Belize is home to many families and children escaping violence and poverty in different parts of Central America. In November 2018 UNHCR lent cameras to 20 of them, aged between 6 and 10 years old to document their lives. A further workshop with another 20 children followed in February 2019. After taking pictures in their home communities for a day, each child chose her favourite picture to exhibit. This is a selection.
My Father’s Guitar by Ulysses, age 13
This is my father’s guitar. My dad used to play this but they killed him three years ago. He was out selling vegetables. Before that he was in the military. It was the gangs that did it. I remember him playing. He could play every instrument. He worked very hard so he did not have time to teach me but I loved to listen. And my father bought that tiger for us just before he died. It was a family tiger. I miss my dad a lot. I think about him a lot. I like to remember him. I remember things like he played marbles with me. He would always win. After he died, we had to leave immediately. My sister carried the guitar. We went somewhere else for a while and then we came here. We borrow a house. I like living here, it’s better than my country because it is more peaceful. I go to school and I like maths.
The Cows by Alexander
I chose this picture because in my country I had a neighbour who had cows. Every morning I went to buy one litre of milk and I took it home and we would all drink milk. We would drink it with corn tortillas. I liked those cows because I could touch them and they weren’t aggressive with me. These cows belong to my Dad’s boss and he helps take care of them. They live near the house. I get milk from them sometimes but not every morning.
Winnie the Pooh by Toreto, age 9
My brother drew this picture and I chose it because I want to be like him and draw pictures like him. I do draw myself a little, but I don’t really know how. I know it is Winnie the Pooh but I don’t know the story. I would like to know.
“Lorito” by Stephanie
My pet doesn’t have an official name but we call him “Lorito.” We have taught him to speak. Whenever we talk around him he repeats what we say, it’s amazing! He is a fast learner. When my family and I are eating he flies to the table and we feed him bread, he loves it.
The Rabbit by Snow White
I chose this picture because it reminds me of my first pets that I had in my country. I don’t recall much of my country but I have the memory of my first two full white bunnies with red eyes. This bunny belongs to my nephew. It doesn’t have a name. I want a bunny but we have dogs at home and they would probably kill it. My whole family loves animals. My brothers and sisters have different pets such as parrots, cats, dogs and fowls. I love my family and miss my sisters who stayed back in my country. I wonder if they have pets. I’ve only seen pictures of them, it’s too many years since I’ve seen them.
Mango Tree by Ruth,age 13
Mango is my favourite fruit. Back home we had many mango trees in our yard. In my school they used to sell mangoes. I miss my school, especially my friends. My best friend and I used to eat mangoes at school. I haven’t been able to eat a mango in Belize. I crave a mango like the ones from my patio back home. There are many coconut trees here and I’ve learnt to love them. Back home there weren’t that many coconut trees. In our yard we had mangoes, plums, oranges, bananas and so much more. Haven’t been able to eat as many fruits as I did back home, it mostly coconuts.
The Rabbit by Alexis, age 11
I chose this because rabbits are very smart. They dig a hole and they make five openings. They are very smart. This rabbit belongs to my aunt. It is their pet. It lives in a cage and we cannot take him out or he might run away. I had 2 rabbits in my country. My cousin had one and I asked him, and he told me ‘when the female has babies, I will give you one.’ And then he gave me two when they were born. This was when I was five years old and I had them for five years. Now they live with my grandmother, because we had to leave a year ago. I don’t know why. I was sad to go. I miss my family and I miss my bunnies a lot. But I am happy to be here. I like this country very much. There are no fights and I like the nature and I like the rain.
The Beautiful House by Kimberley Sofia, age 12
I chose this picture because I like this house a lot. It is a two-storey building and its very high; and in the back-yard there are some mango trees. It belongs to a relative. I want to live in a house like this when I am older and can work. I want to live in a house like this so that my parents can live with me as well and I will take care of them a lot, so that they do not have to work. I want to be a secretary because they make a lot of money and work with computers, and I love computers. We have lived here for about five years. I don’t remember my country, or why we had to leave. I like living here. Mostly we lived with relatives but two weeks ago we moved to a very small house of our own, but it’s not good, the water gets in. When we lived with relatives one of them made a bit of trouble and told my mother while she was cooking that she had to leave or he would kill her and he used bad words and she was crying. But other relatives said he was mentally unwell so we did not report it. If he comes to our house, we will report it.
