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  • Pippi of Today.

    “Everything I brought fit in my small bag,” Luisa* says. “I took my clothes, my notebooks and a few books.” Luisa, is 12 years old and one of over a million people that have fled to Colombia from neighbouring Venezuela.

     

    Millions of people have left Colombia, because of lack of food, economic hardship and increasing violence.

     

    “I was sad leaving Venezuela, because I knew I would miss my relatives a lot. But I was also happy, because I was going to see my mum again. We had a big big big hug when I first saw her.”

     

    Migrating to Colombia was a big change for Luisa. She didn’t know where anything was, the places were not familiar, people spoke strangely, using different words for things and she no longer had her friends and relatives close.

     

    Girls that are migrants and refugees are especially vulnerable when families are on the move. The border area of Colombia, where Luisa lives, is home to several of the armed guerrilla groups that have fought the government and each other for decades. Organised crime, dealing in both narcotics and human trafficking, is well established and violence is common.

     

    “At first, I didn’t go out much, but then I got used to it, people taught me where the stores and other things are.”

     

    “I studied until sixth grade,” Luisa says. “I just missed two months at the end. My mom is looking for a space for me in a school here.”

     

    Luisa wants to be a flight attendant, travel and learn lots of languages. Sometimes, when people say that she can do it, she says:

     

    “The easy things? I already conquered them. The difficult things? They are already happening. The impossible? I haven’t done it yet, but I will.”

     

    * Name has been changed.

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    Colombia, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 105mm lens,
    1/400s at f/2.8

  • Pippi of Today.

    “We crossed the river in a canoe,” Adriana* says. “I was a little scared, but I had to do it.” Adriana, 14 years old, is a refugee from Venezuela. She lives in Colombia, just across the river border, with her grandmother and aunt and two of her younger sisters.

     

    A younger sister and brother are still in Venezuela. Her mother and father are both dead.

     

    “We came here because we didn’t have anything there,” Adriana says. “Sometimes we didn’t have anything to eat and no money to live. We couldn’t go to school, sometimes there was no water.”

     

    The crisis in Venezuela have forced nearly five million people to leave the country. Increased violence, food shortages and collapse of basic functions in society like schools and health care have made life unbearable.

     

    “Here in Colombia it is better than in Venezuela,” Adriana says. “Because, we are not as hungry here as we were in Venezuela. It is hard here too, but a little bit better.”

     

    Adriana had to stop school when she left Venezuela, but she now attends Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space almost every day. It is a centre close to her home where she can feel safe, meet other children and learn. She loves the craft and painting the best.

     

    “I’m not is school, because I do not have legal migration documents. But I would really like to study here if I could. Maths is my favourite subject.”

     

    “I made my own bracelets and earrings,” Adriana says. “Necklaces are harder to make, I haven’t learnt that yet, because it is very hard.”

     

    It is hard for Adriana to think about the future. Her focus is on her younger sisters and the sister and brother still in Venezuela.

     

    It is hard for Adriana to think about the future. Her focus is on her younger sisters and the sister and brother still in Venezuela.

     

    “Right now, I’m not thinking anything about my own future. Just that my sisters move forward in life, that God helps them. My dream is that we can all be together again.”

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Colombia, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 24-70mm lens,
    1/320s at f/4

  • Pippi of Today.

    “If the times are good, I see my parents every other year,” Naw Si Si* says. She is 14 years old and lives with her grandmother in a wooden house on stilts in Thailand, close to the border with Myanmar.

     

    Naw Si Si is from the Po Karen ethnic group. Most migrants her community are economic migrants, coming from Myanmar to Thailand.

     

    Decades of armed conflict in Myanmar have forced many Karen people to flee to Thailand. There is a ceasefire now, but many stay in Thailand and only occasionally go back across the border. There is a large community of people from Myanmar in the Thai border areas. Refugees and migrants often live separately from the Thai population, speak their own languages and only occasionally mingle.

     

    “The best thing about living here is that I get a chance to study,” Naw Si Si says. She is in 8th grade and wants to be a doctor. “Here in Thailand you can go to school, even if you are from Myanmar.”

