Moncton, Day 4
September 25, 2011
This week I am living out a promise.
My first mission with Doctor’s Without Borders was as a nurse in Djibouti. The day before I left a woman named Habon searched me out. Habon and her family had fled Somalia 6 years previously and worked for MSF as a community health worker. Habon had made me a card that in addition to thanking me for our time together, asked me not to forget her. It is a card that 4 years later still sits next to my bed.
‘We come from an unknown land, and we are unknown to this world. Someone can’t care if they don’t know. Now you know, so please don’t forget. And please – let people know that we exist. And that we are just human.’
In the past four days as I have toured people through the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City Habon, as well as many of the other incredible people I have had the honour to work with over the years, have been on my mind. During the tours I walk people through the shelter station and I share the story of where Habon lived with her eight brothers and sisters. As we tour through the food station I talk of people I worked with in the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had their fields burned and who lived on fried plantains and termites for weeks on end. I share the story of Hassan in Djibouti who explained to me that he would take his goats to graze in the ‘pooing fields’ outside of his shantytown, as human excrement was the only food available to the goats. And then his family would eat those goats, as that was the only food available to them. Each of the stations throughout the exhibit has brought back to life for me many stories of many people – and has provided me with the opportunity to live out my promise to Habon. She does exist. She is human. She has the right to have her story told. So do all of the other 43 million uprooted people in this world.
The day I was leaving Habon once again sought me out, this time to say good-bye. She and I were the same age. She said to me that she often imagined what it would have been like if I had been born as her, and she had been born as me. There is no good reason that it didn’t happen, and the thought has returned to me on a daily basis since then. During this tour it is on an hourly basis – with every tour the reality of pure circumstance comes alive. It could have been me. It could have been you.
I would like to send out a heartfelt thank you to all of the people in Moncton who volunteered their time during the camp, as well as to all of the people that took time out of their daily lives to come and take the tour. It has been wonderful to meet you all and have the chance to share some stories with you.
Moncton, Day 3
Guide Judy Adams from New Brunswick
Letter to the editor, Times & Transcript, September 24, 2011
Camp was fun
To The Editor:
Thank you Doctors Without Borders.
It was kool at the refugee camp; I really liked it.
I would not want kolera and have to go to the bathroom in my bed.
I would not want to wear tire shoes either. It would not be fun to live in a tent for 50 years.
I am thankful to be living in Canada.
Ronan Jensen, (age 7)
Moncton, Day 2
Guide Otto Gonzalez
September 23, 2011
Today is my second day with the MSF team in Moncton as we join the tour for the last two cities in the eastern Canada Refugee Camp in the City tour. This tour is not new to me, as I have participated in the two previous Canadian tours as a guide. However, I am learning about the Maritimes and the people who are from these parts as they visit our exhibit and share their thoughts on visiting the camp. People here are very compassionate in their comments and responses. I have guided many school groups the last couple of days and the students are so engaged and many have come with a basic knowledge that is enriched by the tour. As I watch their perspectives broadened, I can see that some are already thinking about how they can include humanitarian aid in their work in the future. Wow!
What is also special about this tour is that I am joined by my daughter once again; yes she was the youngest tour member last year at 8 months of age. But this year is different, she is vocal. At the ripe age of two, after following me for four of my tours, she is not only cultivating much patience but is already starting to understand what life in refugee camps is about. Today, near the end of a tour she looked at one of the older students and said: “Refugee camp… kind of scary” and the student replied to her: “Yeah… but look at all the ways we can change things, we can act!” The whole scene hardly seemed real, maybe it was the mature nature of the exchange for their age or maybe it was of the impact this exhibit is having on young minds. As the day wraps up, I am left with a very hopeful feeling about the take-home messages that some have been kind enough to share with me. And I am left with much gratitude for sharing this experience of awareness raising with all the participants, and especially with my daughter.
Moncton, Day 1
September 22, 2011
Day 1 in Moncton and my first day as a Guide with the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City. What a blast! I managed to give 6 tours throughout the day, from a great class of grade 6 students to an intimate tour with a family of 4 to one with a very informed group of teachers. Everyone was totally engaged, some asking great questions and others absorbing it all to process later on.
While I’ve done five missions with MSF in the field, this is the first time I’ve volunteered in Canada. It was great to have the chance to share my experiences with people who specifically came to find out more about the lives of refugees and the work we do in distant places across the world.
I recently returned from a 9 month placement in Chad and it always strikes me how few questions my friends ask or how little interest my family shows. I’ve been doing this for three and a half years and, for them, I am just coming back from another project in a different country and it everything starts to blend together. Quickly the conversation changes from the feeding center I just left and the vaccination campaign we just completed…to the home renovations they recently completed or to their new car.
I’ve now gotten used to this response and it no longer bothers me. Just the reality of ongoing work with MSF. I understand as it’s pretty hard to picture what it might be like and to grasp some of the complex issues we see in the field. So, for me, the best part of volunteering with the RCIC exhibit is to be able to bring a part of this reality to life here in Canada and to have the chance to share my stories and experiences with people who are here to learn and really interested in listening!
More than 1000 students from New Brunswick visited the exhibit on our first day in Moncton. Here are some of the comments the students wrote in our visitors’ book:
“Thanks. It’s really sad to see how some people live. It taught me a lot.” (Emma) “I would like to help these people when I get older. It’s so sad. ” (Alice) “Hats off to you guys, good job. Thanks for everything you have done for them!” ( Maclean) “I learned a lot about poverty and it was really fun to understand about problems other than our country, and be aware of everything.( Caitlin” (12))”Very touching, opens your eyes.” ( Melanie)”It is amazing what people have to do to survive.” “I am so proud of the people who take the time to help those in need.” (Tanisha) “It was very sad to see how the people live on their every day bases and it makes you want to do more to help out.”"Brought tears to my eyes. Very sad! Keep up the hard work “(Samantha) “Thank you so much for coming to Moncton. And thank you for helping our world.”
Setting up the camp in Moncton
Logistician Todd Philipps
Dr. James Maskalyak on Dadaab refugee camp
Dr. James Maskalyak, Toronto emergency physician who works with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders talks about his experiences working in Dadaab camp in Kenia on CBC’s Metro Morning.
The world’s largest refugee camp
One of the largest refugee camps in the world is full and hundreds more arrive every day. Somali refugees escaping the conflict in their country continue to arrive en masse in Dadaab, Kenya. Three camps now hold close to four times the number of people they were built for; collectively they form one of the largest refugee camps in the word. And yet newly arrived families can no longer get inside.