Day 4, St. John’s
September 11, 2011
Today I had the wonderful opportunity to guide a church group from Carbonear through the Refugee Camp in the City. The group consisted of 2 adults and about 10 teenagers. Despite the fact that one of the vehicles that had been traveling with the group was involved in an accident on the way toSt. John’s(nobody was hurt) this group was interested immediately in what I had to say. Right from when I introduced myself until I left them at the testimonial tent. They did not need to ease into the tour to be interested. They were a captive audience from the start!! So many of the students I have guided through tours over the past days have made such wonderful and insightful comments. At the end of each tour I like to ask the group, especially students, what stands out most in their minds that they want to pass on to their family and friends. I have heard great comments such as “We are so lucky to live inCanadawhere we have enough to eat.” “We are so lucky to live in a peaceful country.”
Today when I asked the group from Carbonear what they would remember, one of the teenagers said to me, “I can’t believe how long people have to wait for everything….food, water, shelter, health care.” We then talked about how sometimes we complain and get impatient when we have to wait for things here inCanada. Things that are not necessecities of life. The same student noted that “even while we were driving here today (from Carbonear) I asked many times how much longer would it be before we arrived.” She went on to say that the trip back to Carbonear would not include her asking how long it would take. When I thanked them for coming and especially for making the long drive from Carbonear, the same student looked at me and said “It was worth it”. Thanks again to the group from Carbonear and to all the groups I have had the pleasure to meet here in St. John’s. It has been a joy to be in my home province and share my experiences with each of you. Your feedback and interest has inspired me and to quote the student from Carbonear, it was worth it.
(written by Michelle Lahey)
Here are some of the many wonderful comments visitors wrote in our guest book:
“A brilliant idea and so well executed! It really brings home to us the need of others and how we can help. Thank you!” “Great job! Thank you for providing this opportunity for people to learn from your experiences.” “Thank you for this opportunity! It humanizes the problem to see faces, hear voices of people who face these problems to help.” “This was so much more than I expected.” “Iwant to be a camp worker when I grow up!” “This was eye-opening. Thanks for making this world a better place.”
Day 3, St. John’s
September 10, 2011
Despite the cold, we had so many people turning out today. I was particularly impressed with families coming with their children and wanting the education the young about the situation of the refugees. I was also very much impressed how curious and how intelligent the kids were with their questions. One particular 12 year old struck me deeply. While we were going through different parts of the exhibit, he said to me, “ can I ask you a question?” and I said “of course, go ahead” and he asked “ why do the wars happen?”, I wished at that point that I could have a good answer for him. I wish also that I knew why the wars happen myself. But seeing a 12 year old questioning this already, I now have more hope that the world is going to be a better place with the new generation coming along.
I also will not forget an elderly lady going through the entire tour with me and at the end of the tour, she wanted to know and remember my name so that she can pray for me every day for the success of my work out in the field. I am sure she will keep that promise.
The tour is really an eye opener for many people who only saw the images of a refugee camp for 30 seconds on the news. It gives them a whole new perspective on what is happening all around the world, and maybe how fortunate we are to be born in this part of the world. I feel very encouraged to see the interest of the crowd in St John’s for our exhibition that I am so excited for the next step ahead in Halifax!
(written by Banu Altunbas)
And here is a quote from a seven-year old after one of our guides explained how we use the MUAC tape to measure the upper-arm circumference to test children for malnutrition: “I think I was born with an arm bigger than that!”
Day 2, St. John’s
Watch some video footage and comments from visitors…
September 8, 2011
My first tour of the Refugee Camp yesterday was with a group of grade 7’s. While the group was most certainly enthusiastic for the tour they hadn’t had a chance to complete any of the pre-learning materials. It was only the second day of school here in St John’s and I am not sure these children knew what they were in for when then lined up for my tour.
