Stunning photos tell child refugees' stories

Millions of children around the world are being forced to leave their homes because of war, violence and persecution.

To highlight child refugees' experiences, we have asked photographer Patrick Willocq to create eight unique photographs telling the stories of children living in camps in Lebanon and Tanzania.

We want to remind world leaders that a generation of children are being denied their right to education, to protection, to the very basics of life – and it’s time this changed.

Pledge your support for child refugees now.

How were the photos created?

Patrick Willocq’s photos are unique. Through art workshops and interviews, he works with the person he’s photographing to design a decorative set that shows their hopes, fears and everyday challenges.

For this project, funded by education company Pearson, Patrick visited Nyarugusu camp in Tanzania and a refugee community in Anjar, Lebanon. Nyarugusu is home to 40,000 children who have been forced to leave Burundi due to violence, while the refugee camp in Anjar houses more than 190,000 Syrian children.

The sets were made using items found around the camps with the help of people who live there. Below are the photos, and the children who created them.

Anjar refugee camp, Lebanon

'What Happened (The Past)' by Walaa*, 11

Child refugee in Lebanon


In Syria, Walaa and her pregnant mother had no food or water. Everything – hospitals, schools, supermarkets – had been destroyed.

Walaa struggled to explain in words what her life was like in Syria, so she drew a picture instead.

This set is the image she drew. It shows the moment Walaa saw her school explode. She told us she could smell burning and hear the sound of plane engines as they flew low overhead.


‘Our Dream' by Samira*, 10, and Zeina*, 11

Child refugees in Lebanon


Samira (left) and Zeina (right) are best friends.

This photo represents their dreams. Samira would like to be a princess and live in a castle. Zeina wants to be an artist – she often draws pictures of her best friend.

Violence forced the two girls to leave Syria with their families. The house next to Samira's in Syria was destroyed, killing the family who lived in it.


‘Child Labour' by Bassam*, 12, Tamer*, 11, Lubna*, 16, and Farah*, 11

Child refugees in Lebanon


Bassam, Tamer, Lubna and Farah, (left to right), pose in this picture that represents their working lives. They should be in school, but like many Syrian children in the camp they have to work to support their families.

Bassam and Tamer’s father has been unable to work since a wall fell on his leg. So the boys sell tissues for a living.

Farah helps to supports her family of ten by working in a field weeding and clearing land for sowing.

"What makes me very tired is that I have to keep bending down,” she says. “When we try and stand up they ask us to bend down... we spend the whole day like this."


'Education' by Hatem*, 15

Child refugees in lebanon


Hatem has spent four years in the camp.

For two years he went to school. He loved it, and planned to go to university and join the army. But Hatem's family can’t afford to send him anymore and his dreams of a future are gone.

He now sells clothes in a market and says he is sad and scared about his future.



Nyarugusu refugee camp, Tanzania

‘Malaria Doctor’ by Anicet*, 10

Child refugee in Tanzania


In this photo, Anicet poses as a malaria doctor – a job he hopes to do one day.

Anicet fled Burundi with his grandparents nearly a year ago. In the camp where he lives, malaria is the biggest killer.

Anicet attends a learning centre run by Save the Children and – like thousands of children who have fled Burundi – hopes that an education will provide him with a better future.

'The Mountain Journey' by Iveye, 6, and other children in the Nyarugusu camp

Child refugees in Tanzania


These children crossed mountains in Burundi on foot to find safety in Tanzania. In this photo, they re-enact their journey.

Six-year-old Iveye* (left) is shown carrying her 18-month-old sister, Rebecca*, on her back. She travelled for five days with her two sisters and father, Pierre*, to Tanzania.

“When we reached the border, the police on the Burundian side would not let me cross into Tanzania with my daughters,” says Pierre.

“So I separated from them and snuck across the border using a secret path. When I had safely reached the other side, I came out and signalled to Iveye and her sisters. When they saw me, they ran across the border.”


'Firewood Collection' by Esperanse*, 15

Child refugee in Tanzania


Although it’s not allowed, many young girls and children are sent to collect firewood from the woods that surround the camp, so that their families can cook food distributed by aid agencies.

In this photo, Esperanse shows how dangerous and frightening this can be. She previously narrowly escaped being abused by three men when she was in the forest collecting wood.

"There are a lot of dangers that come when we go looking for firewood,” she says.


‘An Oasis’ by Jacob, 15, and other children in the Nyarugusu camp

Child refugees in Tanzania


In this picture, children in the camp show the different ways that they play and express themselves in the Save the Children safe space. Jacob, in the middle, wants to be a professional dancer in the future.

When he realised it wasn’t safe to be in Burundi, he danced in his local town market to raise money. This earned him enough to pay for transport for himself and his grandparents to cross the border to Tanzania.

“I feel good about myself when I dance,” he says.

Pearson education publisher logo

*Names changed to protect identities.