2010 Canadian Tour

The End

Posted by: ChrisH

The exhibition is now over.  Over 18,000 people visited, exceeding all our expectations.  Peter (our logistical coordinator) and I are trying to negotiate getting the camp items back into the US and talks have started about when the tour will next happen in Canada.

Just today I’ve been given my next mission working in Nigeria.

The refugee camp in the heart of the city project was great fun and I think the visitors have an education and emotional experience during the tours.  Here is some of the comments from the guest book:

“Very Informative.  EVERYONE in Canada should see this.”

“This made it clearer what my parents went through.”

“Before this, I had no idea what went on.  Thank you for this eye opening experience.”

“Thank you for all the work you do – I was impressed and informed by the display and the guides.  Happy to have the chance to show my children how lucky they really are.  Keep it up!”

For those who visited, thanks.

For those who want to see the next tour, www.msf.ca is the place to watch.

For anyone interested in how I get on in Nigeria, or reading any other MSF Canada blogs, then www.msf.ca/blogs is the place.

Panoramic view of Waterloo exhibition

Last Day

Posted by: ChrisH

Today is the last day of the exhibition. Already over 17,000 people have attended. The rain has just stopped in Waterloo, so come and join us!

Incredible visitor numbers

Posted by: ChrisH

I’ve just learned that we had 1,602 visitors today.  It’s amazing.  Almost 1 person out of 60 in Waterloo visited the refugee camp today alone.  To get over 1,000 people in 1 day is amazing on any day.  To get a new record in Waterloo is wonderful.  Thank you Waterloo.  I’m very much looking forward to the weekend.

Visitor Feedback

Posted by: ChrisH

Again, during day 2 at Waterloo many people with real life experience of refugee camps came to visit.  I include some video footage of our volunteer Remmy, from Rwanda, who grew up in a refugee camp.  His comments about water are nothing short of shocking.

Later in the day I met a Doctor from Afghanistan.  He explained why he thought that it is good that people in this part of the world see the “ugly reality” of what is happening in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Waterloo: rain and my fascinating group.

Posted by: ChrisH

Our opening day started with over 1,000 people all keen to see the refugee camp.  Then it rained.  It rained hard.  We had over 30mm of rain in 1 hour.  I know this because we could measure it in all the pots and pans that we have in “the village” where we show people the different types of shelters that people might make in refugee camps.


I had a great group today, they came from a school and included refugees who had grown up in Kenya, Yemen, Sudan, Pakistan, Iraq and Thailand.  They all had interesting stories to tell: one disagreed with me that refugees tended to only eat rice and beans – they only got beans where he grew up.  The girl from Yemen knew that to get water there people often have to drill to 100 meters.  The boy from Pakistan recognized the “Sahara tent” I showed them.  They are quite good at keeping out the rain and wind, but don’t have much insulation.  “20 people would share a tent” he told the group.  At the end they thanked me, but I also thanked them, not just for listening but for their wonderful stories.

And then that rain.  I’ve been carrying my ski jacket around since day 1 and we’ve not really seen much rain since I arrived.  But today we did.  Emily (one of the other logisticians) and I grabbed the gum boots from the Cholera exhibit but most of the guides got soaked.

Peter, the logistical coordinator, made some ponchos from plastic sheeting.  Mental Health Officer Catherine models one below.

Arrival in Waterloo

Posted by: ChrisH

We are all set up and ready to go in Waterloo.  For the first time we are on concrete rather than grass, which means we have to use sandbags to hold down the tents.  We’ve also had the first bit of rain, but thankfully we set the camp up before it started.  I guess real refugees would like rain, as it might provide some clean drinking water, but it’s a pain for us.  I hope it dries up.  But we’ll be opening at 9am tomorrow rain or shine.  We’re expecting it to be quite busy as some of our guides have departed and we have had a great response from local schools.  So all us logisticians are on tour guide duty.  I’m looking forward to it.

Rainy Waterloo

Waterloo, here we come

Posted by: ChrisH

1st of June has arrived already and we’ve packed up the roadshow in Toronto and drive to Waterloo today. Opening day is Thursday 3rd and we’ll be there until Sunday. So far over 13,000 people have taken the time to see the exhibition. We’re all really pleased as it’s a lot more than we expected so far. So if you have an hour to spare in Waterloo, swing by and see the problems facing the 42 million people in the world fleeing conflict.

Overheard in Toronto

Posted by: ChrisH

A group of school children attended yesterday.  Their teacher had followed the lesson plans that we have on the refugeecamp.ca website with enthusiasm; the whole morning the children had only eaten the same food the refugees tend to be given – rice and beans cooked with oil and salt.  It seems the children understood the purpose of the task but were a little unimpressed with the lack of ketchup.

Rice, Beans, Salt, Sugar and Oil

When we show people the latrines that refugees use, we tend to ask if anyone has seen the “squat plate” style before.  1 lady told Delphine her story about her first experience.  She had been travelling in India and jumped off the bus at a stop to use the washroom facilities.  She saw just the hole in the floor and assuming the toilet had been removed, returned to the bus without making use of the facilities.  The same story repeated at the second bus stop.  It wasn’t until she discovered the third “theft” of the toilet that she could only squat above the hole in the floor, unable to wait any longer.  She was very impressed with herself, thinking she had overcome the theft of the toilet and found a solution.  That was until she discovered that all the washrooms use the squat style.  I think it was very brave of her to admit the story in public.

Dr Simon presents the squat latrine

Jimmy from Rwanda

Posted by: ChrisH

After passing a border crossing, the first stop in the tour is the landmines. He turned around and walked out about 1 minute into the tour. “I’ve seen too much of this already. In my country” he said. I wanted to say something, but I didn’t know the words, the emotion in his voice was so apparent. I saw him sitting under a tree for the next hour or so. I pointed him out to Wendy, the project coordinator, “I think that man had a emotional time in the camp, he didn’t make it past the minefields”. I wanted to give him some water, but guessed he might prefer some solitude.

Later I saw him talking to Catherine, the mental health expert, also from Scotland. So I went over. He is called Jimmy and he is from Rwanda. I’ll add a small video clip that we made later tonight below.

Thank you Toronto……so far

Posted by: ChrisH

Our opening day in Toronto, yesterday, saw 1,531 visitors. A new record. It was a busy day, but the team are all super excited that so many people are taking the time to see the camp.

Michelle talking about water in Toronto