Concrete Blocks by Ernesto, age 11
I took this picture because I like concrete blocks. You can build houses with concrete blocks. I don’t live in a concrete house but I wish I did. I will work hard to build my house from concrete blocks. When I grow up I want to build all the types of houses.
The Bicycle by Jemi, age 9
I chose this picture of a bike because I had a bike in my country. It was pink and smaller than this one. My uncle bought it for me for my eighth birthday and I learnt to ride it. My mother would not let me ride it to school because she was worried someone would steal it but I would ride it at home. This one in the picture belongs to a relative. It is too big for me to ride. I miss my bike a lot and I miss my country. We lived in a place like this, we had a house and a garden. My father worked on a farm and planted beans and corn, my mum worked at home. I do like it here, I go to school and I have family and friends here but I miss my other relatives who are still there, and I miss my bike a lot. We had to leave, some bad men hit my grandmother in the chest. They went to her house and took her DVD and TV and my grandfather’s shoes. Then they were going to the farm where my father worked. We were all there and relatives told us these men were coming, so my father ran home to warn my mother because he knew they wanted to kill him. So, we all decided to leave. I don’t remember how we travelled here. Now the whole family – my grandparents, my parents and my brothers and sisters all live together in one house.
Snake by Daniel, age 10
I like this picture: It just looks good. I am afraid of them, but they are not in the woods. We left my country when I was five years old. We had to leave because gang members were beating my brother and trying to make him join the gang but he did not want to join. We stayed a here a few years but then we had to return because my brother needed some documents. That was when they killed him. They usually leave the body in the jungle. A group of us went to search for him. We separated and I found the body. They had cut off his head and there was a lot of blood. I cried and cried. I really loved my brother. We buried him in my country and we came back here. I feel safe here. There are no gangs here.
My Puppy by Candy
The dog is mine. He is a puppy. A cousin gave him to me. I love dogs. In my country I liked taking care of them. We left some years ago, I am not sure when, but I do remember that when I was seven, I had a dog and she was pregnant and she had five puppies. We kept them. My mother helped and we had a big house. But we had to leave because it was too dangerous. Now we live with my grandmother and I like it here, but most of my family are there and I miss them a lot. This puppy is called Lady. I take care of her, I take her for walks and bath her. I want her to have puppies, but my mum does not. ‘Too many dogs’ she says.
In my Father’s field by Eva
This is a picture of a cucumber plantation. It belongs to my dad and a friend. I chose it because this is what my dad was doing in our country. My dad told me that this was the work he did from when he was very small, because his dad taught him. And my dad used to take us to the plantation when we lived at home and we would help him. It was not that easy. I had to make the plants go around the sticks. My mum helped as well, she would do the bigger sticks. I go and help my father here as well, on Saturdays and Sundays when I am not in School. We had to leave because it got too dangerous because of the gangs. They could steal everything we had and kill us. They stole from one of my aunts and then they threatened our family, so it was too dangerous to stay. But I do miss my country and my friends and the town where we used to live. Here we live in a house made of boards, all of us in one room. In my country we had two rooms.
Princess by Aurora, age 11
It’s a beautiful drawing. I drew it. I copied it from a princess story book I have. I love princesses. I drew it because the dress is so beautiful. I want a princess dress to go to a party. I had a princess dress but I had to leave it in my country. This drawing reminds me of my princess dress back home.
Virgin Mary by Maria
She is our mother, not only my mother but mother of whole world. I will always love her. I love to go to church to pray and sing. Makes me so happy when I go to church. I cut fresh flowers and put them on a vase to make Mary happy. I used to have night mares but my mother got these images of the Virgin Mary and I no longer have nightmares. She protects us.
