“Forced From Home” Exhibit Carries A Strong Message Across The United States


Medicines Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders) kicked off their exhibit and awareness programs first session in Boulder, Colorado last week. Forced from home is a travelling exhibition that is designed to give visitors a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the people forced to flee for their safety. The exhibition access is free for the general public. 

The exhibition presents an interactive atmosphere as well as a guided tour intended to enhance visitors understanding of the desperate plight of more than 65 million displaced people worldwide. The visitors get an experienced MSF aid worker to guide them through a 10,000-square-foot, outdoor installation that represents various stages of a refugee’s journey. The tour begins with a 360-degree digital presentation of a summary of the refugee crisis today and then goes on to explain critical instances that aid workers are faced with when in the field.

The group will travel across five other locations in the west United States. Following are the dates and locations of the next displays.

September 18-24: Library Plaza – Salt Lake City, UT

October 2-8: South Lake Union Discovery Center – Seattle, WA

October 16-22: Pioneer Courthouse Square – Portland, OR

October 30- November 5: Lake Merritt Amphitheatre – Oakland, CA

November 13-19: Santa Monica Pier – Santa Monica, CA ‘

During the Boulder showcase I had the opportunity to talk with few experienced aid workers who have been to the field on multiple missions. First, I talked with Dr. John Lawrence.  Dr.  Lawrence is a Pediatric surgeon and is currently the president of the board of directors at MSF-DWB in USA. He has joined DWB in 2008 and now has been to missions around the world for nearly 10 years. He was appointed the president of the board of the directors of MSF-USA in June 2016. Dr. Lawrence had his medical education in Dartmouth Medical School. His first mission was in Haiti.

Joining MSF is always a challenging and inspiring experience he said. There is a variety of new challenges you are faced with. You have to be comfortable with your French communication because it is an important factor. Moreover, you have to work with staff members that are trained to face special situations in the field and they also come from diverse backgrounds. Another challenge is that even though he procedures are simple the complementary surgeons might not be available at the site for emergency consultations. Therefore, the responsibility falling on your shoulder is so much higher and you must learn to prepare yourself for many possible injuries. Finally, the security around you is always unpredictable so much that the place you are stationed at is likely to be attacked he further added.

Another field worker who was conducting the guided tours was Dr. Davis Kuwayama. Dr. Kuwayama is a Vascular surgeon working with Doctors Without Borders. He was here in Boulder, CO for the “Forced From Home” exhibit and the education program set up by DWB-MSF in USA. He has been working in the field with DWB since 2012. He has been to countries like Congo (in the aftermath of the second Congo war) and South Sudan (during the South Sudanese Civil War, which is a conflict in South Sudan between forces of the government and opposition forces) among his missions. His first mission has been to Central African Republic in 2012 (The Central African Republic Bush War started in 2004 and despite several attempts at peace treaties fighting broke out between various factions in 2012)

He is originally from Wisconsin and received his medical education at Harvard University. Then he did his internship in Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and now is with University of Colorado. When asked about the training he received targeting the MSF missions, he mentioned that he received training in Germany and it was one of the best learning experiences he had. One memorable characteristic during the interview was how collected and precise he was even when talking about most horrible situations a human being can face with. There is no doubt he is an excellent vascular surgeon in his missions to war zones where there might not be any other medical professionals of his expertise around for miles.

The stories of these aid workers shed light on the desperation of the people who have left with almost nothing and have to keep fleeing from village to village, country to country and region to region. On top of everything there were recent instances where even the hospitals where aid workers are deployed at got bombed and destroyed in Afghanistan. These instances have led to loss of lives of aid workers and already severely injured people while destroying the infrastructure that can help the fleeing people.

In conclusion, I asked them one final question.  That is, “In the long term what do you hope for the world and the Doctors Without Borders?”. Both of their immediate response was, “Well, I hope there will come a time that Doctors Without Borders is no longer needed”. Adding to that they were hopeful that the entire global population would come together providing assistance to aid organizations around the world including Doctors Without Borders.

Worldwide only a small number of the refugees are resettled. In 2016, the United Nations refugee agency referred 162, 600 refugees for resettlement. The US resettled the largest number of refugees last year accepting 96.000 people. This figure does not include the asylum seekers and displaced persons who have fled violence. Going back at the number we mentioned above, of 65 million displaced people, the countries should do more to ensure that people trapped in violence and war zones find safety, MSF said.