Waterloo, here we come
1st of June has arrived already and we’ve packed up the roadshow in Toronto and drive to Waterloo today. Opening day is Thursday 3rd and we’ll be there until Sunday. So far over 13,000 people have taken the time to see the exhibition. We’re all really pleased as it’s a lot more than we expected so far. So if you have an hour to spare in Waterloo, swing by and see the problems facing the 42 million people in the world fleeing conflict.
Overheard in Toronto
A group of school children attended yesterday. Their teacher had followed the lesson plans that we have on the refugeecamp.ca website with enthusiasm; the whole morning the children had only eaten the same food the refugees tend to be given – rice and beans cooked with oil and salt. It seems the children understood the purpose of the task but were a little unimpressed with the lack of ketchup.
When we show people the latrines that refugees use, we tend to ask if anyone has seen the “squat plate” style before. 1 lady told Delphine her story about her first experience. She had been travelling in India and jumped off the bus at a stop to use the washroom facilities. She saw just the hole in the floor and assuming the toilet had been removed, returned to the bus without making use of the facilities. The same story repeated at the second bus stop. It wasn’t until she discovered the third “theft” of the toilet that she could only squat above the hole in the floor, unable to wait any longer. She was very impressed with herself, thinking she had overcome the theft of the toilet and found a solution. That was until she discovered that all the washrooms use the squat style. I think it was very brave of her to admit the story in public.
Jimmy from Rwanda
After passing a border crossing, the first stop in the tour is the landmines. He turned around and walked out about 1 minute into the tour. “I’ve seen too much of this already. In my country” he said. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know the words, the emotion in his voice was so apparent. I saw him sitting under a tree for the next hour or so. I pointed him out to Wendy, the project coordinator, “I think that man had a emotional time in the camp, he didn’t make it past the minefields”. I wanted to give him some water, but guessed he might prefer some solitude.
Later I saw him talking to Catherine, the mental health expert, also from Scotland. So I went over. He is called Jimmy and he is from Rwanda. I’ll add a small video clip that we made later tonight below.
Thank you Toronto……so far
Our opening day in Toronto, yesterday, saw 1,531 visitors. A new record. It was a busy day, but the team are all super excited that so many people are taking the time to see the camp.
Our mock refugee camp exhibition takes place every 2 years in Canada. Other MSF offices, including USA and Australia also regularly bring the show to the public. One of the new aspects to the roadshow this year is the Haiti shelter. It was created by a friend of MSF in his living room. The shelter is a cubed frame, made of sticks. The walls and roof are formed of plastic tarpaulin and bed sheets, and the structure is held together by string, also tied to rocks for support in the wind.
It was quite windy in Ottawa so I was curious as to how the shelter would survive the elements. In fact, it resisted the wind and rain quite well. Sadly, back in the real Haiti, it’s the middle of the rainy season and the hurricanes are about to hit and I don’t think real shelters will survive very well.
We talk about Haiti, not because it is any more important than the 60 or so other countries where we work, but because it is one that the local population might be more familiar with. Although my own perspective is that the media is losing interest in Haiti. I’ve struggled to take most of the media seriously when I see the attention it gives to local non-news items and disregards atrocities that happen overseas. Haiti is also dropping from the media’s interest. Some places we work, including Papua New Guinea, where I used to work, rarely make the news.
We had 4 medical centres in Haiti at the time the earthquake struck. All were instantly destroyed. Today we have 19 medical centres plus mobile clinics. The media might be losing interest in Haiti, but we are not. Please come and visit our refugee camp and see what we have to say about Haiti and the other 60 countries that we work. Each tour guide has personal experience of working for MSF overseas and has a different story to tell.
We are open in Toronto from Thursday 27th to Sunday 30th.