My Bible by Allison, age 10
This is my bible where I find beautiful things. It teaches me to pray and respect my elders. The pastor at my church gave us a bible. I keep it in my bed. I love to go to church because the pastor allows the children to sing. I wasn’t allowed to sing in church in my home country. When I grow up I want to be a pastor because they sing so beautifully and I want to continue singing in church. The church back home was bigger and more beautiful but I also love my church here.
Flowers by Maxwell, age 9
These flowers grow outside our house. My grandmother grows them because she likes flowers. I like flowers as well because they are beautiful and grow in so many different colours: blue, purple, red and pink. And flowers give fruits. Some flowers grow in the river and after the flowers have gone, we use the fruit to make juice. My grandmother grows a lot of different flowers that can be used for medicine. There are some you have to chew for stomach ache. I have taken Siguapote for stomach ache and chichipinza for cuts. I had a big cut on my foot, and my grandmother used chichipinza and it got better.
The evening sky by Laureani, age 10
This is the sky at around five in the evening. I took it because I like the sky, it’s beautiful. When I look at the Sky I feel good, I don’t know why. Where I come from the sky is not like this, we have more clouds here in Belize.
The Avocado tree by Max, age 8
I took this tree because it is beautiful. I like trees because they are very tall and give us fruits for eating. This is an avocado tree. It belongs to us. The avocados just finished. My mother takes care of it.
We have been here 3 years. My father is an agricultural worker, and he does some construction. We had to leave our country because the gangs were killing people and they just throw the bodies anywhere, they don’t care. They attacked my cousin when he went out at night and he was killed. That was when we decided to come here, but we still have family there. I don’t want to go back, there are too many dead people.
Hummingbird by Josephine, age 10
I like this picture. It is on a store. I like birds, there are birds all around my house and I like watching them. We had birds round my house in my home country. We lived in the forest. We moved here to be with my grandmother. I like Belize, there are more things and more houses around us, but I do miss my old friends.
Flor de Jamaica by Angela, age 10
This plant grows outside my aunt’s house. I took a picture because the branches are pink and I like the flowers. It is beautiful. My aunt makes juice from it and I like the juice.
The Jetty by Pedro, age 10
This is a picture of where the boats stop. I have never been to that place but I know what happens. The boats stop there and people jump in and swim. And there is a coconut tree in the painting. It makes the picture more beautiful. It reminds me of when we travelled to an island when I was very small. We stopped somewhere like this and we lived on that island for two months. It was a big island. People fished, I played and I saw creatures in the sand. I have visited the sea once since then when my family had to fix some papers. After we visited an office, we took a boat. It was great, I would love to go again.
We left my country the first time because they kill people and it was not safe. That was when we went to that island. But then we went back to my country. But then my father was not getting paid at all for his work and so we left a second time because he wanted to see if he could get better pay. So we came here and he and my mother are agricultural workers. His job is to poison grass so it does not grow. She cuts fruit. I like it here. It is a very good place, people are friendly. I like school, but I don’t have the things I need like crayons and paper. So sometimes I don’t go.
Chicken by Jonathan, age 10
I like this picture. It’s beautiful. The chicken is pretty: white and coloured, and shy. It’s not my chicken. I asked the owner if I could take a picture and he agreed. We don’t keep chickens. I wish we did.
We used to live in a town. It was hard to find work there. My father tried to sell things and my mother helped him. We left my country because it is dangerous. They killed two people and left them behind our house. I think it was a sign that they wanted to kill us. They just kill and kill. We left the same day. We just took some clothes. After a long journey by bus, we walked four hours to get to the border. My parents were carrying my brothers. I was afraid something might happen to us. Then we crossed the border and hitched another ride in a car. We did not ask for asylum.
I like it here. It is much better than living in a town. There is no shooting. My father is an agricultural worker. We rent a house and I sleep with my brothers. I like it. I want to stay because it is a good place.
The Toy by Tomas, age 6
My mum took me to the shop with her, and I was walking around and the minute I saw this toy I loved it but we could not buy it because we did not have the money so it is still in the shop.