As Jessica pointed out, how often do we talk about refugee rights and issues? I mean, some of the most famous celebrities in the world are ambassadors for the UN and campaign quite frequently for refugee rights, yet somehow the topic evades every day conversation. I can post ridiculous and funny videos and links on Facebook and get numerous comments and “likes” yet any post regarding the topic of refugees seems to go unnoticed.
THIS NEEDS TO CHANGE.
And the only way to make this change is through raising awareness. So throughout the winter 2011 semester that was the goal of our local WUSC chapter. Months of preparation, hours of set-up and numerous volunteers made it so that we could raise awareness on campus about the main issues in regards to refugee camps around the world. On April 4th and 5th we created a refugee camp in one of the main buildings on campus. There was no way to walk past us and not wonder what was going on. A series of interactive tents were set up and made to resemble the numerous camps in Africa. There were fires, clothing lines, multi-media tools to spread messages and information, beds made of barely anything at all and even food! The goal was to try to be as authentic as possible which meant that as you walked around the “camp” you experienced similar smells, sounds, sights and tastes that a refugee would.
Both days the camp was in operation we served typical food found in the camps – dal, which is a lentil based soup consumed in Nepalese refugee camps, and ugali, which is a cornstarch based, dough-like food consumed in many African refugee camps. Both dishes offered little in the way of nutrition, but were quick to fill a person up.
Strewn up in a couple of the tents were photos and stories told by the student refugees our chapter has sponsored in the past couple years. It was the stories themselves that perhaps had the largest impact. These were students who walked around campus everyday and most students probably had no idea they had such inspirational and courageous people in their midst. Leading up to the camp the University of Regina newspaper, The Carillon, also promoted it by publishing these same stories for every student to see. You can read the articles, and hear Manie and Panchol’s podcast here:
As well, each tent in the camp had a lantern in it. These are the primary light source in many camps, but in ours, it served a dual purpose of promoting the Shine a Light campaign that WUSC is a proud supporter of (more on this in the coming semester, stay tuned!). The goal was to raise awareness and we did just that.
Partnerships were created with different campus clubs and groups so that in the future we can all work closer together to achieve impossible goals. Professors made their classes tour the camp during class time to ensure more students saw us. Local grade schools and junior highs took fieldtrips to the university so that they could tour the camp and hear what we had to say. Members of WUSC did interviews with different members of the press and the Regina Leader Post even highlighted our camp and our group on the front page!
We are proof that you can make a difference and that raising awareness is necessary. Thousands of people saw our camp and that is no exaggeration. The amount of people who joined the membership list is incredible which gives a great feeling of hope and anxiousness to see what kind of things we can achieve once school starts up again. Most importantly, we hope that the topics of refugees and camps come up more often in conversation and that people begin to discuss these issues more frequently. All it takes is for a group to raise awareness and for one person to be inspired by it to make a change.
If you were unable to attend the camp and see what life in one would be like then you should most definitely try your hand at this game and see and how you fare. I can’t seem to get out of the country in the game so I know I wouldn’t survive!