Shingherchack is a place where people live on narrow fingers of land, right on the edge of the sea. Everywhere you look there is water and a sense of the fragility of life.
Like other low-lying communities along the coast in Bangladesh, Shingherchack has embankments, built several metres high, to protect people from fiercely powerful tidal surges caused by cyclones. But during Cyclone Aila the embankment was breached and water came pounding through, killing people and destroying homes.
Many people in the area had previously relied on agriculture for their income. But to make matters worse for families trying to recover from the disaster, the regional economy collapsed as the waterlogged land was too saline to grow crops. It will be years before the land will be usable for agriculture again.
Left with nothing after the cyclone
Dina Bondhu Boiddya, 34, said: “I used to be a daily labourer, harvesting crops. We didn’t have our own land and would get paid in rice or other crops, so it was difficult to purchase clothes and other things. When our home was washed away in Cyclone Aila, we were left with nothing.”
As well as getting a new home, Dina Bondhu and his wife Protima Rani also received a cash grant of £300 through the Red Cross programme, along with help in developing a new business plan.
To do this, we teamed up with a local organisation called Prodipan, which specialises in livelihoods, and carried out an assessment looking at feasible alternatives to agriculture.
New ways to make a living
Dina Bondhu has now started selling crabs, while his wife has established a vegetable garden on a small plot of land next to their house. Other people have started new livelihoods such as: fish farming in small ponds; rearing chickens, ducks, and geese; tailoring; and running small grocery shops.
Dina Bondhu says: “I buy crabs when they are small, fatten them up for 15 days and then sell them in the market for a profit. It is going really well. Before I had to leave my family for up to four months to go and do seasonal labour, but the best thing is now I don’t have to leave them.
“It gives me great satisfaction to stay here and take care of my family. My first priority is to give my daughter a good education. Life has already changed and I can see it changing even more.”
Read Mina's story: when disaster destroys the daily crust