Arts and Culture

These artists have visualized the dreams of refugee children

South Sudanese refugee children walk to school within Kalobeyei Settlement outside the Kakuma refugee camp in Turkana county, northwest of Nairobi, Kenya February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

Artists are attempting to capture their hopes and highlight why they moved to Europe. Image: REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

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Seven year-old Marianne’s biggest dream is to own her own bike one day.

“Maybe then, if I bike really fast, I will be able to fly,” she says.

Marianne, who was born in Somalia but now lives in Berlin, is one of millions of children who fled their homes to start a new life in Europe.

She took part in a new UNHCR project, The Dream Diaries, which aims to illustrate the hopes and dreams of children who have sought refuge in Europe.

Image: Fetching_Tigerrs/UNHCR/Gerald Kelsall/iko/

In the Netherlands, Manaal dreams of being an air stewardess to "be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies" in her stomach.

Like Marianne, Manaal is a refugee from Somalia. She is living in Amsterdam. “I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia,” she says.

Image: Fetching_Tigerrs/UNHCR/popcatter/Shutterstock.

Visualizing children’s dreams

Over the course of 16 days, Humans of Amsterdam photographer Debra Barraud and her colleague Benjamin Heertje, Dutch graphic designer Annegien Schilling and film-maker Kris Pouw journeyed more than 7,000 km through five European countries to capture the dreams of children who have fled war and persecution in Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and elsewhere.

Their stories make up the Dream Diaries.

“Once we had gathered their stories and dreams, we created an image to symbolize their realization,” explains Barraud.

“Through the project, we saw the strength of these children and how with the right support they can achieve anything.”

Half of refugees are children


Unaccompanied or separated children, mainly from Afghanistan and Syria, made some 75,000 asylum applications in 70 countries during that year. Approximately one third of people seeking asylum in Germany in 2015 and 2016 were children and young people.

“The general tone of pictures of people who are refugees is very sad and hopeless and almost depressing. I thought it was interesting that we created pictures that gave people hope,” says Schilling, the graphic designer on the project.

Lifting spirits

One aim of the Dream Diaries project is to draw attention to the UNHCR’s global petition, which calls for refugees to be given safety, education and opportunities as soon as they arrive in their new country.

But the project also aimed to bring hope to the children.

Image: Fetching_Tigerrs/UNHCR/Image Source Trading Ltd/

“I have a poor memory so I don’t really remember much of our journey to Switzerland but I do remember my first day in school here,” says Roussel, a Syrian refugee.

“Everyone spoke French and the only thing I knew how to say was, ‘Bonjour’.”

“When I am alone in my room my favourite thing to do is dancing. I also love dancing with my sisters and friends. When we are grumpy or sad we dance. It lifts our spirits.”

Have you read?

To read more about the project by @humansofAmsterdam and @Fetching_tigerss visit

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