The tour started as usual. Working our way thorough the stations we hit on all the key topics, refugees vs. IDP’s, security within a camp, shelter and so on. At the food station we discussed distribution and the daily rations of rice, beans, salt, sugar and oil for the residents of refugee camps. The children’s mouths hung open in shock when I held out a plate demonstrating the daily ration of this mix to them and said “This is what you will eat today, tomorrow and the day after that”. In their lives of kitchens with stocked fridges, freezers and cupboards it was a difficult reality for them to wrap their heads around.
We continued on through the stations, and soon arrived at the malnutrition tent where I always emphasize how our approach to malnutrition has improved exponentially through the years with the introduction of RUTF (ready to use therapeutic food), namely Plumpy Nut. This product has allowed us to treat malnourished children on an ambulatory basis thus eliminating the need for mothers to choose between their one sick child and the rest of their family living in the camp. As I was wrapping up my talk a girl who had been quiet throughout the tour thus far raised her hand and asked: “But wouldn’t everyone in the camp be malnourished even if they aren’t hungry or underweight because the food they are eating doesn’t have all of the nutrients they need to live?” GASP!
It was my turn to be shocked and impressed. In my three years of touring with the camp I have never been asked such an insightful question, and of course the answer is yes. While the products used in food distribution alleviate hunger the reality is that they contribute to malnutrition within the camp by being nutritionally deficient. If an 11 year old can figure this out on her own why is it that malnutrition is still an ongoing issue within every refugee camp worldwide?
(written by Sherri Grady)
In the information tent at the exit, visitors can talk to our staff and leave comments. Here are some of the comments from our visitors’ book:
Day 1, St. John’s
September 08, 2011
And we started the exhibition!!!! Very exciting day for those of us who are doing the exhibition for the first time, but with the arrival of the crowd, we got into the rhythm quickly. The weather was not necessarily on our side with rains and cold, but it was very impressive that people continue to come despite all this. Apparently, living in Atlantic Canada, people never change their schedules due to weather conditions. Nice to see that this could be the case for the next days, as it is very difficult to know how the weather will be until the end of the exhibition.
I was very impressed with the level of interest that young people had in this exhibition. It is hard to imagine how refugees struggle when we never saw something like that in our lives, but visiting this exhibition, people realize how difficult it must be for millions of people. That’s what I think is the great facilitation of this exhibition.
At the end of the day, we all felt that even it was a slow start today, it was a very successful opening.
(Written by Banu Altunbas)
We got a lot of media coverage on our first day! One of our guides, Anne MacKinnon, was a star on the NTV evening news !
Set-up day in St. John’s
September 07, 2011
The eve of the kick off of the “Refugee in the heart of the city” exhibition by Doctors without borders (MSF for the French acronym) in St. John’s, New Foundland. We have all arrived to St John’s in waves starting couple of days ago. But most of the volunteers who will be working during the next four days for the exhibition here arrived today with me. I already met a fellow MSF’er on the plane from Halifax. He saw me reading the same document that we- “ the guides” are supposed to read and he tapped me on the shoulder to say hi! That’s the MSF spirit to start with!!! I have a good feeling that it will be a great next four days.
Upon arrival to the hostel and checking in quickly, we went to the exhibition site to meet the others who already arrived before us. The entire logistics, administration and coordination team arrived already in St John’s couple of days ago. Today the camp site was to be erected, but unfortunately the weather was not on our side during the morning hours with a lot of gust that didn’t allow them to set up the ground. So we were running behind schedule and things were not ready yet, but no panic. As MSFers we are so used to these types of unforeseen challenges in the field, we are flexible and we do make contingency plans. So, with new arrivals, everyone gave a hand immediately. There you go, a second quick example of MSF spirit.
Many of us don’t know each other from before, and few worked together in the field and were happy to see each other again. But there is a MSF bond that binds us together, and only introductions needed are the names. By the end of the day, all of us feeling very cold (as by that time it turned chilly again) and the logistics team continued to make the final touches for tomorrow’s big opening. (written by Banu Altunbas)
Our logisticians hard at work…
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.