A little like a refugee

Danette Dooley
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Touring tent city gives people a sense of life on the fringes of war and famine

A unique exhibit featuring an outdoor reconstruction of a refugee camp is coming to Bannerman Park in St. John’s.

Aid workers and volunteers will guide visitors through various areas of the exhibit and explain the plight of the millions of people uprooted by war and conflict.

A project of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, the exhibit is both hands-on and educational, co-ordinator Karel Janssens said during a recent telephone interview.

“Kids who come to the exhibit can fill up the jerrycans that we have with water and feel how heavy they are, because children in refugee camps often have to carry 20 kilos of water at a time,” Janssens said.

The exhibit is divided into several stations, including a shelter area, health clinic, nutrition centre, cholera treatment centre and vaccination tent.

Janssens has worked in several refugee camps, including a camp for internally displaced people (IDPs) in Sudan.

IDPs are those who have fled their homes but have not crossed an international border, he said.

Access to basic needs such as shelter, clean water and heath care are just some of the challenges refugees and IDPs face when living in camps.

Often, Janssens said, thousands of people live in refugee camps. Cooking means looking for firewood, a high-risk job, especially for women.

Those visiting the exhibit will be shown the different kinds of food that people living in camps eat.

“It’s old dried rations. There are no fresh vegetables,” Janssens said.

Placentia native Marlene Power, who now lives in St. John’s, worked with Doctors Without Borders for three years in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

She’ll be one of the guides when the exhibit comes to St. John’s Thursday.

While her job did not include working in refugee camps, Power visited camps in the state of Eritrea about a decade ago.

Eritrea borders Ethiopia. There were more than 20,000 people living in one of the camps, she said.

Power said it’s the resilience of the people that she’ll remember most about the experience.

“Even though people have lost everything and have left everything, they manage to pick up and live their lives, doing whatever they have to do to get through it,” she said.

The Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City exhibit was first launched in France in 1995 and has toured countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America. Previous Canadian editions in 2008 and 2010 have attracted more than 33,000 visitors.

The exhibit will be on display from Sept. 8-11. More information can be found online at www.refugeecamp.ca.

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danette@nl.rogers.com

Organizations: Doctors Without Borders

Geographic location: Bannerman Park, Eritrea, Sudan.IDPs Placentia Ethiopia France Asia Europe Middle East North America

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