Child refugees draw their hopes and horrors on polaroid portraits

Thursday 20 June 2019

To mark World Refugee Day, Save the Children has released a powerful series of Polaroid images from children living in three of the largest refugee crises in the world, including Uganda.

Conflict has driven millions of children from their homes, forcing them to rebuild their lives in entirely new surroundings. Despite the horrors they’ve endured and the challenges they face, their optimism for their future remains.

In a series of workshops that Save the Children and award-winning photographer Frederik Lerneryd ran with child refugees living in Uganda, Jordan and Bangladesh, their portraits were captured using Polaroid cameras and they were then invited to draw their hopes and dreams for the future on top of the photos.

The resulting drawings show not only loss and sadness, but also the resilience and determination of the children. They describe both the trauma of losing loved ones and having to flee their homes because of fighting, and what they want to be when they grow up, whether to become doctors, footballers or teachers.

14-year-old Beaufret* drew the horrors he witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo before he and his family fled to Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda.

"Here is my house. Here is the person who cut my father. Here are the others, already dead. We are jumping over them while we are running. You can see the blood when they are dead...

Despite his tragedies, Beaufret*’s other photos reflect his tenacity and hope for his future:

“Here I am standing and the local doctors when we are helping people. Here we are finished now in the hospital, we are now playing football."

Prisca*, 14, says; “We have been in Uganda for one year now. Our life in Congo was really hard, the rebels came into our village, and raided our homes and took everything and beat up everyone. And one day my father was taken from our house by the rebels and killed, so we decided to run for our lives. I have a very strong memory of the day he was killed. He pleaded for his life in vain. In the future I just want to live a normal life, get a job and live peacefully."

"The picture of the car is about my dream that I will be a good driver. The picture of a standing child with the ball is me."

Mamadou* says, "In my future first I need to be educated so I can be a teacher. And after that, because here I learned football, I can combine that activity to play and be a teacher when there are holidays!"

"The situation for us was really bad in Congo, we used to be farmers but the harvest was taken by the rebels. They would enter the village and ask people for money, and those who didn’t have any money would get beaten or even killed. My father was kidnapped and taken out in the jungle, but he managed to escape and fled to Uganda, and from there he got in touch with us and we left Congo as well."

Alizia, aged 13, arrived in Uganda last year: “We left Congo because life was too hard, and lost almost all of our belongings while coming here. I don’t want to go back to the DRC because the rebels used to beat my parents, and I lost my father. I wish we could settle in one place instead of having to move around, so that I can study, I want to become a doctor or a nurse."

The world is currently experiencing the highest levels of forcible displacement on record. Some 35 million children have been driven from their homes by conflict, and 1 in 5 children live in a conflict-affected area

Save the Children recently launched a new global campaign to Stop the War on Children