In Bangladesh, while I didn’t see the floods for myself, I heard the stories and I met the people who have to live through them. A lot of the stories were awful, harrowing really. But what I saw was a lovely community of people, lots of smiley-faced kids running around. I’m told that this will probably be washed away this year. Some of those kids might drown. They’ll have to start from scratch all over again, which is hard to connect with.
I should imagine it’s extremely scary for them. We watched footage later of past floods and I was quite shocked at just how devastating it is. After walking around that village and thinking, “How idyllic, how beautiful” – it’s really scary how quickly it can all literally vanish.
We asked the school kids to draw a picture explaining how climate change affects them.
While they were doing that, we went outside and did face painting with the other children, painting them with blue paint, as Oxfam’s been doing this year to get more people to join its climate campaign and go to The Wave march in December. It was great fun.
We attracted huge crowds – most of the village came and joined us. I really enjoyed that. We took loads of photographs and then they painted my face and they thought that was hilarious.
My first impression of Char Atra was that it’s quite idyllic. It’s very beautiful and green and there’s a community living together, with the children just running around, having fun and swimming in the river.
There’s a sense of community, which you don’t really have in England at all. It’s hard to imagine this place being completely washed away, that the river rises so high that it can actually destroy all this.
Driving out of the Oxfam HQ in Dhaka, there were a few buses that had crashed along the way, and people carrying all their belongings on the back of a rickshaw pulled by a cow.
Later, after an exhausting walk in the intense heat for about an hour, we arrived at the schoolhouse to be greeted by about 15 school kids, all dressed immaculately in their school uniforms. We were completely dripping with sweat – my shirt was like a flannel. They started singing this wonderful welcome song to us and throwing flower petals on us. Of course, because I was dripping with sweat, they stuck to me, so I looked like a flower petal monster.
On day three we met Hasina, a woman who has four sons. Her husband is a fisherman who is away so it is her job to make sure that the house is built up to a certain height and that their food and crops are stored at a certain height in the roof. She teaches other women how to prepare for the floods and take on what are traditionally men’s roles. This Oxfam project empowers the women giving them a lot more respect within the family.