The reality of embarking on an epic journey can mean only taking a few items with you. If you’re travelling alone and fleeing your country because of conflict or violence, they could even be essential – and mean so much more.
We spoke to five children who have arrived in Greece, having travelled hundreds of miles alone. Now living in an IRC Safe Zone, they have come from countries like Afghanistan, Syria and Pakistan in the hope of safety and a brighter future.
Here’s what their most precious belongings mean to them:
Some of the boys living in the Safe Zone attend art classes, providing them an outlet for their creativity. For Ehsan, his paintings tell stories: “When I’m painting, I’m painting a story. This blue one is about a man who loves a woman and wants to propose to her. The weather is wonderful and everything in his heart, he will give to the girl. So he offers her flowers and the girl accepts his love. If I have a girlfriend, one day, this is exactly what I will do: I will give her a flower with the moon behind us.”
A pair of trousers
Thousands of miles away from his family, a pair of trousers are what Barbar treasures the most. “These were given to me by my parents. They are a very important part of my culture, worn by both my grandfather and my father. Whenever I feel home-sick I wear them.”
Mamoud brings out his t-shirt wrapped up carefully in a plastic bag. It sparkles in the bright Greek sun. For Mamoud, new clothes give him a feeling of dignity and respect.
“I like everything that is new and clean,” he explains. “If possible, I’d like to wear new clothes every day. Wearing clean clothes makes me feel happy and proud.”
A cricket bat
We provide fun activities for children at the Safe Zone like sports, classes and trips to the city. Cricket is a current favourite of children living at the Safe Zone: “I’ve been playing cricket since I was a very young boy. I feel so happy when I’m playing that I forget all my worries.”
Time can pass slowly for refugee children living in camps. Tablets and phones provide not only entertainment but a lifeline, in communication with their families at home. “I use my iPad all the time, it means I can speak to my family whenever I want,” Hassan told us. “It also helps to stop me getting bored – I can watch movies, like Underworld, that’s my favourite.”
These are five stories. But there are many children like them arriving in Greece alone. Some of these young people will end up living on the streets, do not go to school and face exploitation. The International Rescue Committee provides shelter, protection and 24/7 support at our Safe Zone within a refugee camp in Greece – giving each of them the chance to thrive.
Funded by ECHO EU Humanitarian Aid, the International Rescue Committee and the Greek Council for Refugees provides unaccompanied children with 24/7 care, support and shelter at the Safe Zones in Greece.
Names changed for protection.