Irish artist joins forces with refugee children in Ugandan camp

Resulting artwork is ‘a facilitator for conversations and new experience’, says Maser

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday, the development and humanitarian relief organisation World Vision tells the story of John, a child left alone as the consequence of the civil war in South Sudan. Video: World Vision

 

Irish street artist Maser has worked on a project to help children in the world’s largest refugee settlement - Bidi Bidi in northern Uganda - tell their stories through art.

Ahead of World Refugee Day on Tuesday, the development and humanitarian relief organisation World Vision and creative agency Apartial partnered with Maser at Bidi Bidi.

The camp is home to 280,000 South Sudanese refugees, 68 per cent of whom are children.

Uganda has some of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. It has kept its borders open and is providing land grants to each refugee family, allowing individuals the right to work and establish businesses and access public services such as healthcare and education.

In the project, Maser worked with children to create art pieces on the walls of structures such as schools and child-friendly spaces in the refugee settlement.

World Vision Uganda’s child protection co-originator James Kamira said participating in this project gives a sense of hope. “These children have been through a lot,” he said. “Many of them have seen their parents, their brothers and sisters killed. Some have survived abduction.”

The child-friendly spaces provide children with psychosocial support, early childhood education, training in conflict resolution and a safe place to play and ask for help.

“I’ll supply artwork and then let the kids take ownership of that because it’s their space. The artwork is a tool . . . a facilitator for conversations and new experiences,” said Maser.

Murdered

Lina (16), who fled Juba when her father was murdered, has been living alone in Bidi Bidi since August.

Inspired by Canadian Sandra Chevrier’s Fragile Heroes, she created a self-portrait. “I like the picture so much. When I was working on it, I was feeling so joyful. I couldn’t think of the past,”she said.

World Vision estimates 100 unaccompanied South Sudanese children such as Lina cross the border into Uganda each day. Once they arrive, they are safe from war, but vulnerable to other forms of violence and abuse such as child marriage.

“World Vision is facilitating interim foster care for these unaccompanied children. Suitable refugee families are identified as temporary guardians and we continue to monitor the child’s wellbeing,” said Gilbert Kamanga, national director for World Vision Uganda.

“The international community should take note of these measures and move to share responsibility for this crisis immediately. Those of us responding only have 15-16 per cent of the funds we need. As a consequence, the Ugandan government and world food programme recently had to cut already limited food rations.”