Exhibit Raises Awareness of Plight of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons Worldwide
New York, 15 September 2000 — The international medical relief organization Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today opened the exhibition "A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City," in New York City's Central Park. Then exhibit will travel to New Jersey's Liberty Science Center, Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and the Bronx's Van Cortlandt Park. On October 18, the exhibit will move to Los Angeles, where it will be shown in Exposition Park, the Santa Monica Pier, and Earvin "Magic" Johnson Recreation Center. A special web site, www.refugeecamp.org, provides a virtual tour of the exhibit for those unable to visit.
The exhibit is designed to stimulate public awareness of the lives and circumstances of the world's 39 million refugees and internally displaced persons—whose very existence is unknown to many Americans. Interactive and educational, the outdoor reconstruction of a refugee camp asks each visitor to imagine him or herself as a refugee. Developed by Doctors Without Borders in 1996, the exhibit has traveled throughout Europe and to the United Arab Emirates.
"The appalling condition of refugees living in camps throughout the world is a tragic—but very abstract—notion for many citizens of the industrialized world," said Joelle Tanguy, executive director of Doctors Without Borders. "Most of us have little or no personal experience that allows us to understand the true horrors faced by people forced to flee their homes. Their plight is unacceptable, yet lack of knowledge means that little action is taken to change their situation."
A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City demonstrates the basic elements of survival in a refugee camp: shelter, food, water, sanitation, and basic health care. Experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers guide groups of visitors through the camp, explaining the structures and materials used in a real refugee camp. Visitors will explore shelters used in tropical, desert, and cold climates; see how food is distributed; taste the high-energy biscuits distributed to combat malnutrition; learn how clean water and waste disposal are essential to survival; and understand basic health care and epidemic control in a clinic, cholera treatment center, and vaccination tent.
"I hope people who visit this camp will remember that people do not become refugees by choice but by circumstance," said Hawah Kamara, Doctors Without Borders Human Resources Officer and an asylee from Liberia. "We as refugees and asylees in the United States are grateful to have a safe place to live, but there are still many others who are living right now in the conditions that you see here."
The exhibit is free and open to the general public. A school curriculum designed to introduce the refugee experience to middle- and high-school students is available on the website. Visits may be scheduled by calling: 212-655-3793. A series of special cultural events is taking place throughout New York, New Jersey, and Los Angeles during the run of the exhibit. For a listing of panel discussions, presentations, and art exhibitions related to refugee issues, please call Doctors Without Borders or visit the website.
Doctors Without Borders is grateful to TBWA/Chiat/Day, which has provided pro bono advertising for the exhibit; paper(media), which has provided pro bono design of the web site; and United Airlines, which has provided pro bono air travel for volunteer guides.
New York Area Locations:
Manhattan: Central Park, September 15-16, 2000
New Jersey: Liberty Science Center, September 18-24
Brooklyn: Prospect Park, September 27-October 1
Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park, October 4-8
Los Angeles Area Locations:
Los Angeles: Exposition Park, October 18-22
Santa Monica: Santa Monica Pier, October 25-29
Compton: Earvin "Magic" Johnson Recreation Center, November 2-6
What is Doctors Without Borders?
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers emergency medical aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, natural and man-made disasters, and social marginalization. A private, nonprofit organization, Doctors Without Borders is an international network with sections in 18 countries. Each year, more than 2,000 volunteer doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, logistics experts, water and sanitation engineers, and administrators join 15,000 locally hired staff to provide medical aid in more than 80 countries.