Portraits from the camps: Life as a refugee child

Source: Save the Children - International - Mon, 23 May 2016 13:15 PM
Author: Save the Children/Patrick Willocq
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Award-winning photographer Patrick Willocq has produced a striking new series of images depicting what it’s really like to be a refugee child. The photos, commissioned by Save the Children are based on real experiences and staged with the help of children living in refugee camps. 

Willocq’s eight images show the hopes, fears and everyday challenges faced by Burundian and Syrian children seeking refuge in Tanzania and Lebanon respectively. Refugee children, artists, trades and craft people helped to build the large decorative sets, using materials found within the camp. Willocq’s subjects then positioned themselves within the sets, creating the final eight tableaux depicting themes such as memories of the past, the reality of life in refugee camp and dreams for the future.

* after a name indicates that the name has been changed to protect identity

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    This image depicts the future dream of a young boy, Anicet*, aged ten, who wants to be a doctor treating malaria when he grows up. Malaria is the biggest killer in the Nyarugusu refugee camp where Anicet lives. Having fled his native Burundi with his grandparents nearly a year ago, Anicet, attends a temporary education centre run by Save the Children in the camp. His dreams represent those of tens of thousands of children who have fled Burundi and now hope for a better future through education. Anicet says: “I want to be a doctor so that I can help people, make a difference and save lives. This would make me a very important person and it would help me get something in my life.”

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    Anicet*, age ten, dreams of becoming a doctor who treats malaria when he grows up. Having fled his native Burundi with his grandparents nearly a year ago. He says: “We were living in Nyanza-Lac. One day there was a lot of disorder in the area and some people came and told us that they were going to shoot us. So we took a car and travelled to a place called Muyange. We stayed there for a while, and then we decided to leave the country by car and we came to Tanzania."

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    Children in the Nyarugusu camp for Burundian refugees re-enact crossing the mountains of Burundi on foot in order to find refuge in Tanzania. Iveye*, 6, is pictured on the far left carrying her 18 month-old sister Rebecca* on her back.

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    It took Iveye* five days to travel from her home to Tanzania with her two sisters and her father, Pierre*. Many children have to make this journey all alone, sometimes walking for 2 days without food. Along the way, many sustain injuries from stones on the path, vegetation and dark ravines.

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    Gathering Firewood' shows what it is like for young girls and women to search for firewood in the forest surrounding Nyarugusu refugee camp. Many young girls and children are sent to collect firewood to enable their families to cook the food that is distributed to them by aid agencies. Though a forbidden practice, it is an essential means for basic survival. A few families also sell surplus wood as a means of generating income. However, when venturing off into the woods, they face many dangers including assault. Esperanse herself narrowly escaped abuse at the hands of three men who tried to harm her one day when she had gone off into the forest to collect firewood..

  •  tanzania nyarugusu  tanzania nyarugusu

    Esperanse*, 15 , shows what it is like for young girls and women to search for firewood in the forest surrounding Nyarugusu refugee camp. Many young girls and children are sent to collect firewood to enable their families to cook food that is distributed to them by aid agencies. Though a forbidden practice, it is an essential means for basic survival. A few families also sell surplus wood as a means of generating income.

  •  tanzania  tanzania

    Jacob*, 15 (center), dreams of becoming a professional dancer, and has danced in public as a way to earn money for himself and his family. In 'CFS' children in the Nyarugusu Camp for refugees from Burundi show some of the different ways they play and express themselves in the camp.

  •  africa camp tanzania kevin dancing dancer performer burundi refugeecamp kasulu  africa camp tanzania kevin dancing dancer performer burundi refugeecamp kasulu

    When Jacob realised that it was time to leave Burundi for his own safety, he performed dance routines in his local town market until he earned enough money to pay for transport for himself and his grandparents to travel across the border to Tanzania. Jacob says: “I feel good about myself when I dance. I feel that dancing will help me achieve my goals in life.”

  •  lebanon  lebanon

    Walaa*, 11, left Syria with her pregnant mother because airstrikes had blown up all the hospitals, schools and supermarkets in the area. They had no access to food, water or health services - everything they needed to survive. One day, as she was walking home, Walaa saw her school explode before her eyes, as shells landed on the buildings. She could smell burning and heard the sound of plane engines as they flew low overhead.

  •  camp copyright lebanon children louis refugee patrick save valley syria leeson bekaa anjar wallaa willocq  camp copyright lebanon children louis refugee patrick save valley syria leeson bekaa anjar wallaa willocq

    Walla says: "Once, in Syria, when I left school and was on my way home, an aircraft flew overhead causing a scary noise. We all went inside the house. The school was hit. I was at home. I thought my uncles got killed and I cried."

  •  lebanon  lebanon

    (Left to right) Bassam* 12, Tamer* 11, Lubna* 16 and Farah* 11, pose in a picture that depicts their experiences working. Many Syrian children in the Anjar refugee camp in Lebanon are forced to work to help support their families.

  •  copyright lebanon louis leeson  copyright lebanon louis leeson

    Bassam and Tamer sell tissues for a living after a wall fell on their father's leg during shelling in Syria, leaving him unable to work. They often work for 12 hours a day, earning on average just $3. Both brothers have faced abuse whilst working. Once Bassam was bundled into a car and dropped off far from the village. Luckily, he had sold enough tissues that day to get a taxi home.

  •  lebanon  lebanon

    Zeina*, 11 (right) and Samira*, 10 (left) are best friends and appear in a tableau that depicts their future dreams. Zeina wants to be an artist and Samira would like to be an actress. They are both inspired by TV cartoons such as Cinderella. Both girls left Syria with their familes due to increased violence and shelling in their areas.

  •  camp copyright lebanon children louis refugee patrick save valley syria leeson bekaa anjar willocq goudsan  camp copyright lebanon children louis refugee patrick save valley syria leeson bekaa anjar willocq goudsan

    The house next to Samira's in Syria was shelled, killing the family next door. Samira says "the worst things were the planes and the shelling. When the planes came we were scared that they would hit us. In Syria, when we got snow or wind it was OK. But here, when the wind blows we get a bit scared, as we're afraid the tent will get blown away."

  •  lebanon  lebanon

    Hatem, has spent four years in Anjar refugee camp, he went to school for two years but had to stop as his family had no money to carry on his education. He used to love school and his favourite subjects were Maths, English and Arabic. Hatem had planned to finish school, go to university and join the army but now those dreams are all gone.

  •  copyright lebanon louis leeson  copyright lebanon louis leeson

    Hatem*, 15, has spent four years in the camp. He said he is "sad and scared' about his destiny. "When I was in Syria, I saw my school getting hit by an airstrike. I was scared that my house would be targeted. We fled the shelling and came here. Now that I am in Lebanon, I will not become a teacher. There are schools here but we don't have money to pay the tuition and continue studying. Education is important. You can become a teacher at a school instead of working as a porter and getting a lot of physical pain. Because I am working now and I have been off school for 3 years, I have missed a lot of studying and won't be able to fill the gap". He now sells clothes at a Souk in a market and practices Dabke dance in the camp to keep himself busy.

    At least 3.5 million refugee children around the world are currently out of school, leaving them increasingly vulnerable to discrimination and potential abuse, as well as exploitation by traffickers or the pressure of entering into early marriage.

    Without an education, these children face a bleak future which is why at the world’s first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, Save the Children are calling for no refugee child to be out of school for more than 30 days after being displaced.

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