Despite their current predicament, children who have fled the conflict in Syria and are now living in neighbouring countries dream of what the future holds for them, and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) sent photographer Meredith Hutchison to find out.
Girls living in Zaatari Refugee Camp or in Mafraq in the north of Jordan were asked to discuss their goals and imagine their future personal and professional lives. Many of them had directly experienced conflict.
Every girl designed and directed her own photo shoot, posing as her future self . Whenever possible, they were shot in actual working environments, so they could meet people in their envisioned field and truly step into their future.
This week’s Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London aims to address some of the issues facing these children and others. International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “These photographs show the children who will one day rebuild Syria. The UK is urging the world to make a choice in education to ensure that the conflict does not rob Syria’s children of a future. By giving them an education, they have the opportunity to become the doctors, lawyers and architects of tomorrow.”
Haja, 12, future astronaut
“Ever since we studied the solar system in primary school, I have wanted to be an astronaut. I would imagine myself up in the sky, discovering new things.
“I love being an astronaut because it lets me see the world from a new angle. In this society, my path was not easy – many people told me a girl can’t become an astronaut.
“Now that I have achieved my goals, I would tell young girls with aspirations to not be afraid, to talk to their parents about what they want and why, to always be confident and know where you want to go.”
Fatima, 11, future surgeon
“In this image, I am examining an X-ray of a patient to see what is causing the pain in her chest.
“At this point in my life, I am a well-respected surgeon in the region. I treat many patients, but the patient I care most about – the one that drove me to be a doctor- is my father, who has lots of medical issues. To be able to help my father, this makes me feel strong, powerful and capable.”
Muntaha, 12, future photographer
“Since I was a young girl, I loved taking people’s photographs. I loved going to different events and documenting what was happening – both the good and bad. Now, as a professional photographer, I use my images to inspire hope in others – to encourage love and understanding.”
Malack, 16, future police officer
“I’ve always wanted to be a policewoman because the police not only keep people safe, but they also create justice in society.
“Every day I wake up, go to the station, and then head out into the city to see where I can help. I also work to inspire other young girls to become policewomen – supporting them to dream about their future and thinking about how they will overcome obstacles.”
Fatima, 16, future architect
“I’ve always wanted to be an architect. Yet when I was young, people told me that this is not something a woman could achieve, and they encouraged me to pursue a more ‘feminine’ profession.
“But I dreamt constantly of making beautiful homes for families, and designing buildings that bring people joy. Now that I’ve reached my vision, I hope I am a model for other girls – showing them that you should never give up on your dream – no matter what others say.”
Wissam, 15, future pharmacist
“Our neighbour in Syria had a pharmacy, and when I was younger I would go next door and help. As the war started, I watched this pharmacist help the injured. When I saw this, I knew that this was an important job and what I wanted to do.
“Now that I am a pharmacist, I see myself as a role model for girls and a leader changing the world.”
Rama, 13, future doctor
“Walking down the street as a young girl in Syria or Jordan, I encountered many people suffering – sick or injured – and I always wanted to have the power and skills to help them.
“Now, as a great physician in my community, I have that ability. Easing someone’s pain in the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief is the most rewarding aspect of my job. To be able to give them relief and make them smile – this is what I love most.”
Nour, 18, future lawyer
“I want violence against women to end. I want women to be able to make decisions for the community, and say their opinion without fear. I want our society to open up and give space for women to be whoever they want to be. This is why I decided to become a lawyer.
“When I was younger, my mother told me I was courageous and truthful, and that I could be a great lawyer who fought injustice. I took her advice, and now am a respected lawyer working on women’s rights and defending women who are victims of domestic violence.”
Sarah, 15, future fashion designer
“In the future, I am a famous fashion designer – creating chic clothing for women that makes them feel elegant. I design normal daywear that combines rough and soft fabrics, as well as formalwear and wedding dresses.”
Nesrine, 11, future police officer
“I saw a policewoman for the first time when I was 11 – before that I hadn’t considered it as a career. At that moment of my life, I wasn’t even going to school – I just had no interest. But once I decided this was my dream, I studied hard and pursued it.
“Now that I am a policewoman, I help many people who are in danger or trouble, and I encourage young girls to get their education so that they can reach their goals.”
Merwa, 13, future painter
“In this image, I am a popular painter, working on a landscape in oils. When I was younger, painting was a hobby – but as I grew older, I saw I had a great talent and went to art school.
“Now, I have my own gallery where I sell my paintings and sculptures. My hope is that my artwork inspires peace in the world and encourages people to be kind to one another.”
Amani, 10, future pilot
“I love planes. Even before I had ever been on a plane, I knew I wanted to be a pilot. Flying is adventurous and exciting.
“When I was younger, my brother always told me that a girl can’t be a pilot, but I knew deep down this is what I wanted to do.
“I finished my studies and found a way to get to flight school. Now, not only do I get to live my dream, but I also get to go to help people travel, to see the world, and discover new places.”
Bassima, 17, future dairy chef
“I have always found great pleasure in cooking. When I was young, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen with my mother – learning how to create different dishes. I was really good at it.
“Now as a chef, I have my own restaurant where I create the menu, and a shop where I make and serve different dairy products like milk, cheeses, and yoghurt.”
Fatima, 12, future teacher
“In this image, it is the early morning and I am waiting in my classroom for my students to arrive. I teach younger children to read and write Arabic. I am a very compassionate and kind person, and so a perfect teacher. I am strict, but I go out of my way to gently help those students who are having difficulties.”
Hiba, 9, future paediatrician
“I have always wanted to help children, and this is what drove me to be a paediatrician. I am kind and loving, and therefore an excellent doctor that children can trust.”
The UK, Germany, Kuwait, Norway, and the United Nations will co-host the Supporting Syria and the Region conference in London on 4 February which aims to set goals on education and economic opportunities to transform the lives of refugees caught up in the Syrian crisis .