16:00 – Mahama Camp – Eastern Province, Rwanda

Mahama Camp – Eastern Province, Rwanda

In Rwanda, Helena organises an impromptu photoshoot with aspiring model Giselle

Helena Christensen travelled with UNHCR to Rwanda to meet Burundian refugees and learn more about one of the world’s most underfunded refugee crises. This is one of a series of portraits Helena captured of the individuals she met in Mahama refugee camp.

Giselle Inteyiteka is a refugee from Burundi and wants to be a model. She models clothes with her friends at Mahama refugee camp for an impromptu fashion show in one of the UNHCR buildings. When the political unrest began in her home country, Giselle’s family were harassed and targeted due to their ethnicity, and when her father refused to be recruited by a militia, their house was attacked several times late at night. Her father was arrested, and that’s when Giselle, her mother and siblings decided to flee to neighbouring Rwanda. After five months, her father escaped from detention, and the family was able to reunite. But life since then has not been easy, Giselle tells: “It took us a long time to arrive here, and life was difficult, because we did not know the country and we were not used to this life. But after I became part of Top Family Models, I am enjoying myself. We are like one family and we support each other. I had never imagined that Helena Christensen would model with us, but it gave me hope that one day I might become an international model like her. I think that my future will be bright.”

Leatitia, Elvira and Giselle (from left to right) are all models with Top Family Models Agency and they were walking in a fashion show in Mahama Camp alongside UNHCR’s Helena Christensen.

Helena with Marcelline Nifasha.

Marcelline is the head of the Tailors Co-operative and makes dresses and skirts. Her main role has now changed to supporting other women and teaching them how to use a sewing machine. She feels safe in the camp, it is peaceful and she enjoys working and spending time with the other women. It helps her to talk about life and share some of the problems they all have. She has six children and her husband was killed because of the politics in their country. Marcelline doesn’t feel brave or strong and has been holding everything together for four years for the children. As a single mother life has been really hard for her and the children and the UNHCR project gives her something that makes her smile and remember that you can be happy.