SEATTLE — Located in the country of Myanmar, the western coastal state of Rakhine is home to the world’s most persecuted minority, the Rohingya people. Their persecution has caused the world to take notice and take action, in particular one spectacular person by the name of Brandon Stanton.
Founder of the photo blog Humans of New York, Brandon Stanton started a project to build houses for Rohingya refugees through the money he raised on a GoFundMe page, raising more than $1 million in the span of four days. Stanton made history on GoFundMe, with his campaign being the fastest to raise that amount of money in such a brief period of time.
However, it is important to know why the Rohingya people are in such dire need of homes and how Stanton became aware of this desperate situation.
The Rohingya people currently live in Myanmar, with a total population of 1.1 million inhabiting the country. However, since Myanmar’s independence in 1948, they have been denied citizenship because they are not considered one of the country’s official ethnic groups. Strict laws passed during the time of military rule effectively rendered the Rohingya stateless. This resulted in dramatic increases in persecution and violence against the Rohingya people.
Reports of rape, torture, arson and murder by the Myanmar security forces have forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee to neighboring countries over the course of the past few decades. Since the late 1970s, approximately one million Rohingya have become refugees in neighboring countries to avoid these inhuman acts of violence.
Brandon Stanton became a witness to this persecution when he visited some of the Rohingya camps on a trip to Bangladesh and became inspired to create a project in order to raise awareness about the plight of the Rohingya. Starting in mid-January, when Stanton visited the camps, he has featured a Rohingya refugee on the Humans of New York blog every day in order to create not only awareness, but also action towards helping this minority.
In addition, Stanton has helped to build houses for Rohingya refugees that are specially designed to withstand the upcoming monsoon season. The houses are built of bamboo, hold up to a family of six and cost approximately $630 each. In order to build the most homes for the Rohingya people, Stanton partnered with Love Army, a collaborative charity organization made up of celebrities that has raised an additional $2 million for the housing project.
This power partnership has also collaborated with the American Refugee Committee to ensure that every dollar raised is spent efficiently and that 100 percent of the donations will go directly to the construction of the houses. In fact, the houses are actually being built by the refugees to ensure the labor costs are brought back into the community. The project has provided more than 1,500 homes for those in need.
Brandon Stanton has continued to support the Rohingya refugees through his Humans of New York blog and hopes to inspire others to take action towards helping these persecuted people.
– Adrienne Tauscheck