'Here, nobody translates for the Rohingya, so I am the one'
Rohingya refugee Hamidul Hassan fled Myanmar for Bangladesh in 2012. After a stint in Malaysia, he settled in the US in 2015.
Denied a passport and the freedom to worship his religion when in Myanmar, Hamidul has finally found his identity and a calling in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“Except Burmese, I speak five different languages. Bengali, Hindi, Malaysia, English and my own language, Rohingya,” he told Voice of America.
“Here, nobody translates for the Rohingya, so I am the one,” he added.
As such, rest is a luxury Hamidul rarely gets to enjoy. Whether at dawn or in the dead of night, 150 Rohingya families in the city rely on Hamidul’s help with everything from shopping for daily essentials to visiting hospitals. He recently quit his job translating for Catholic Charities, who were helping Rohingya refugees settle in Indiana, for a better paying job at a factory, but this only means he now helps out fellow members of the Rohingya community in his free time.
“If I’m already with someone, I can’t give them time, so of course, they need more translators,” Hamidul said.
Being among the first Rohingya to settle in Fort Wayne, Hamidul had expected to get some company when his family followed suit. However, all that changed with the military crackdowns in Rakhine state in July last year.
“They set fire to our house at midnight, so my two brothers and my sister-in-law and their whole family were sleeping. They didn’t know. According to my mom, before they set fire to the house, they locked the doors from the outside, so my family could not get out,” Hamidul said.
Both his brothers died in the fire, while his mother was shot in the leg as she fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. She was treated at a refugee camp in Bangladesh and is currently still there, waiting to be reunited with her son.
Hamidul added that the tales of tragedy he hears from those he helps bears remarkable similarity to his own story of sorrow. This only serves to reinforce his commitment to helping his fellow Rohingya find peace and stability.
“Whatever went wrong in Burma is not going to happen in this country, because we are all refugees. We have to live here together,” he said.
Fort Wayne is one of the largest Myanmarese communities in the united states, with around 6,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar.