We are a group of four Europeans from The Netherlands who have been traveling through Europe to meet children who fled their home countries.

Since 2015 large numbers of refugees have come to Europe leaving their home countries behind due to war and persecution. When we hear about refugees in the media we hear these heartbreaking stories. Obviously, that is a big part of their narrative but this time we wanted to tell a different story so we packed our bags and traveled through 5 different countries to meet refugee children and ask them about their stories, hopes, and dreams for the future. The answers we found were incredibly interesting and touching.

Some dreamed of having superpowers to end the war in Syria, others wanted to become a stewardess, a reporter, have a Harry Potter Themed birthday party or just simply chasing butterflies all day. Once we captured their stories we created an image in which these dreams came to life (See photo’s below).

The series is called ”The Dream Diaries” and is a photo series of children who fled their home countries leaving everything behind except their hopes and dreams of a better future. No matter how traumatic their experiences were they never lost the ability and strength to dream. Exactly that strength, is the essence we tried to capture in this series. The series also contains a beautiful 6-minute documentary in which these children share their dreams.

More info: unhcr.org

”I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia. In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time”

”I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia. In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time. When we arrived at the airport, I finally saw my dad again. I had not seen him for a very long time. So I ran up to him and hugged him really tight. A while back, I saw a movie about a stewardess and she looked so pretty and smart that I decided I want to become a stewardess as well. I want to be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies in my stomach.”
Manaal, 14 years old, from Somalia (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

Hannah’s parents are still in Syria. She really misses them and I obviously cannot replace them but I try to be here for her. Luckily she is a very strong girl; strong like a lion”

”Hannah has a twin brother who is still in Syria. She misses him a lot. I am her uncle but I take care of her like a father. We left Damascus because of her. Hannah is only seven but she is incredibly smart and she can’t stand injustice. The situation in Syria became too much for her. When her grandmother and I had to leave and come to Germany, her parents decided it was best for her if she would come along. She really misses her parents and I obviously cannot replace them but I try to be here for her. Luckily she is a very strong girl; strong like a lion.”
Hannah, 7 years old, from Syria (Berlin, Germany)

”My biggest dream is to own a bike one day. Here at the facility, we do have bikes but I want my own bike. Maybe then, if I bike really fast, I will be able to fly”

”I am exactly seven years old. I was born in Somalia. I am in Germany, for almost one year now and I like it here. My sister and I love to play and we both love Frozen. I am learning German in school and I like it. My biggest dream is to own a bike one day. Here at the facility, we do have bikes but I want my own bike. Maybe then, if I bike really fast, I will be able to fly.” Marianne, 7 years old, from Somalia (Berlin, Germany)

”In Afghanistan, I played soccer and here in Germany, I play soccer too. In my life so many things have changed but playing soccer stayed the same”

”When I wake up in the morning, I think about soccer. I go to bed at night and I still think about soccer. In Afghanistan, I played soccer and here in Germany, I play soccer too. In my life so many things have changed but playing soccer stayed the same. Most of the times I play with my uncle and brother. When they play they don’t want to pass the ball. They want to be the one to score the goal. That is why I do not always like to be on a team with them. To me it doesn’t matter who makes the score. If someone scores the goal, the whole team scores and wins.”
Shoaib, 11 years old, from Afghanistan. (Berlin, Germany)

”I am just happy to see that they are very normal kids who love animals and playing games. I am so happy that they can have a future and no longer have to worry about bombs dropping from the sky”

“Leaving them behind was the hardest thing I ever had to do. The situation in Syria was no longer bearable. I had no idea where I was going or whether I was going to survive the journey. I knew it would be dangerous so I decided to go by myself and have my family come over as soon as I would have something to offer them. As I had expected, the journey was really harsh. When I arrived in the Netherlands, I decided to stay. I was able to skype with my family but I missed holding them in my arms so much. I couldn’t focus on learning Dutch because I was thinking about my wife and children all the time. During the first months I stayed in an old prison building and I applied for asylum. After 8 months, having secured status in the Netherlands, I was able to start the procedure for family reunification. Day and night, I was busy to get my children and wife over here. Then the day came when they arrived at the airport. A friend of mine came along to capture the moment that I could finally see my sons and wife. Watching that video still breaks my heart. Now that they have been with me for a few months, I feel that our life can finally take off. What kept me going during the entire journey was the thought of that moment when I would finally hold my boys in my arms again. I just want them to grow up in a safe environment. Right now they are getting used to the life over here. I am just happy to see that they are very normal kids who love animals and playing games. I am so happy that they can have a future and no longer have to worry about bombs dropping from the sky.’’
Time and Majd, 4 and 5 years old, from Syria (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

