RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
In Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees are now living in sprawling makeshift camps after they were driven out of Myanmar. Humanitarian groups are preparing for them to be in Bangladesh for months, if not years to come. That means the refugees will have to live in these grim conditions for who knows how long. NPR's Jason Beaubien met one young refugee who's getting people to look up in the sky and find a little bit of joy in the wind.
JASON BEAUBIEN, BYLINE: In the late afternoon, as men converge for prayers, the wind blows strong and steady over the hills of the Hakimpara refugee camp. Young boys race to a ridge at the top of the camp to fly homemade kites. Seven-year-old Mohammed Arfat reels out string to a silvery kite 30 or 40 feet above him.
MOHAMMED ARFAT: (Through interpreter) This is a new kite, and I'm very happy with it.
BEAUBIEN: Mohammed adds that any day that he's not able to fly kites, he feels upset. I ask Mohammed where he got the kite, and he tells me that there's this guy who makes them and gives them away. The guy turns out to be a 10-year-old named Fayes Khamal.
(SOUNDBITE OF BAMBOO CRACKING)
BEAUBIEN: Fayes is making a kite out of pieces of castoff bamboo and opaque plastic sheeting.
FAYES KHAMAL: (Through interpreter) This is the support for the kite, and it helps it fly.
BEAUBIEN: He uses a razor to cut the plastic into a diamond shape, and he splits the bamboo into strips with a machete.
(SOUNDBITE OF MACHETE CUTTING)
BEAUBIEN: He makes a T-shaped frame for the kite and then stretches the plastic over it. Then he cuts another plastic bag into strips and teases out the ends into frilly tassels. Fayes attaches these to the kite to make what he calls arms and a tail.
FAYES: (Through interpreter) If it didn't have arms and a tail, it wouldn't fly well. It would spin around in the sky. It needs these extra pieces.
BEAUBIEN: He can build a kite in about 30 minutes. Fayes makes four or five a week, he says, and gives them away to younger kids. His mother, Yemma Kulsom, says her son started making kites back in Myanmar. They were forced to flee, she says, after a series of attacks by the military on Rohingya rebels in the area.
YEMMA KULSOM: (Through interpreter) When we heard that the soldiers were coming towards our village, everyone hid in the forest. When we emerged, the soldiers had burned down our houses. That's when we decided to come here to Bangladesh.
BEAUBIEN: She's hoping her family can be resettled into a refugee program in Europe or Australia. Kulsom's dream for Fayes is that he gets a good education and grows up to be a teacher. Fayes, for his part, says he'd like to be a shopkeeper. But for now, he's the kite guy.
Once he's finished making his latest kite, he takes it out for a test flight. The camp is dry, and powdery beige dust covers just about everything. Fayes starts to run between the shelters. His kite rises up behind him. It flits through the air like a fish fighting its way upstream. Its tail darts from side to side. The plastic shimmers in the sky. Fayes beams up at what, for a moment, is the brightest object in the camp. Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.
(SOUNDBITE OF POPPY ACKROYD'S "RESOLVE")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.