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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Sahrawi Refugee Children in a Spanish Host Program Researching Sahrawi Youth in Spain: theVacaciones en Paz

Researching Sahrawi Youth in Spain: theVacaciones en Paz

Background to the Programme

Vacaciones en Paz (Vacations in Peace) is an annual holiday programme which began in 1988 and is organised by the Union of Sahrawi Youth (UJSARIO) and some 300 associations throughout Spain collectively referred to as “Friends of the Sahrawi People” ( Amigos del Pueblo Saharaui). The annual programme allows between 7,000 and 10,000 Sahrawi children between the ages of eight and twelve

It is worth noting that many of the children interviewed were unable to tell the interviewers their dates of birth, and those who did had often “chosen” to have a birthday in the summer period since this would enable them to have a birthday party while in Spain. The recording of birth-dates does not occur in a systematic fashion in the camps. It is therefore not infrequent for children to report a certain age and for the oberver to estimate a considerably older or younger “real age”. This was the case in several of the interviews which took place throughout the course of the current research.

to be hosted by Spanish families in their homes for a two-month period during the summer. Some families volunteer to take in two children at a time, either a pair of siblings or two children of the same gender. Many children return year after year to the same household, particularly when the experience has been mutually positive.

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FIGURE 3: Spanish Host Family at the Airport, Madrid

During the Summer of 2005, some 8,600 Sahrawi youth took part in the Vacaciones en Paz programme.

Nearly one-third of the children were hosted by families in Andalucia, located in what is recognised as the poorer southern region of the country.

424 children were taken in by families in the Autonomous Region of Madrid where the current study was based. Over 100,000 children have participated in the programme since its inception. Children are selected to participate on several bases, including school performance, medical needs, and the loss of a parent in battle. During their stay, the children receive medical examinations and treatment, as well as gifts of clothes, toys, and money which they take back with them to the camps. This may also be the first opportunity Sahrawi children have to encounter people of different nationalities, including Moroccans.

 

FIGURE 4: Distribution of Sahrawi Children in Spanish Households, Vacaciones en Paz 2005
Andalucia
2500
Castilla-La Mancha
1008
Catalunya
804
Galicia
601
Castilla y Leon
547
Valencia
546
Extremadura
540
Pais Vasco
473
Madrid
424
Canary Islands
259
Asturias
198
Beleares
157
Aragon
155
Murcia
155
Cantabria
97
Navarra
79
La Rioja
56

 

The relationships established during the programme often endure beyond the summer months, as strong proto-familial relationships form between the children and their Spanish host families, and return trips reinforce such cross-border bonds. Many kinds of families offer themselves as hosts – our research sample included: 1) young married couples without children; 2) young married couples with young children; 3) married couples with adolescent children living at home; 4) grandparents whose adult children and grandchildren live outside the home; 5) a pair of (female) cousins; and, 6) single and divorced women. Grandparents were also a steady presence in many of the households.

 

Last updated Sep 23, 2011