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Interactive exhibit illuminates challenges faced by global refugees

The Forced From Home Exhibit, presented by Doctors Without Borders, puts visitors in the shoes of globally displaced persons

Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

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On Sept. 10, students from the History of Refugee Communities in Minnesota class took a field trip to the Forced From Home Exhibit in Minneapolis which puts visitors in the shoes of global refugees. “It was hard to only pick five things. I thought it was an informative experience to be able to engage in the journey many refugees undertake,” senior Kenzie Giese said. The exhibit is open through the Sept. 16.

Across the street from the US Bank Stadium, where people watch concerts and experience the thrill of a sports game, people can partake in a highly contrasting activity.

This activity, or rather, a tour, is part of a five-state tour called “Forced From Home” presented by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) to enhance the viewer’s comprehension of the global refugee dilemma.

There are 68.5 million displaced people worldwide. This is the highest number on record. Within those numbers, 25.4 million people are refugees. Fifty-two percent are under the age of 18.

The interrogation of such a situation and its reach to Minnesota is exactly what the Forced From Home exhibit seeks to dispel. The interactive tour gives visitors a glimpse into the startling hardships humans displaced from violence, political strife or environmental disasters endure. Virtual reality, a 360-degree video, and engaging activities depict the communities that must act on the formidable conditions daily.

The History of Refugee Communities in Minnesota history elective class spent Sept. 10 on a field trip to the exhibit located in The Commons in Minneapolis.

“I thought it would be great for our history of refugee class to learn about what living in a refugee camp is like. That relates to our classwork,” History teacher Mollie Ward said.

Images and materials gathered from refugee camps, sea rescue missions, and emergency medical procedures scatter the 10,000 square-foot outdoor installations. Students were lectured by an experienced MSF worker. The simulation replicated year long meccas to refuge within one hour. The tour initiated with a 30-second choice: what five items does one keep when forced from home?

There are 68.5 million displaced people worldwide. This is the highest number on record. Within those numbers, 25.4 million people are refugees. Fifty-two percent are under the age of 18.”

The difficulty in choosing items that should sustain a person for an impossible number of months proved difficult for students.

“It was hard to only pick five things. I thought it was an informative experience to be able to engage in the journey many refugees undertake,” senior Kenzie Giese said. 

Students packed on to a typical safety boat meant for 10 people. However, the boat typically stores up to 120 people. Often, women and children sit in the middle, yet their backs may burn from the proximity to the corrosive engine. Individuals who provide the boats typically charge around $200 for a life jacket. MSF affirms the profit that many people make off of the global refugee crisis, as during the tour the guide emphasized the difference between the products people sell and the free necessities MSF provides.

This exhibit gave me an actual experience of how refugees move through the process so maybe I will see more of their perspective in how they do things instead of trying just to imagine from readings”

— senior Bailey Donovan

A display of the waiting lines, tents, medical equipment, and food sat throughout the tour for students to witness. For water consumption, MSF emphasized that the United Nation deems 2 gallons of water the necessary volume of water for one person in one day (this includes cooking, bathing, drinking, etc). The average American consumes 90 gallons a day.

It [the exhibit] made me think about the showers I’m taking and if I really need to do that. It made me realized the things I take for granted because a lot of people don’t have the things that I have,” senior Bailey Donovan said.

To punctuate the experience, students asked questions and read about the work MSF performs globally. Moving forward, students hope to connect the tangible lessons from the exhibit to class:

“This exhibit gave me an actual experience of how refugees move through the process so maybe I will see more of their perspective in how they do things instead of trying just to imagine from readings, I can now visualize what they do,” Donovan said.  

“I’m going to use this as context for class,” senior Shane Litman said.

The tour concluded with a stress on bearing witness to such an actuality within displaced communities, and a sense of understanding towards the hollstic work MSF provides.  

The exhibit is open through Sept 16. Admission is free.

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About the Contributor
Mimi Geller, Director of RubicOnline

Mimi Geller is the Director of RubicOnline. This is her fourth year on staff. Mimi believes that high school journalism connects people by sharing their stories while documenting the spirit of a community. Mimi has additionally served as the Assistant Director of Journalism at Orca Tribe Project, a youth initiative that connects local artists in the Twin Cities and has written for The Villager Newspaper in St. Paul. Outside of journalism, Mimi is the captain of Girls Varsity Volleyball, a member of Community Action and Service and a part of Summit Singers. Mimi can be reached at rubicon.spa@gmail.com

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