Migration & Refugees, TerraViva United Nations

Rohingya Children Draw Their Dreams: And It Looks Like Home…

Rohingya refugee children draw their dreams at an IOM psychosocial support workshop in the Kutapalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. Credit: IOM

COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh, Feb 16 2018 (IOM) - When 10-year-old Ansarullah was asked to draw his dream and greatest wish, he drew a house.

So did almost every other of the 25 Rohingya refugee children who took part in a recent drawing activity session run by IOM’s psychosocial support team in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Children account for around 60 per cent of the 688,000 Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar to Bangladesh in the past six months.

Satellite images show widespread burning and destruction of the homes they left behind. Many lost relatives or friend to the violence or during their flight.

Most now live in what has been termed the world’s biggest refugee camp, in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, crammed into shelters made of polythene sheet or tarpaulins, which barely protect them from the elements.

Ansarullah, who says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up to help people, explained he drew things he liked the best.

“I drew flowers, home, Myanmar people and friends. I wrote my name, and my friend’s name and my school’s name at the drawing class. I enjoyed it a lot.”

Bar one creative little boy who drew a boat-like car, and a few who focused on abstract floral designs, houses, with family inside, dominated the refugee children’s expressions of their dreams.

Several of the youngsters also included pictures of the Bangladesh flag in their drawings.

“I enjoyed drawing the flowers and the house and people. And I enjoyed drawing Bangladesh’s flag,” added Ansarullah.

While psychologists stress that drawings alone cannot give a complete insight into a child’s emotional experiences, IOM psychosocial support coordinator Olga Rebolledo, who organized the drawing activity, said: “Generally speaking, the meanings that the children are giving their drawings are connected to what they expect, and their wishes to be protected and feel safe.”

Rebolledo explained that simply being given an opportunity to connect with their feelings and express their thoughts can be a therapeutic activity for children.

But for Ansarullah, the drawing session also provided another benefit. It was a chance to make new friends.

“They killed my friend in Myanmar. They (my friends) aren’t in Bangladesh. People came here, started living near us and I made friends with them. We play, fly kites, study and write together.”

But sometimes, he added, he still wanted more friends. The drawing activity, he said, made him feel good because he was surrounded by other children doing fun things.

“It was nice to spend time in a nice place like that,” he said of the basic, open-fronted shelter at the local IOM clinic where the drawing activity took place. “I liked the other kids.”

More than 1,300 children have received psychosocial support from IOM in Cox’s Bazar since September 2017.

IOM helped to provide shelter kits including tarpaulins, bamboo poles and basic household items that reached around 600,000 people in the first five months of the crisis. It is now helping roll out shelter upgrade kits that will help 120,000 families reinforce their shelters ahead of the rainy season.

 
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