“You have to understand, no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” These lines by Warsan Shire could not be more appropriate to describe the ill-fate brought upon the Rohingya children. Residing in the refugee camps, these children, with the lack of education and opportunities, are losing out on their future. Returning to their homeland, still remains unresolved. Despite these facts, their dreams remain big and borderless.
On the occasion of World Refugee Day this year, Amnesty International in partnership with UNICEF and EMK Center, organised a five-day exhibition recently, titled When I Grow Up, with the artworks of 160 Rohingya refugee children. With the assistance of six well-known Bangladeshi cartoonists, the children drew their aspirations about what they wish to become when they grow up. The artists spent two days with the children in the camps and helped them colour their dreams.
“Children are always wonderful. We thought that the language could a problem, because there were children as young as four years old, but when we began drawing, the barrier between us seemed to fade away,” says cartoonist and Executive Editor of Dhaka Comics, Nasreen Sultana Mitu.
Childhood being the most formative period in a child’s life, almost one third of the over 300,000 children aged 4 – 14, do not have access to education, while the remainder have access to informal education, in the refugee camps.
“Art can be therapeutic for these children who have been through traumatic situations. However the number of children are too high to cover by such art camps,” explained Mehedi Haque, founder of Dhaka Comics. “If they include art and creative work in their school curriculums, then it can have a better impact and we would be happy to help.”
The colourful drawings depicted an array of professions the children aspired to take up. Most children desired to become the people they admire the most, like teachers and doctors. Some let their imaginations soar, and wished to fly planes and take their families to places. No matter what they wished to be, almost all the drawings had a house, some domestic animals and flowers. The little notes underneath the drawings had words of empathy. They all wanted to help the people of the community. The pictures definitely spoke volumes. Along with their future dreams, the drawings also revealed their memories of a familiar space, they believe they should be living in.