GCI Field Trip: The “Forced from Home” Experience

GCI Field Trip: The

Marie Gerges '19, Staff Writer

Eager to increase their understanding of the global refugee crisis, approximately one hundred Oakland Catholic students attended a local exhibition entitled “Forced from Home” on Thursday, October 27th. The event, hosted by the international medical organization Doctors without Borders or Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), presented viewers with a series of stations that narrated the journeys and lives of refugees around the world. MSF employees, including physicians and nurses, served as tour guides and shared firsthand perspectives with students. Jason Cone, the executive director of MSF-USA, delineated the goal of the exhibition at a press conference: “Our objective is to provide some sense of what people experience as they cross treacherous seas, travel through dangerous migratory routes, and arrive at refugee camps.” In accordance with this theme, each of the exhibits simulated a different stage of the refugee resettlement process.

At the beginning of the tour, employees dispensed an “identification card” to each student. The cards specified the name, nationality, and age of a persecuted person, in addition to his or her migratory classification as a refugee, internally displaced person (IDP), or asylum seeker. Designed to accentuate the massive scale of the refugee crisis and differentiate the motley of refugee situations, students’ cards featured men, women, and children from Honduras, Burundi, Syria, and South Sudan. After receiving cards, students entered a 30-foot diameter dome in which a 360° video transported visitors from refugee camps in Iraq to Tanzania. The montage immersed students in the camps, and large speakers conveyed their chaotic and haphazard natures through a cacophony of dialogues.

The next exhibit, a platform surrounded by erect posters depicting refugees in different countries, focused on “push factors,” or the conditions that force refugees to flee their homes. One of the tour guides, a nurse who had recently returned from Aleppo, Syria, explained that political instability, religious intolerance, rampant epidemics, and armed conflict jeopardize millions of lives and leave people desperate and homeless. Moreover, she expounded on the refugees’ inaccessibility to safe modes of transportation. To demonstrate the refugees’ precarious journeys, the tour guide instructed students to board a small, inflated boat. While the replicated vessel seemed unfit for even a short excursion, an identical model had been employed to transport people across the Mediterranean Sea. According to the tour guide, the paucity of life vests available in financially strained countries further imperils refugees on a daily basis.

In the following exhibit, students explored a recreated African refugee camp. An incumbent physician explained that the equipment provided by MSF, including portable stoves, latrines, and water pumps, offers transitory assistance to refugees who lack indispensable resources. Large tents, replete with beds and medical instruments, represented the MSF clinics in foreign countries. The tour guides enumerated the applications of numerous healthcare innovations, such as a device that determines whether or not a patient has malaria in less than five minutes. The healthcare workers conceded that, despite the availability of such items, language barriers and a sudden influx of patients pose challenges to their endeavors.

The final exhibit revolved around refugees’ transient and permanent destinations in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Germany. At the conclusion of the trip, an Oakland Catholic sophomore noted, “I learned about the actual conditions that a refugee lives in, and it showed me how hard their lives are. It was a very eye-opening experience.” The thought-provoking tour enlightened many students and encouraged them to reflect on the global refugee crisis. Through both harrowing and inspirational exhibits, “Forced from Home” motivated visitors to aid and unite with victims of displacement.