Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders Brings Refugee Plight to Washington, D.C.
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October 10, 2016
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), often referred to as Doctors Without Borders, has set up the Forced From Home exhibit on the National Mall to demonstrate the plight of refugees and displaced individuals. MSF is an international humanitarian organization that delivers emergency medical aid most notably to those affected by epidemics and armed conflicts.
The hour-long Forced From Home exhibit leads groups of visitors through various stations to learn about the sacrifices refugees are forced to make and difficulties they must endure. Each visitor assumes the identity of a refugee, and the tour begins with individuals being asked to choose five items in just thirty seconds to take with them on their journey. Items include passports, water and family photos.
“It was very real,” says Emily Dox after completing the exhibit, “The first exercise, when you had to pick your stuff that quickly, I kind of freaked out.” From station to station, individuals are asked to forgo one item as payment.
The stations include a 360-degree screening room that allows visitors to fully and visually experience the often-bleak living conditions for refugees around the globe. Along the tour, approximately twenty visitors are encouraged to sit snugly on a rubber raft. The tour guide informs the group that up to eighty refugees may find themselves traveling on a raft of the same size across the Mediterranean Ocean.
Tour guide Beverley Taylor, who has been with MSF since 2012, expresses the importance of the principle of bearing witness. “We really want the world to know about the refugee crisis,” she says, “We want people to know how hard it is for the refugees to leave their countries, to go elsewhere. And not only the refugees, internationally displaced people everywhere.”
Mock-tents are set up throughout the exhibit to show some of the work MSF does in countries including Syria and Tanzania. The tents display cholera beds, malaria nets and Plumpy’Nut, a peanut-based paste distributed to severely malnourished children.
MSF hopes the interactive exhibit will create a connection between the refugees and Americans who may feel detached from the global crisis.
Taylor says, “We want [people] to know what they have to go through. We want [people] to know why they’re being pushed out of their countries. We want [people] to be aware and do what they can to support refugees in any way.”
Forced From Home will remain in D.C. until October 9th, then will continue to Boston, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in hopes of providing Americans with an understanding of the life of 65 million refugees.