beggar or a gypsy woman. But now I have an identity, a wonderful house, even a latrine and a piece of land to call my own.”
As well as building new homes for people like Achia, the British Red Cross is also providing skills training for those who lost their livelihoods, including mat weaving, stool making, duck and sheep rearing and freshwater fish farming.
Now that she has finished her training, Achia plans to start using her cash grant to start mat weaving and duck rearing. She says that her granddaughter will help her in this work and she also plans to buy a rickshaw van for her grandson.
“The Red Cross has helped me restart my life and turn my dream into reality. I am very happy,” Achia says, with a smile.
Read more about recovery after Cyclone Sidr