Refugee Exhibit – Teaching Our Community About IHL and What it’s Like to Be a Refugee

On Monday, November 30th and Tuesday, December 1st from 9AM – 7PM my political science class at the University of Wisconsin – Superior along with a couple other classes worked to put on an exhibit for our campus and local community to showcase what life as a refugee is like. This was a class project that we conducted as an “Academic Service Learning” project, which means that we engage the community and work as groups to have an exhibit during the semester for academic credit.

At our exhibit we had some interactive sections which allowed students and community members to briefly experience what it is like to be an actual refugee. We had a mock land mine area which visitors had to walk through before entering the rest of the exhibit. ThisMin 4 showed participants the stress and danger of living in these extremely dangerous areas where in a split second someone could lose a limb or their life. Moreover, we also had a hospital tent to show the prosthetics that some people in refugee camps might have or receive after a traumatic land mine injury. There were also various medical tools, bandages, medicines, etc. that would be used in these areas that were on display at the medical tent portion of the exhibit. These medical stations are often sponsored by the American Red Cross nurses and volunteers in times of disasters in accordance with government agencies and community organizations. In war times and in danger zones one of the three Red Cross symbols is on display meaning that it is immune from warfare in the realm of International Humanitarian Law.

We had a section of our exhibit that also was a refugee tent filled with actual measurements of food and supplies that are dispersed to each refugee in the camps. These supplies along with food are provided to refugees by organizations such as the American Red Cross, UNHCR, Min 3USAID, and UNICEF. The most profound thing that has stuck with me ever since we presented our exhibit has been the amount of food that the refugees receive. Lately I have cut back on my portions when I am eating because I have become more consciously aware of how little food people around the world have, especially in these refugee camps.  I also helped with the section in the exhibit which was a sort of game that we put together based on a game that BBC’s website had put together.  The focus was about Syrian Refugees and how they make their refugee journeys. This game allowed students and community members to see all of the various decisions that refugees have to make. The game is based on actual journeys that Syrian Refugees are currently making so it really gave us and participants that visited the exhibit more of an idea of the dangers and technicalities involved in a refugee’s life.

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Other parts of the exhibit included a section regarding various destructive weapons that are often of high danger to refugees as they travel along with a section of the exhibit showcasing famous people that were all originally refugees from all over the world.

All in all, the exhibit that my class presented was very eye opening not only for me, but hopefully for the public that visited it. We had two full days where students from our classes took shifts and led and explained the different parts of the exhibit. I think that it is very important to have these kinds of projects for our classrooms because it creates a more interactive learning environment and it does more than just teach students: it gives education to the local community on topics especially current such as the refugee crisis. I felt that I gained a lot from participating in this exhibit, and I hope that the local community was able to come and learn more too.

Author: Vanessa Smith, Intern, American Red Cross Serving Northern Minnesota.

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