Refugee camp in the heart of the city

Rebekah's picture


Yesterday I took the tour through the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City (put on by Médecins sans Frontières) in Ottawa. It was a very educational, moving and humbling experience.

Imagining we were people fleeing outbreaks of violence in a village in Western Darfur and arriving at a camp across the border in Chad (after hours of running under the hot sun, with few belongings or family members), our guide took us through the various stages of life in a refugee camp.

From the challenges of providing adequate shelter, food, water, medical care and protection, to the loss of livelihood and the uncertainties about the future, MSF staff effectively demonstrated just some of the many plights facing an estimated 42 million refugees and internally displaced people.

MSF is bringing the tour to Montreal (May 20-23), Toronto (May 27-30) and Waterloo (June 3-6) in the coming weeks. I highly recommend taking the tour. See below for more details and links.

Since the 1970s, Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) has been working in crisis and emergency situations, providing care and helping those most vulnerable, including refugees and internally displaced people. MSF estimates that over 42 million people around the world have been uprooted by war, either as refugees or internally displaced persons.

With ongoing hostilities often close by, accompanied by poor shelter conditions, overcrowding, the lack of proper sanitary facilities, and insufficient access to proper nutrition and clean water, the circumstances within refugee and internally displaced persons camps are dangerous and challenging at the best of times.
But what do we really know about what experiences in these camps are like, and how can we become more informed and make a difference?

One of the first steps in promoting action is building awareness. In order to educate the world about the circumstances in which displaced people and refugees find themselves, MSF started a movement, A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, to create a model refugee camp right in the middle of cities around the world. Participants take about 40 to 60 minutes to complete the interactive tour seeing every crucial element of life in the camps.

Starting in 1995, MSF has toured all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America, educating people about the circumstances of refugees. In 2008 the tour visited several cities in Western Canada and the United States, with over 30,000 participants. This spring the tour is coming to several cities in Ontario and Quebec, including Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Waterloo.

Here are the exact dates and locations:

  • Ottawa: Confederation Park, May 13-16, 2010
  • Montréal: Parc Jeanne-Mance, May 20-23, 2010
  • Toronto: Christie Pits, May 27-30, 2010
  • Waterloo: Waterloo Public Square, June 3-6, 2010

Check out the MSF website for more information, mark your calendars and be sure to check it out. It will be a sobering, but also a very educational and important experience.

Rebekah Sears is CPJ’s former policy intern.

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