At AJWS, we have been asking our supporters, grantees and staff why they are still hopeful amid a devastating global pandemic, and as threats to justice and democracy proliferate around the world. The resounding answer has been that we remain hopeful because, despite the challenges, the AJWS community continues to fight for the rights and dignity of the world’s most vulnerable people—and we’re making progress. Like the grantees around the world, our supporters have underscored that hope and resilience are rooted in action.
Whether it’s a young elected official in India distributing food and accurate health information to support her community through the pandemic, or activists who are working to persuade the government of Bangladesh to restore internet access to the world’s largest refugee camp, AJWS grantees are not despairing over the challenges they face, but are living their values and working toward change. And instead of despairing, you, our supporters, have been keeping faith with our mission.
In that shared spirt of all that’s possible, we hope that the stories below buoy your hopes and offer you fortitude to navigate these challenging times.
Around the World
The Rohingya people of Burma celebrated a small but important victory in August, three years since the escalation of the genocide that sent hundreds of thousands into overcrowded camps in Bangladesh. Last year, the government of Bangladesh cut off internet and mobile phone service to the Rohingya camps—blocking them from communicating with the outside world and accessing accurate information about COVID-19 prevention. Rohingya activists, including AJWS grantees and coalition partners, persuaded Bangladesh to bring Rohingya communities back online. While Bangladesh recently reversed their decision, we will continue to press for internet access, a basic human right and a necessity to fight COVID-19.
When tropical storm Amanda hit El Salvador in May, it ravaged the country, destroying homes, roads, and lives throughout the nation. To make matters worse, Salvadorans were still reeling from the COVID-19 virus and associated lockdowns. In the wake of the storm, many had to choose whether to stay home and risk starvation or go to a shelter and risk contracting COVID-19. Read this blog to learn how AJWS grantee-partner UNES made sure families did not have to make this impossible choice.
When India’s strict COVID-19 lockdown went into effect, people were left scrambling to protect themselves and their families from the disease with little information. Families living in poverty had to decide: buy masks and soap, or food? Shobhnaben, a 30-year-old woman newly elected as a leader in her village in India, rose to the challenge. With the help of a local AJWS grantee-partner, Shobhnaben made sure the entire village was sanitized, educated her community about health and hygiene practices and coordinated food distribution for those in need.
Rohingya activists around the world are asking Americans to stand with them to fight for justice and free, fair elections in Burma this November. Legitimate elections are critical for advancing the rights of the Rohingya people and other persecuted ethnic minorities in Burma. The U.S. Senate and House have introduced resolutions that send a powerful message in the fight for justice, and we need you to speak out. Send pre-written notes to your members of Congress today.