Eleven-year-old Nora* made the courageous decision to escape the widespread violence in Myanmar on her own when her mum died in 2015.
She desperately wanted to get to Malaysia where her father and brothers were already living.
This is Nora
Thanks to you, she's safe and getting the care she needs
Nora was found by the police in a truck crammed with other Rohingya trafficking victims. They had been without food for two days, and one person had already died in the truck. She was sent to a Save the Children shelter for Rohingya children in Thailand, where she has been living since then.
Nora is the youngest of five children; three brothers are currently living in Malaysia while her sister is still in Myanmar.
When Nora’s mum died, Nora desperately wanted to get to Malaysia so she could be with her father and brothers again. A trafficker agreed to help her escape Myanmar. But close to the Thai-Malay border, the Thai police found Nora in a truck crammed full of other Rohingya trafficking victims.
They had been on the move for two days without food. One person had already died in the truck from the harsh conditions.
Because they were found in Thailand, the Thai authorities have no choice but to find a way to accommodate the Rohingya trafficking victims. They can’t go back to Myanmar, since that country doesn’t recognise them as citizens. And they can’t be sent on to Malaysia like they want, because they don’t have the proper papers or visas.
Nora is alone and lives in limbo, not knowing what her future holds.
“My life is like the moon’s phases as there are good days and bad days. Somedays I miss my mom very much as I am here all alone. When I left home, I was a child. However, having no parents around anymore, I now have to be both a man and a woman in one body. I have cultivated the strength of a man and the tenderness of a woman. But sometimes this really takes a mental toll on me.”
Right now, she lives at the Save the Children shelter in Surat Thani, in Thailand. She struggles emotionally with loneliness and the lack of adult guidance as she fights for her own survival.
Nora is just 11 years old, and she’s had to face so many serious decisions and perilous situations on her own that most people would never have to deal with.
When she first arrived at Surat Thani shelter, she didn’t understand why she was being held there and wasn’t allowed to go on to her father in Malaysia. She didn’t speak Thai or English, and concepts like immigration and visas are hard to explain to a child at the best of times.
So she did what any confused and isolated child would do – she tried to escape. Her escape attempt led to tightened security for all the Rohingya trafficking victims living at the shelter, for their protection as traffickers continue to prey on people who would do anything to get to their families.
Nora was shunned by the other people living in the shelter. They weren’t happy about the increased security measures, so they took it out on her, verbally abusing her and pinching and kicking her.
The Save the Children staff saw Nora becoming increasingly isolated and draw into herself. They created a special ‘care plan’ for her, designed to slowly reintegrate her into the Rohingya community in the shelter and help her heal emotionally from her ordeals.
She went to therapy sessions with a counsellor who listened to her no matter what. The staff mediated between Nora and the other Rohingya and she started to join activities like sports with the other children in the shelter. This gradual interaction in a light-hearted environment allowed Nora to re-build her relationships and make friends again.
In her free time, Nora has taken on more responsibilities at the shelter, like helping staff with other Rohingya children who are struggling to adjust to life there. She’s really turned a corner and is positive about her future in the U.S.
“I am very excited at the prospect of going to the U.S. as many of my cousins are already there. I want to learn English and become a TB (tuberculosis) doctor so I can help others in need.”