     

    “I do want to be a doctor, but I don’t know if it is possible or not. It requires my parents support.”

     

    Her biological father passed away. Naw Si Si’s mother lives with her new husband, but they work in Bangkok and she only sees them every other year if they can afford to come home. She lives with her five siblings and grandmother.

     

    “I have lots of friends, but I don’t have my best friend anymore. She went back to Myanmar. We don’t have any contact. I want to cry when I think about it.”

     

    Naw Si Si takes part in a leadership training for young refugees and migrants, run by one of Save the Children’s partner organisations.

     

    “I feel stronger today,” Naw Si Si says. “In the past I didn’t dare speak to my teachers, after the training started, I became braver.”

     

    Naw Si Si tries to support her friends and girls in the community to speak up. Young girls’ ambitions are often ridiculed, and girls are reluctant to speak to adults about their needs and wishes.

     

    “Don’t be shy, there is nothing to be ashamed of! I am from Myanmar, but I can be anything if I try. You don’t know the future, so you can’t judge who I am, or who I will become.”

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Thailand, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 105mm lens,
    1/80s at f/2.8

  • Pippi of Today.

    Claudia* is 12 years old; her mother was forced to leave her and her little sister in Venezuela. Like millions of people, Claudia’s mother left Venezuela, a country in deep political and economic crisis.

     

    Claudia’s mother was desperate and needed work and money. In neighbouring Colombia, she found work but had to sleep on the streets.

     

    “I worried the most for my little sister, because she was still very small,” Claudia says.

     

    Claudia also crossed the border with Mariana*, a friend of the family. Now she stays with Mariana, close to where her mother and little sister sleep and work in a Colombian border town. She sees them sometimes.

     

    “In Venezuela, I was always with my mum, we were always together,” Claudia says. “But here I have to live with Mariana because my mum is living on the street in the market. And to be with her… well, the money is to buy food, lunch, for my little sister. So I can’t.”

     

    Girls that are migrants and refugees are especially vulnerable when families are on the move. Families fleeing from economic hardship sometimes find themselves in similarly difficult circumstances in the new country.

     

    “I would tell children in a similar situation to me, to think before they make decisions,” Claudia says. “Because sometimes things can turn out bad.”

     

    Claudia is not in school, but she goes regularly to the nearby Child Friendly Space that is set up and run by Save the Children. In this tent, migrant children can play, learn and be safe. The informal education and playing at this centre help children find friends and support.

     

    “When I go there and when I play with the children there, I feel happy,” Claudia says. “I like to be with my friends.”

     

    “I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up,” Claudia says. “Well… maybe I can become a police officer, to help save children who live in the street. To help people.”

     

    “The situation is really ugly there,” Claudia says about Venezuela. “If I could tell the politicians in both Venezuela and Colombia something, I would ask them both to stop the anger and to speak with each other.”

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Colombia, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 24-70mm lens,
    1/160s at f/4

  • Pippi of Today.

    Mary*, 14, lives with her mother and sister. She goes to a Christian school in Thailand but is from an ethnic minority in neighbouring Myanmar.

     

    “Here I only know my own family; I don’t know much about other people,” Mary says. “My older sister is studying at university in Myanmar and my brother is learning Japanese to go to Japan.”

     

    Mary’s mother moved across the border over a decade ago, like so many others she was looking for work and safety. She came to Thailand during a difficult time: there were crackdowns on migrants, and she had to hide. The situation calmed down and Mary’s mother found work and later a school for her two youngest daughters. Mary feels safe in Thailand.

     

    Mary take part in musical training organised by one of Save the Children’s local partner organisations. Children with migrant backgrounds come together every weekend, play and socialise.

     

    “I play the guitar. I chose the guitar myself.”

     

    Music plays an important role in Mary’s life. She likes to play the guitar and it helps her through hard times.

     

    “I’m happy when I play the guitar,” Mary says. “When I’m sad or something happened, I just play the guitar. Without thinking about anything else, I just focus on playing.”

