A different summer for Sahrawi children with disabilities from the Tindouf camps

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Dani Sorolla
  • Vacances en Pau resumed last year after two years of hiatus due to the pandemic.
    Vacances en Pau resumed last year after two years of hiatus due to the pandemic. Source: Vacances en Pau.
  • More than 30,000 children live in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf.
    More than 30,000 children live in the Sahrawi refugee camps in Tindouf. Source: Vacances en Pau.
  • Life in refugee camps in Tindouf is synonymous of vulnerability.
    Life in refugee camps in Tindouf is synonymous of vulnerability. Source: Unsplash (CC License).

ACAPS Girona is looking for volunteer monitors for the 'Wani Bik' summer camps and has also started the search for host families for a new edition of the 'Vacances en Pau' program.

Life in the refugee camps of Tindouf is synonymous with vulnerability. Abandoned in the middle of the Algerian desert and in a situation of forced exile for almost half a century due to the Moroccan occupation, a significant part of the Sahrawi people live there, completely dependent on international aid to get by. For the almost 170,000 people who inhabit the camps, more than 30,000 of whom are children, daily life is not easy, fueled by very adverse weather conditions that translate into extreme temperatures, strong winds, often accompanied by torrential rains, and movements of dunes, among other hardships.

It is even more burdensome for children with disabilities, who need special attention and live exposed to situations of marginalization and exclusion. With the aim of offering a different summer to these children, this year the Catalan Association of Friends of the Sahrawi People of Girona (ACAPS Girona) has joined as an extension of the project of the Basque NGO Río de Oro Durangaldea, which organizes the 'Wani Bik' camps, aimed at children with disabilities from the refugee camps of Tindouf.

ACAPS Girona has been participating for years in the historic project 'Vacances en Pau' (Summer Holidays in Peace), which is nationwide and was born in the 1980s thanks to the different associations of friends of the Sahrawi people in the state to offer Sahrawi children and young people the possibility of distancing themselves during the summer months from the harsh living conditions in the camps, where temperatures can soar above fifty degrees.

The Sahrawi children, hosted by volunteer families from all over the state, have the opportunity to enjoy the summer in a different way and to learn about a new culture and language, among other learning and experiences.

At the same time, during their stay, they are also subjected to medical check-ups to assess their health status and provide them with a diet rich in vitamins and proteins, which is difficult to supply in the refugee camps, where they can rarely consume fresh products and almost everything they eat is packaged and canned, which creates problems of avitaminosis, among others.

An experience to take care of Sahrawi children with disabilities

Being able to organize the 'Wani Bik' camps for children with disabilities is an old aspiration of ACAPS Girona. "We have been trying to do it for years, we have people from the association who had participated in the camps that are held in the Basque Country with Río de Oro Durangaldea, which have worked very well, and we have received their advice to carry it out this summer, in the months of July and August," explains Pilar Bayé, coordinator of the 'Vacances en Pau' program on behalf of ACAPS Girona, to Xarxanet.

While the camps last, "the children will do all kinds of activities and proposals, we will take them to the beach and the pool, and they will also join, to the extent possible, everything that is done within the framework of the 'Vacances en Pau' program," Bayé points out, adding that "the idea is not to discriminate against these children because they have a disability and also offer them the opportunity to come on vacation and have a great time, as is offered to others."

However, she also makes it clear that the main pillars of the project are to ensure that the children have a rich and varied diet and that they can undergo medical check-ups, which "is even more important in the case of these children because it may be that in the camps, with the few resources they have, they consider them people with a disability for life, and here they can find a solution to problems such as deafness or vision issues."

Unlike 'Vacances en Pau', instead of being hosted by families in Girona, the Sahrawi children will be accommodated at the Palau Special Education Center in the city of Girona, where they will have all the necessary facilities and services to take care of them with all the guarantees, with the help of volunteers.

In this regard, Pilar Bayé explains that there will be a ratio of one volunteer per child, and they will rotate during the months of July and August, the period in which the camps will take place. There will be four shifts in July and four in August, each lasting one or two weeks, from Friday to Friday. In addition, there will be people in charge of coordination who will be there throughout the entire stay.

The organization has already begun the search for volunteers to accompany the Sahrawi children during these two summer months. They are looking for monitors and people related to the leisure world who are willing to volunteer for 'Wani Bik'. Those interested can send an email to or send a direct message to the Instagram account wanibik_girona. You can also collaborate by collecting clothes and materials that can facilitate coexistence at the house during the summer.

‘Vacances en Pau’ is already looking for host families in the Girona region

Beyond the 'Wani Bik' colonies, ACAPS Girona has also launched the machinery to organize the 'Vacances en Pau' program and has begun the search for families in the Girona area who want to host a Sahrawi child, between eight and twelve years old, during the summer months.

"The more families we have, the more children can come, so we don't set any limit," announces the program coordinator, which resumed last year after two years of shutdown due to the pandemic. In addition, last summer the initiative coincided with Pedro Sánchez's announcement of the Spanish government's support for Morocco's position regarding Western Sahara, which delayed the children's visit and complicated their entire stay.

As for the requirements that host families must meet, Bayé makes it clear that "we don't ask for much, basically that they want to do it and want to spend a different summer with a Sahrawi child at home."

Interested families can contact the phone number 696 322 260, write to, visit the ACAPS Girona website, or attend one of the planned informational sessions, where both the 'Vacances en Pau' program and the 'Wani Bik' colonies will be presented. The next one is on Wednesday, April 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Roberto Bolaño auditorium of the Blanes Comarcal Library, and one day later, on April 13, at 6 p.m. at Can Genís (Palafrugell).

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