A Nurse Cares for a Rohingya Refugee

19th April 2018

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Nurse Malia saw first-hand the fear and brokenness many Rohingya child refugees are experiencing in Bangladesh. With an urge to share God’s peace and love with them, Malia found opportunities to use her medical experience to reach these children despite a major language barrier.


Sakera, I think about you every day since I left Bangladesh and have the drawing you made me next to my bed.

The first day we met at Memorial Christian Hospital you were so scared and shy. I wanted to talk with you, to get to know you, but struggled because of the language barrier. I would say something to you via the translator, but you didn’t respond and didn’t make eye contact; you had so much fear. I imagined you were thinking: Who is this American girl talking to me? Why does she talk to me and why do I have to talk to her?

Your family are Rohingya, and at 9 years old you have fled with family from your home in Myanmar as refugees. Your elbow was broken and you had to elevate it 24/7 and you hated that. When I met you for the first time, I wondered: How do I make you feel safe? How do I make you feel loved? How do I communicate that I want to help you and won’t hurt you? A soft, little whisper came: “Speak with your heart.”

I sat next to you on your bed and took my stethoscope off my shoulders and motioned that I would touch your chest. I listened to your heartbeat, smiled, and said “thump, thump.” Your heart beat fast and I imagine it is from being anxious of strange surroundings.

You had so much fear in your eyes and I wanted so badly to put you at peace, but knew I couldn’t ease your anxiety with words. So, I handed you my stethoscope and put the ear piece in your ears and placed the diaphragm on my chest so you could hear my heart beat. The muscles on your face softened and I almost saw a smile surface. I could tell you’d never heard a heart beat before or touched a stethoscope—your eyes were so unsure, yet also intrigued.

Then I put the stethoscope to your heart and saw you smile for the first time. Your eyes told me everything. You turned your gaze toward me with a smile on your face and I could feel you letting your guard down. I took your hand and placed the chest piece back on my heart and then back to your heart. “Thump thump…thump thump.” We laughed.

With the sound of our beating hearts, both beating at the same and with the same “thump thump,” I could tell you understood a oneness between us—we were part of each other. Although I couldn’t speak your language and I was from a different country, we both had beating hearts.

From then on, I braided your hair every day and let you wear my stethoscope and listen to my heart and to your heart.

I will probably never see you again, Sakera, but I pray you and your family know God’s love. Even though you live in a small tent in a refugee camp, I hope you are laughing and playing. I pray your arm has healed and you are able to hug and cuddle your mom and dad.

I know you miss your home and you miss your family members who died. I know you don’t fully understand everything that happened to you or what is happening in this world. You are too young to experience violence, yet your heart is still beating and God’s love is in you. Thank you for sharing your love with me.

About This Author: Malia Barshaw is a nurse from Hawaii who served at Memorial Christian Hospital in Bangladesh where Samaritan’s Purse is helping care for Rohingya refugees.

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