Do-Good Dog

May 7, 2019
ON THE JOB Foxtrot stands by as workers prepare to bring sacks of rice to feed people at the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh.
COURTESY WFP

People love to follow dogs on Instagram. The most popular pups have millions of fans. Many canine accounts are pure fluff. (Pugs in sunglasses!) Others push products. Some promote a cause.

But one Instagram account stands out from the pack. Humanitarian_pup tracks the adventures of a rescue dog named Foxtrot. The goal is to raise awareness about the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh.

On August 25, 2017, thousands of Rohingya refugees fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. They went in search of safety. Deadly attacks by the Myanmar military forced the Rohingya to leave their homes. Today, the town of Cox’s Bazar is home to nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees. More than half are children.

“When the crisis first happened and people started streaming across the border, there was a lot of media attention,” aid worker Gemma Snowdon told TIME for Kids. “The whole world knew where Cox’s Bazar was.” Now, she says, “that attention has dropped off.”

Snowdon works for the World Food Programme (WFP). It’s one of several humanitarian groups helping Rohingya refugees. She and her team were looking for creative ways to put the Rohingya back in the spotlight.

Then it hit them: Foxtrot!

From Stray to Star

Foxtrot joined the WFP team in November. That’s when Snowdon and other aid workers were doing a beach cleanup.

“This little puppy, he just kept following us and following us and he wouldn’t stop,” Snowdon says. “We picked him up and he was absolutely exhausted and really dehydrated.” They gave him fresh water and milk and spent the entire day searching for his mom. Eventually, they took the pup to WFP headquarters, where he stayed overnight.

Foxtrot has been with the WFP ever since.

Humanitarian_pup debuted in February. In his posts, Foxtrot poses with workers who are delivering sacks of rice to the refugee camps. He explains what is being done to prepare for the heavy rains that come each monsoon season. He delivers high-energy biscuits to schoolchildren.

So far, Foxtrot has more than 4,000 followers.

Humanitarian_pup is attracting attention. “I’ve had really positive feedback from teachers and parents who say that they look everyday at Foxtrot’s posts and their kids love seeing what he’s up to,” Snowdon says.

How can kids join the humanitarian effort for Rohingya refugees? “If they see something on Foxtrot’s page [that interests them], they can talk to their parents about it. They can talk about fundraising. They can advocate to their local politicians.”

Starting small is okay too, Snowdon says. “You don’t have to tackle all the big crises in the world. Just being kinder to people on the street, or picking up rubbish—there’s always something that people can do to make this world a bit of a better place.”