All the images out there of refugee kids are the same,” says photographer Patrick Willocq. “Google it, and you’ll find so many photos of dirty, crying kids. I wanted to break away from that and give them back their dignity.”
Last year, Willocq visited refugee camps in Tanzania and Lebanon on assignment for Save the Children, the humanitarian group. First, Willocq spent five days in each camp playing with the kids, coloring, and talking about life in the camps, their lives back home, and their dreams for the future. Then, Willocq and his team returned to each settlement for 12-day stints. With the help of adults from the camps and refugee children (whose names have been changed), the team built sets depicting scenes from these conversations, using props made from bought and salvaged supplies.
“We were actually listening to their stories and doing something with them, which was a big deal for the kids,” explains Willocq. “The hope is that this project puts the attention of policy makers back on the refugee crisis.”
Four Syrian children at the Anjar settlement in Lebanon pose in their work attire. Though Bassam, Tamer, Lubna, and Farah are only 12, 11, 16 and 11, respectively, they all work in the camp to help support their families, making between $3 and $8 per day selling tissues or peeling fruit. Photo by Patrick Willocq
Willocq worked with the refugees at the Nyarugusu Camp to show the journey that many families take to get from Burundi to Tanzania. Young children—sometimes with their parents, sometimes alone—must cross mountains on foot to get to the border. The dangerous trip takes five days and often means going for several days without food. “The kids understood what they were re-creating,” says Willocq. “As soon as they got on stage, they became very serious.”Photo by Patrick Willocq
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