Refugee children are firstly children

Texto: Christina Nenonen

Fotografía: Miguel Ángel Pachón


On this World Children’s Day my heart is with disabled refugee children in the Sahara desert. The world is in the middle of a pandemic. I can’t help but to worry about the countless refugee children who already were in a middle of difficult situations before the pandemic.

UN Convention on The Rights of The Child is a convention that states all the rights which every child around the globe is entitled to. Unfortunately there are millions of children that face violations on their rights daily.

I am a part of Moviendo Arena and Rio De Oro Onlus. I have been volunteering with them for several years. Last summer, because of Covid-19, was the first summer without the summer camps in Grottammare, Italy since their activities started. Rio De Oro Onlus offers an opportunity to spend summer time in Italy for many disabled children from Sahara refugee camps. They receive for example medical care, activities and for example physiotherapy and attention and care from volunteers from all around the world. It is a beautiful, challenging and a learning experience for everyone, for children and us volunteers.

I have seen the results of Rio de Oro’s work. The smiles on children’s faces, their skills and self esteem improving and the way they see themselves as an important part of the Rio De Oro family during summer. Some of the children that visit Italy don’t go to school in the Sahrawi refugee camps. They are as willing to learn as any child. They have ideas, hopes and dreams as any child and they care deeply for their family. Being a refugee does not change it. I hope refugee children would be firstly seen as children.

The work of Rio De Oro Onlus is focused on disabled refugee children who are in many ways in vulnerable situations. There is still stigma related to disabilities. Rio De Oro Onlus does incredible work on the refugee camps to provide health care, support and information about disabilities, so these children will have better lives and futures.

All children have a right to health care and education. There are many obstacles that refugee children face, especially disabled refugee children. How do we ensure that they have the same educational opportunities as able children and children that live in my country? We can not forget these children.

I live in Finland and I acknowledge my many privileges that allow me to speak about these issues. I would like everyone, who reads this, to think how you could support refugee children to have their rights become a reality. It doesn’t always have to be money, we have other ways too: raise awareness, write to your governments and speak with your friends.

All children in the world are our children. The realisation of child rights is our responsibility.

Christina Nenonen

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