Vandan’s story

Belize
December 2018

Vandan was 10 years old and living as a refugee in Belize when he took part in the camera project and told me  his story.

This is a picture of animals. They have not finished painting it yet, but it already looks beautiful. There are predators like the lion and the jaguar, and there is a giraffe and a duck. I love animals. In my country I used to see the alligators in the rivers and the monkeys with little pink butts. I miss my country. We had to leave two years ago because we were in danger.

Animals by Vandan, age 10

We had to leave. It was Christmas time. My dad and my uncle went out to buy soft drinks, I stayed at home. Some men with guns grabbed my father so my uncle punched one of the men. Then a big group of men and women started attacking my father and uncle, so they started running. The group were throwing rocks and stones but they got away. But that group had friends with guns and pistols and they went to get them. So my dad called my grandparents to call the police. I was sleeping when he came home. He was very scared. He told my mother what had happened and they woke me up. Then the police took us to my grand-parents house because it was safer there. But we had left my mother’s parents in our home and my mum was really frightened for them because the group went on threatening us. They told my uncle they were going to cut off his head and take his organs. And we could not leave our grandparents house because there was so much danger. I remember they took me to school by car.

Then one of my aunts said Belize would be a good place to find work, so she helped us to get here.  We took a boat. We had our passports but I remember they did not want to let us in so we had to pay 50$ each before they would allow us to pass. We came here and someone advised us to request asylum.

We did not know anyone here. We found someone who would rent us rooms and then my family went to look for work everywhere. They were offered live in work but with children they could not take that kind of job, so they sell old clothes.

We have moved to another house.  A friend lets us have it for free. It is made of wood and has one room My uncle, grandparents and my parents, we all live in it together. It is divided with sheets. I sleep in a room with my mum and dad. There is no electricity. We do have a car battery and we have connected some lights to that, but we cannot charge anything, so my uncle down loads cartoons for me at the store and puts them on an old tablet.

I go to school but I don’t like the school very much because they don’t give you any assignments and the teacher is very angry all the time. I have a classmate. Sometimes she would just grab him by the jaw and lift him up! I remember my old teachers in class I and 2. I miss them.

I miss so many things.  I have lost touch with all my old friends. I miss all my family, my cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I miss my house and my teddy bears that I used to hug. I left everything behind. All my pictures taken since I was a baby, they were left as well.

The only good thing here is the tranquillity. I want to do so much. I want to be a lawyer so I can make a lot of money and help my family. I want to do it.

I cannot go back home. We all want to go, but we cannot, because of the gangs. After we left they did capture some of the leaders, but they are free now and they already killed one of my relatives. We cannot go back.