International street artists help South Sudanese child refugees tell their stories

  • Half a million South Sudanese children have fled to Uganda
  • Many of them have witnessed or directly experienced extraordinary levels of violence
  • #ABrighterFuture sought to help young refugees tell their stories through the creation of art installations in Bidibidi refugee settlement

16 June: Ahead of World Refugee Day, World Vision partnered with Apartial, an online community of artists, to bring colour and hope to the world’s largest refugee settlement. Bidibidi in northern Uganda, is now home to 280,000 South Sudanese refugees; 68 per cent of them are children.

#ABrighterFuture sought to help some of these children tell their stories through the reproduction of works by internationally renowned street artists including Maser (Ireland), Seth (France), JR (France), Herakut (Germany), Slinkachu (UK), Sandra Chevrier (Canada) and Candy Chang (US).

“These children have been through a lot. Many of them have seen their parents, their brothers and sisters killed. Some have survived abduction. Participating in this project… it gives them a sense of hope. Just looking at the amazing colours here now… it gives them hope,” says World Vision Uganda’s Child Protection Coordinator James Kamira.

Irish artist Maser worked directly with young refugees to paint one of World Vision’s Child Friendly Spaces inside-and-out, in his signature bright, abstract design. The spaces provide children with psychosocial support, early childhood education, training in conflict resolution and a safe place to play and ask for help.

“I’ll supply artwork and then let the kids take ownership of that because it’s their space. The artwork is a tool… a facilitator for conversations and new experiences,” explains Maser, who has created large-scale outdoor murals all over the world.

With permission from the other artists, Maser and Apartial co-founder Mark Leonard taught the children the necessary techniques to recreate some of their most well-known works too.

Sixteen-year- old Lina fled Juba when her father was murdered. She has been living alone in Bidibidi refugee settlement since August. Inspired by Canadian Sandra Chevrier’s ‘Fragile Heroes’ Lina created a self-portrait.

“I like the picture so much. When I was working on it, I was feeling so joyful. I couldn’t think of the past.”

World Vision International President Kevin Jenkins recently visited the refugee settlement and had the opportunity to meet with children involved in the project.

I met Lina in front of her painting and heard her harrowing story of leaving South Sudan first-hand. She told me how hard it has been for her to make friends - but also how much healing she has experienced in being able to paint this dramatic image.”

World Vision estimates 100 unaccompanied South Sudanese children like Lina, cross the border into Uganda each day. Once they arrive, they’re safe from war but vulnerable to other forms of violence like child marriage.

“World Vision is facilitating interim foster care for these unaccompanied children. Suitable refugee families are identified as temporary guardians and we continue to monitor the child’s well-being,” says Gilbert Kamanga, National Director for World Vision Uganda.

Uganda has some of the most progressive refugee policies in the world. It has kept its borders open, is providing land grants to each refugee family, allowing individuals the right to work and establish businesses and access public services like health care and education.

“The international community should take note of these measures and move to share responsibility for this crisis immediately. Those of us responding only have 15-16 per cent of the funds we need. As a consequence, the Ugandan Government and World Food Program recently had to cut already limited food rations,” says Gilbert Kamanga. “It's a mistake to ignore this crisis because it involves conflict and politics - we all need to see that children are at the centre of the picture.”

For more information or interviews with World Vision staff or the artists involved, please contact

Photographs taken during the project and of the finished works can be found here.