#OneDay: Sharing the dreams of child refugees on World Refugee Day
The aspiration of becoming an architect. The desire to go back to school. The longing to live in a home, to play soccer, to go out walking.
“Child refugee.” This is not a label but a young person with hopes and dreams - and a new campaign called #OneDay is helping young people share their aspirations for the future. The campaign, released by the International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC) in preparation for World Refugee Day on 20 June, features five videos, each focusing on young people describing their lives.
In the #OneDay videos, children laugh, play, and talk about their lives before they became refugees. Most important, they talk about their futures with a sense of hope.
The ICMC has released these videos in order to put people in touch, in a personal way, with refugee children, explained ICMC's Secretary General Msgr. Robert J. Vitillo. “As we at the ICMC work to form and strengthen relationships with local and global partners who protect and support refugees, we are taking this time to focus on children who are best at telling their own stories.”
Young people have dreams and great potential that we must support, whether these children return to their home countries or resettle elsewhere, he added.
“The children featured in the videos are just a few very personal examples of thousands of children across the world who represent hope, the next generation, and a future of peace,” continued Vitillo. “Please share your #OneDay stories as well, so that, through communication, we can learn about what we need to do protect children, respect their human rights, and help them lead full lives.”
Standing in line to take a final bow with a group of friends, Laith clearly has no difficulty performing in front of an audience. Largely improvising, the 16-year-old Syrian refugee confidently delivers the final monologue in the closing scene of a play about mental health. Now out of character, applause fills the community center. The lively group of actors begin to make over-dramatic acting gestures in front of their friends and family, bringing some comic relief to the room.
Later, Laith gently ushers one of his three younger siblings up a staircase which leads to their home. She has been promised ice cream, which he later says reminds him of his favorite place, Dablan. He remembers how his father used to take him after work to buy the “best ice cream” in Syria.
“Meen Heluweh?” (who’s the sweetest?) a young mother says to her toddler, leaning over to braid her tufty hair. There is a strong sense of community where 10-year-old best friends, Mustafa and Mohammad, live as neighbors in Mafraq, Jordan. The courtyard where they are playing radiates high energy.
In the room beside the door, a cartoon is in full flow, and voices can be heard singing along to children’s songs. Upon entering, Mustafa is immediately pounced upon by his younger brother, Zaid, 4, who sings along with the TV, word for word.
Watching a group of children playing in a tree with swings and ropes, one could be forgiven for thinking this scene was nothing out of the ordinary. As the children are called by their mother, the playing and the laughing come to a crashing halt. Seven-year-old Syrian refugee Fatimah runs through a clearing in the trees to the tent that she calls home to get her breakfast. Moments later the climbing and the scrambling continues.
Fatimah and her family fled Dara'a, southern Syria, at the outbreak of violence in 2011 to seek refuge in Irbid, northern Jordan. Her mother, Amira, says, “It was hard to believe we had ended up in this situation,” and glances at the tent. “We had such a nice house in Syria; we just have to pray it will get better.”
The inevitable bickering starts amongst the Arnout family when Loulia, 9, and her 7-year-old sister Lamar begin playing with their fidget spinners – one of the most loved toys among children across the world. Loulia’s toy was spinning on her finger in no time, while Lamar just couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. Meanwhile, in the back room, Teta (Grandma) is spinning circles around both of her grandchildren.
Loulia and her family live in a modest house in Irbid, in the north of Jordan. Spirits in the household are beginning to lift after a painful morning at the hospital with Loulia, who has cancer. As the family sits down to lunch, their father confirms things have returned to normal when 1-year-old Sara begins to cry after an unsuccessful attempt to grab the spinner from her older sister.
The #OneDay campaign is part of the #ICMCForChildren initiative that supports programs for migrant and refugee children.