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Somali teenager Manaal sets her hopes high for the future


Somali teenager Manaal sets her hopes high for the future

31 January 2018 Also available in:

28 long years of conflict have left Somalia reeling. War shattered 14-year-old Manaal’s dreams for the future. Now safe in the Netherlands, with new friends, her spirits are soaring once more. She dreams of being a flight attendant.


“I have only been in an airplane once and that is when we arrived here from Somalia,” says Manaal, who fled the country with her family. “In the airplane, I felt butterflies in my stomach the whole time. I saw a movie about a stewardess and she looked so pretty and smart that I decided I want to become a stewardess as well.”


Titled “The Dream Diaries”, the series was produced by Humans of Amsterdam, fetching_tigerss and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. Manaal is one of 12 refugee and asylum-seeking children living in Europe who star in this new project that lets their imagination run free. In it, Manaal dreams of becoming an air stewardess. A portrait shows her sitting on the wing of an airplane, soaring through a picturesque evening sky.

After 5 long years of separation from her father, who was the first to flee to Europe in a desperate bid to find a better life for his family, air travel means more to Manaal than most.


“When we arrived at the airport, I finally saw my dad again,” she tells The Dream Diaries team. “So I ran up to him and hugged him really tight.”


The peaceful canals and cafes of Amsterdam, where Manaal found safety in 2014, have offered the youngster a refuge she could barely have imagined.

“My dream is to be a flight attendant,” says Manaal, who will never forget the elation of her first flight – to safety. “I want to be able to travel, see Paris and have butterflies in my stomach. I want to see the entire world.”


The “Dream Diaries” project sees the young refugees and asylum-seekers reveal their hopes and dreams from the safety of their new homes in Europe.

“When children flee their home countries, they leave everything behind, except their hopes and dreams,” says co-creator Debra Barraud. “Through the project we saw the strength of these children and how with the right support they can achieve anything.”

Audiences are being encouraged to stand #WithRefugees by signing UNHCR’s global petition, which asks decision makers to grant refugees safety, education and opportunities – turning their dreams into reality.

Manaal’s quotes are from the full stories by @humansofamsterdam



The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee issues. It strives to ensure that everyone has the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to voluntarily return home when conditions are conducive for return, integrate locally or resettle to a third country. UNHCR has twice won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1954 for its ground-breaking work in helping the refugees of Europe, and in 1981 for its worldwide assistance to refugees.