     

    Mary loves pop music and dancing. And she really wants to be a dancer. An unconventional choice, for which she is sometimes criticised in her community.

     

    “When people say I can’t be a dancer, I say: ‘It will happen. Even though it has not yet happened, it will happen.’”

     

    The Myanmar community in Thailand is closely knit Mary knows Thai people, but her friends all have Myanmar backgrounds.

     

    Decades of armed conflict and economic hardship in Myanmar have forced many people to migrate to Thailand. There is a large community of people from Myanmar in the Thai border areas. Refugees and migrants often live separately from the Thai population, speak their own languages and only occasionally mingle.

     

    “I want Myanmar people and Thai people to be treated the same,” Mary says. “Don’t look down on Myanmar people. Because Thai and Myanmar are the same, we are all human beings.”

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Thailand, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Leica M10
    Summarit 90mm lens,
    1/90s

  • Pippi of Today.

    Aye Aye* had to grow up early. When she was 10, her mother died, and Aye Aye became the main caregiver of her younger sister. They live in Thailand, but Aye Aye was born in neighbouring Myanmar.

     

    The family had to leave their home in a hurry a few years ago.

     

    “We moved here, because it wasn’t good there. It was all of a sudden, we didn’t prepare,” Aye Aye says. “We came by car, but I don’t remember anything from the trip.”

     

    Aye Aye is 12 now and living with her younger sister and her father, her two older sisters are married and have moved away. Her father works long days as a farm hand. She goes to a school for refugee and migrant children, run by one of Save the Children’s partner organisations.

     

    “I want to sew when I finish school, to help my father support the family. He is old,” Aye Aye says.

     

    Fighting and economic problems in Myanmar has resulted in hundreds of thousands of families crossing the border into Thailand. Girls that are migrants and refugees are especially vulnerable when families are on the move. The school Aye Aye goes to helps support children and provide them with education in a language they understand.

     

    “My favourite subject is Burmese literature,” Aye Aye says.

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Thailand, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 24-70mm lens,
    1/1250s at f/2.8

  • Pippi of Today.

    Anna*, 14, loves football and wants to be a football player more than anything. Anna is from a mixed ethnic background from Myanmar.

     

    She doesn’t know why her mother decided to emigrate to Thailand – it’s not something they talk about in the family.

     

    Hundreds of thousands of people from minority groups in Myanmar have fled violence and economic hardship for decades, many settling permanently in Thailand.

     

    “Nothing much happens here,” Anna says. “It is safe to stay here.”

     

    Anna goes to a Christian school and she lives with her mother and sister inside the school compound. She meets Thai people, but don’t speak the language and all her friends have a Myanmar background.

     

    She has loved football since she was small, and loves to watch matches on TV.

     

    “When Ronaldo and other players play football, I feel inspired,” Anna says. “When I see them playing, I feel energised and I want to play like them, but there is no one to teach me.”

     

    She is often met with scepticism when she says she wants to be a football player.

     

    “Sometimes I feel depressed, when people tell me that I can’t be a footballer. People my age don’t tell me things like that, only older people, teachers too. I want to talk back to them, but since they are older, I just put up with them. And I just keep playing football.”

     

    “You know, every child has their own ambitions. And when it comes to sport, there is no man or woman, boy or girl, everyone can play.”

     

    Anna and her sister don’t have official documents from Myanmar or Thailand, so they have no official status in either country. Since they are young, they can still show their birth certificates if asked, but their mother Joy* is worried about them not receiving medical treatment if they get ill.

     

    Anna’s school is part of a non-formal education system for migrants, but if she wants to continue to study, she needs the right documents from the Thai authorities.

     

    “I will finish my education,” Anna says. “And whatever happens along the way, I will not be depressed, I will face all of the obstacles. I will try. And I will try to get the skills a footballer needs.”

     

    *Name has been changed.

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    Thailand, 2019

    The Astrid Lindgren Company

    Nikon D5
    Nikkor 105mm lens,
    1/640s at f/3.5