Médecins Sans Frontières, Doctors Without Borders, has operations in 70 countries. They provide medical relief services in conflict areas and often work with people in refugee camps, people fleeing conflict. They also seek to educate people about the plight of refugees and others in the countries where they work.
From September 4th, people in Boulder will have an opportunity to see what it’s like to be a refugee as part of a traveling interactive MSF exhibit. The Forced From Home exhibit will be on display at the Courthouse Plaza on the Pearl Street Mall. It features a guided tour, and virtual reality experience – which invites the public to come face-to-face with the realities of the global refugee crisis.
People will experience a simulated experience where war has come to their home and they’re forced to escape. What belongings do they take? What obstacles and medical problems do they encounter on their journey? How do they start a new life when their notion of home no longer exists?
Mark Leirer, an MSF Nurse will be at the exhibit guiding visitors through a simulated reality that faces millions of people around the world. Leirer has worked on several missions with MSF, most recently, in April of this year, he was on an MSF boat in the Mediterranean sea doing search and rescue operations off the coast of Libya.
“We primarily see quite a lot of people coming out of Sub-Saharan Africa. You have quite a lot of Sudanese, Somalians, Eritreans. You have Bangladeshis, you have Syrians, you have Afghanis, and then now more recently you have quite a lot more Libyans.”
People are often crossing the Mediterranean, packed onto rubber dinghies, in extremely dangerous situations. But Leirer says that they’ve already endured unbelievable hardship before they’ve even gotten to that point.
“The journey just to arrive to Libya, before you get to these shores, that journey itself is quite a treacherous road, through deserts, through areas where there’s nothing, where you’re open to and susceptible to being taken advantage of, to being robbed, to being exploited for human labor, which there’s quite a lot of testimonies of people that this has actually happened to.”
Leirer says he hopes that the Forced From Home exhibit will give people an understanding of the difficult situation facing millions of refugees around the world who are forced from their homes. The exhibit will feature experiences from 5 difference countries: Afghanistan, Burundi, Honduras, South Sudan and Syria. “So the big focus will be using these 5 as a way to highlight what the status of an individual is making this journey, the context in these places and then what the realities are for someone leaving one of these places, what would their journey look like.”
The Forced from Home exhibit will be on display at the Court House Plaza on Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall from Monday September 4th to Sunday September 10th from 9am to 5pm. MSF is also hosting meetings in Boulder for non-medical and medical people who may be interested in volunteering with the organization. Find out more here.