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'Evi Wants to Play With Her New Friends'

TeamUp launched in early 2016 to support refugee children inside the Netherlands. Evi is just one of the 500 refugee children who take part in TeamUp activities designed to provide structure and stability. This is her story

By the end of 2016 some 8,000 refugee children were living in asylum centres across the Netherlands. The majority of them arrived from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq - and were forced to survive long, arduous journeys in search of sanctuary. Evi is just one of those children.

Evi’s story is powerful but by no means unusual. At the age of eleven Evi undertook a dangerous voyage across water from Syria to Europe. She was forced to travel in a small boat with 50 other people - and she remembers the experience vividly.

“We sat huddled together on the ground," Evi recalls. "Then we had five days of walking without eating and sleeping.”

Together with her father and eight-year-old sister Evi arrived safely in the Netherlands but she had to leave her mother and two other sisters behind in Syria because they could not come. “I do not want to talk about it; I miss Mom,” she says.

© Merijn Roubroeks

A new life

Evi now lives in an asylum reception centre in Tilburg. There she participates in weekly activities organised by TeamUp - an initiative from War Child, UNICEF Netherlands and Save the Children in support of refugee children in the Netherlands.

Full of excitement Evi asks: “Today is Tuesday, right? Then it’s playtime!” The various activities - including sports, games and dance - ensure that the children interact more fully with one another.

Evi is proud that she has “at least twenty” girlfriends in the centre. TeamUp provides Evi with stability and a means to process her distressing experiences.

“The best part is that we ourselves are asked what we like to play... That makes me happy.”