Hashi (left); ‘On the way to Hashi’s home during my (middle) second time visit in Tala.’

“Two mud houses are under flood water. I am living in a neighbour’s house and my parents are living in the makeshift house beside the roads”

25 year-old Hashi Akhter tells us. She is a young professional working as a child space facilitator for more than two years in a local NGO -Bhumija Foundation. Bhumija, based in Tala of Satkhira, which falls under the Southwestern coastal region of Bangladesh, is one of the Local Rights Programme (LRP) partners of ActionAid Bangladesh (AAB). 

Last year in August I was in Tala where I met Hashi for the first time. As a member of Emergency – Fast Action Support Team (E-FAST) of AAB, I went there to get updates from our Bhumija Foundation colleagues about the recent flood situation and relief distribution process taken by AAB for the affected communities.

Within a short period of time I became close to Hashi while she was saying,

“After the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays I am to appear the final exam of my graduation but due to the flood I failed to study properly. Family members of the neighbor, with whom I’m staying, were good to me for first few days but now they are being indifferent for some unknown reasons. I shared it with my mother; she said, it might be because they are from a different religion. I guess, I have to bear these small adjustments as I have taken shelter at their house and I am glad  and thankful that these people welcomed me to stay with them even in  such dreadful condition.”

On my way to one of the relief spots I had a brief chat with Hashi about her work. She said, “I have to walk in this stagnant water up and down to the office every day.” As it was time to go, I said goodbye to her and she replied with a smile. Next time when I met Hashi it was September, 2011 and I was again in Tala to assist in the second phase of the flood response. This time I had the opportunity to work with her as we were visiting the flood affected unions together which include her place as well. I witnessed her place under water and how she struggles to cross the water to and from her workstation.

As a young professional, I learnt a lot from a brief conversation with Hashi. Even after so many challenges, everything is in her grip so that she can reach her goals she has set in her life and that she is doing with a never ending smile on her face! Flood could not stop her but surely has left a trouble in her life for a while but not be for long. I know, for sure, because she has the firing spirit in her eyes which represents her inner strength and it will help her to accept all the challenges that will come along but she will not stop and keep on working to help others. She will win over the obstacles and I am assured that she will be thriving for her dreams no matter what she will confront.

In Bengali, ‘Hashi’ means ‘smile’ and just like her name ‘Hashi’ smiles in every hardest condition she faces. She was affected by flood but at the same time she was serving thousands of people like her who lost everything in the disaster.

I salute her courage and willpower during a disaster like flood. She is a hero to me. We think that ‘heroes’ are hard to find but we often failed to understand that ‘heroes’ are around us, we just have to listen to them to discover their heroic stories. I am glad that I had the opportunity to meet ‘Hashi’ and would like to pass on her story to all because she is indeed a source of inspiration for me and for all the youth around the world