report from Katakhali Village

January 4, 2018

Dear friends,

This is our fifth day in Katakhali Village, Barobaishdia Island, Bangladesh. I’m here with my mother, daughters, and two photographers. I am shocked to see the severe effects of climate change. During my two previous visits we saw the community busy drying and cleaning the rice harvest and proudly showing us their vegetable gardens. But this time, the mood is quite different due to heavy rains that came during the dry season in November and December, damaging the ready to harvest rice and the winter vegetable gardens. I have spoken to dozens of villagers, and each one has reported huge losses of their rice crop and vegetables. The untimely rain water remained stagnant, contaminated the ponds, and resulted in stomach ailments and diseases in the cows, chickens, ducks, and goats. Most of the animals died, even my aunt’s dog at the Katakhali cooperative. The doctor here reports that many children have also been sick with water borne diseases. But the villagers are resilient and are replanting their winter vegetables and trying to salvage the remains of their rice crop.

On Tuesday, I led a writing workshop with the village women and they wrote letters petitioning the government for help in getting back on their feet. They had never done this before, and I was surprised at their enthusiasm. Here are the original Katakhali letters, which we are delivering to government officials and the press.

We have also been training six women in photography, so that they can document the situation here with photos and videos. The trainings were led by photographer Shelfali Akhter Shetu with help from my daughter Koli. The women are really excited to get cameras. A pair of women will each share a small camera. Yesterday, we had a full day of making art on saris and I also shared with the women the climate pledge saris from DC, Philadelphia, Hawaii, and Paris.

Today we will wear the saris and take portrait photos and discuss and plan a final performance. We will return to Dhaka on January 7 and then leave for Washington on January 11.

Sending warm wishes to all of you from Southern Bangladesh,

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