”I think my sister is really cute and I like reading books to her, just like I did in Syria. Today, we are going to play in the park and chase butterflies. We always do that together”

”Today is my little sister’s birthday. Avien is now 5 years old. Mummy made sure our hair looks nice for Avien’s birthday. We always watch a show together on TV and it’s about a woman who always has nice hair and pretty dresses. I think my sister is really cute and I like reading books to her, just like I did in Syria. Today, we are going to play in the park and chase butterflies. We always do that together. We also share all of our secrets..”
”What kind of secrets?’’
‘’We can’t share that; then it’s not a secret anymore!’’

”My biggest dream is that all people would have wings, just like angels. Then, we would all be able to fly, hug the moon and touch the sky”

”My biggest dream is that all people would have wings, just like angels. Then, we would all be able to fly, hug the moon and touch the sky.”
Ghazel, 10 years old, from Syria (Lausanne, Switzerland)

”I want to be a super hero with golden bracelets, like Wonder Woman. I would end the fighting in Syria and then I would go back and kiss everything, really everything, also the bananas and the watermelons”

”I love playing computer games. One of my favorite games is called”Combat Zombie”. I once discussed with my friend whether Zombies are real or not. He said that there are Zombies in the United States but I didn’t believe him. Still it made me a bit afraid of going to the toilet by myself at night because you never know. That is why I want to become a super hero so I don’t have to be afraid anymore. I want to be a super hero with golden bracelets, like Wonder Woman. I would end the fighting in Syria and then I would go back and kiss everything, really everything, also the bananas and the watermelons.”
Ayham, 8 years old, from Syria (Vienna, Austria)

”Soon I will turn 20 and even though I might be a bit too old for a themed birthday party, I don’t care. I would still love to have a ”Harry Potter” themed birthday party”

”One of my teachers told me that my German wasn’t good enough to continue my High School education. I came from Somalia to Austria in 2009 so German is not my first language. After she told me that I might have to quit my education and start to work, I studied even harder. I read many books in German. My language level went up and I was able to continue my education. I am now taking evening classes. Hopefully I will graduate this year so I will be able to finally go to university. I am not sure what I want to study but I know I want to have a job with meaning. During Ramadan I volunteered to go to orphanages and nursing homes to talk and play with the people there. That way I experienced what it means to help others. I would like for people to get along better, to listen to each other and to appreciate different opinions. As a child I was always dreaming of my birthday. Being a huge fan of Harry Potter and Batman I wanted to have theme parties where my friends would show up in costumes. In Somalia its uncommon to celebrate birthdays so I never really did. Soon I will turn 20 and even though I might be a bit too old for a themed birthday party, I don’t care. I would still love to have such a birthday party. I will throw one and invite all my friends. In life I learned to follow my heart. My sister always says, you are the ink and life is a book and you have to write your own story.”
Khalid, 20 years old, from Somalia (Austria, Vienna)

”I saw so many stories about Syria going around on the internet and it is hard to tell if they are true. People must hear the truth and journalists have the power to do that. That is why I want to become a journalist”

”What I remember most about our journey is the rubber boat. It took 5 hours. The engine shut down a few times. We were so scared. It was midnight. We all were navigating on our phones. We went from Turkey to Greece. I mostly remember all the walking we did. I remember the mud, the cold and the constant rain. I did not eat much. When we finally arrived in Austria, I was so happy that I no longer had to walk. We ended up staying here in Vienna. On my first day in school here, I was very nervous. I didn’t know what to talk about to my classmates. I’d never met Austrian kids before and I was the first Syrian kid in the class. The kids in my class asked me a lot of questions about Syria and the war. I didn’t mind explaining to my classmates what my life was like in Syria. I told them about Aleppo, about the war and also about the Falafel because Falafel is Syria is really good. Some kids asked funny questions like: do you have cars in Syria? Of course we have cars in Syria. Someone thought we only have camels. I already made a lot of friends here but sometimes I miss my friends in Syria. We still keep in touch through Facebook. I think the world without war is so much better. It is interesting for me to hear things about Syria. I saw so many stories about Syria going around on the internet and it is hard to tell if they are true. People must hear the truth and journalists have the power to do that. That is why I want to become a journalist.”
Amr, 15 years old, from Syria (Austria, Vienna)

These children fled their home countries leaving everything behind except their hopes and dreams