Through her eyes: The heartbreaking life of refugee children

A young refugee girl plays on a swing made by tying clothes together

There are 62,000 people who are currently living in Greece as refugees.

It is easy to forget that every one of them is an individual.

Mothers, sisters, daughters, granddaughters: they all have their own story of fleeing their home, leaving friends or even family behind.

And they all have their own story of the life they are living now – a life they didn't choose, but one that was thrust upon them by circumstances beyond their control.

In Athens, Greece, CARE gave refugee women and girls a camera and some basic photography training – and invited them to record their stories. Amene, aged 22, from Afghanistan, was one of them.

This is the story she wanted to share with you.

Living inside a camp is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.

I used to live in Elliniko camp in Athens. My emotions about the time I have spent there are mixed. On the one hand, it is similar to a small village. Sometimes it is very cold, sometimes it is very hot. Now that spring is here, there are beautiful flowers growing in between the tents.

Tents at a refugee camp in Greece

I felt safe in the camp. I can say that life there was OK for me. Sometimes I was stressed, mostly because I had no idea what was going to happen to me.

Questions about if they are going to accept my asylum application and how long I will need to live in such conditions drove me crazy.

But all these questions and the feeling of stress went away after a while.

I focused on the fact that I had survived and I felt safe. I had escaped war so nothing could stop me now.

These thoughts went away with time. Life was OK for me.

Yes, I could manage life in the camp. But many children and mothers could not.

A child playing on a tarpaulin at a refugee camp

I am sad for all the children living in camps who want to play and who, unconsciously, keep trying to be children.

They run around with ripped shoes or barefoot, they play with anything they can find.

They replace balls with stones and throw them to each other to play.

They use the big dirt hills in the camp, leftovers from unfinished construction work, as playground slides.

They tie clothes on pillars or wherever they can to build swings.

Clothes drying outside a tent at a refugee camp

I am sad for all those mothers who have to wait for more than two hours to have a hot shower and for those who can’t wash or dry their babies’ clothes.

And lastly, I am sad for all the parents who feel exhausted and depressed and have given up on their hopes and dreams.

Those who leave their children running around barefoot playing with dangerous “toys”. I don’t blame them; they are just exhausted.

A barefooted child plays on stones

I hope my two year-old friend and neighbour, and all the refugee children, mothers and fathers will leave the camps as soon as possible.

I hope that they will find the better life they are all fighting for so hard. A safe life full of joy.

About this story

This story is part of the Photography Project “Through Her Eyes” implemented by CARE Greece in collaboration with the Melissa Network, which set out to give you the opportunity to view urban life for refugee women and girls in Greece through their eyes. Five women and girls provide unique and personal insights into their daily lives through their photos. Their names have been changed for protection reasons. CARE provides emergency assistance to refugees stranded in Greece including cash, protection and accommodation. The project is funded by the European Commission.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.