Opinion

Contributing globally from within post-COVID New Zealand


A few months ago I was walking through a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.

It was scary, exhilarating and overwhelming all at once, but I’m pleased I was there to see conditions on the ground, and to better support our project leaders who work in these vulnerable communities: densely populated, slum-like living conditions with no healthcare or clean running water, mean that securing refuge doesn’t equal a secure existence.

I was there on the invitation of Eve, a project leader of my organisation, Just Peoples, a Kiwi charity that sources funding for grassroots projects around the world that tackle local poverty.

Through my work, I’m immersed in the at-times opaque world of international development, NGOs and charities. I’ve lived and worked in Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore and now Japan and have witnessed the everyday cruelties and injustices people face, the structural inequalities that hold them back, as well as incredible resilience of people to the challenges that life throws at them. 

Jo speaks with Eve in Rohingya refugee campProject leader Eve (pictured) talks to Jo de Burca from Just Peoples. De Burca and West visited the Leda refugee camp in Bangladesh.

In short, I see the need around us.

I see the millions without water, without education, without a clear reason to do their best in life, knowing that it won't get them anywhere.

COVID-19 has thrown up a further huge set of challenges, and both frustratingly and understandably, has seen people avert their attention away from important global issues as they deal with problems closer to home.

I get this and it’s totally understandable. Like thousands of Kiwis, I have whanau and friends worried about losing their jobs, anxious about their child’s schooling, frightened for vulnerable elderly relatives. I feel immensely grateful that New Zealand has the resources, political will and general kindness to achieve near-zero COVID-19 cases while supporting vulnerable people in New Zealand.

However, I see the need. The Rohingya people I visited in Bangladesh are severely at risk of COVID-19 which has arrived in force and is spreading through the refugee camps.

The massive typhoon Amphan that recently hit the region further complicated the situation, making protecting themselves, let alone recovering, incredibly difficult for people there. 

Christey and Jo with project leaders from Kenya Tanzania Uganda2Christey West and Jo de Burca with project leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

At a time when Kiwis have been so kind to each other and are rightly able to celebrate emerging out of the pandemic, please don’t forget that you can make a massive impact by supporting people outside New Zealand as well.

COVID-19 is a global issue and we need to support each other when we can.

Kiwis are kind, generous and solution focused. There are so many inspiring people around the world solving urgent problems, and our project leaders in Bangladesh are brilliant examples of this.

They are providing hospitals with PPE, delivering food parcels to people without food, and diverting resources to rebuild houses that were destroyed by the typhoon.

New Zealand you are doing a great job. As the world protests and cries out for genuine equality, justice and compassion, now’s the perfect time to look outside New Zealand and lend a hand to the global community that needs us.

- Asia Media Centre