2011 Canadian Tour Dates

Halifax, Day 4

September 18, 2021

I am a passionate believer in the value of the Refugee Camp in the City exhibit which is why I have been involved with it for three years now.  After doing some calculations I estimate that I have taken around 150 groups around the “camp” which works out to about 2000+ individuals who have heard my stories and I was starting to question if I lost some of my passion for guiding the tour.  At some point do these stories become less impactful?  After St. John’s I worried…was I burning out? 

The first day here in Halifax I was apprehensive as I faced a group of grade 6 students, I felt tired and unenthused.  We started the same as I had started every one of my 150 tours, “hello my name is Sherri, I am a nurse with Doctor’s Without Borders…”  I took a deep breath and asked that one question that often sets the tone for the entire tour, “who knows what a refugee is?”.  Immediately 10 hands shot up into the air, as I continued the children continued to eagerly answer my questions and ask ones of their own.  I was impressed by how engaged these children were, not only had they come ready to learn, but they demonstrated great maturity in the ways reflected on the topics we were discussing. 

There was a girl with physical disabilities in one of my tours and as we worked our way around the exhibit I could see that she was struggling with something, and once we had finished discussing the challenges involved in building a shelter, collecting food and water and using the latrines within a refugee camp she raised her hand and asked, “what about people with disabilities inside a camp?”  What about them?  As an incredibly underserviced and neglected group in any context of instability, disabled individuals often suffer more than any other as a result of lack of resources, family support and understanding within a community.  As I remembered the story of a little girl in the Central African Republic named Melanie who had been abandoned by her family at our hospital I wondered how much I should tell this Canadian girl who was obviously trying to imagine how she would survive within a camp. 

Should I tell her how Melanie had been left in the middle of the village when the rebels had attacked, how no one thought to carry her to safety, or how the village had refused to let her back within their circle when they had relocated.  Should I explain how even the mothers of the other children in the hospital had refused to help Melanie with any basic need, they were so occupied with their own daily struggles that they had nothing left to give to such a dependent little girl.  In the end I tried to articulate how difficult life is for those who are disabled inside a camp in the most honest and gentle way possible and I think the students left understanding just how lucky they were here in Canada.

I have continued to be amazed by both the level of engagement and compassion of people here in Halifax.  It is their enthusiasm that has re-inspired me while guiding here and reaffirmed my commitment to this exhibit.  Every time I see the light go on in someone’s eyes, a person asks a question, or hear the personal story of someone who took the tour I am reinvigorated again and wonder how i could have ever doubted the impact this tour has on those who take it.

(Sherri Grady)

Halifax, Day 3

Guides Sherri Grady & Kevin Barlow


September 17, 2021

Once again I had a great day with guiding the tours in Halifax.  It was a windy but otherwise a sunny day.  It helped as people were willing to spend their Saturday afternoon with us, at least it helped to have a nice weather in the open air!

I had a very captive and interested crowd, it was a mixed group of different age groups.  At the end of the tour, they were so interested to know more about myself, and were asking many good questions too, where do we live in a situation like this? (most likely not in the refugee camp), how would we find food to eat? (usually we will be able to purchase the variety food in the villages and towns we live as we would have more money than the refugees), and what would be the conditions of living like in the cold countries and whether the shelters would look like the ones that we show in the exhibit? Great question as in Kosovo for example, the shelter was of better quality with abandoned buildings or schools being used for shelter.  

The day before we had some refugees from Bhutan who visited the exhibition and they told me that they lived in similar structures while they were refugees in Nepal for 18 years! And finally somebody asked me the very nice question:“Since you said you worked in Darfur, have you ever met George Clooney?!” (unfortunately for Clooney, no we haven’t met, as one time when he came to visit, he actually didn’t come to visit ME, and when he got sick he had to cut his trip short, but if he would have known me, our doctors could have fixed him quickly :-))).  I think I got a big applause after this answer!!

Great moment to end a tour.

(Banu Altunbas)


Halifax, Day 2

As part of the extended program following the Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City exhibit MSF has been doing screenings of Living in Emergency, a documentary centred on MSF and the challenges facing the people doing this difficult work.  The film was nominated for best documentary at the 2009 Academy Awards. 

Last night I had the pleasure of introducing the film to about 45 Haligonians who are interested in MSF. Many of those who came are also thinking about working with MSF in the field. After introducing the film I sat in the back and was intrigued to watch the reactions of people as the images and stories unfolded.  There were moments of communal laughter, intertwined with gasps of dismay during some of the more difficult moments in the film. Watching people shift in their seats during images of surgery or distress on the screen was a moving experience from where I sat.  On the whole it was interesting to see the emotions evoked by the film and what the audience identified with through the different personalities. 

The film was followed by a question period where Owen Campbell and I answered questions from the audience about MSF and about our personal experiences in the field.  Questions ranged from living conditions while on mission to more technical questions about medical guidelines and protocols. 

In the end I think people appreciated the film and left having learned more about field work when they walked out than they probably thought they would when they walked in, at least I hope they did. 

 (Matt Calvert, National Association Coordinator)


Some examples of the media coverage we received in Halifax:

Watch a report on CBC Nova Scotia about the refugee camp exhibit

Watch a report on Global Maritimes Evening News. Report starts at 6.45 minutes.

Listen to a podcast on the CBC Nova Scotia Informorning

Article in Metronews Halifax



 Reflections of one of our guides:

Humanitarian aid is everyone’s business.  The more I facilitate RCIC tours the more I learn- mostly from people who I provide the tours to.  At the beginning of the tour I usually ask the participants if they have done any travelling to gage who I am presenting to, and to get people thinking outside of our Canadian assumptions.  People typically mention their holiday vacation location which is still appreciated, but vastly different from the travel experience of working with refugees. The question is also full of bias since those who travel typically have enough money to do so, rather than a genuine interest of what happens outside of Canada.

A few times I have had a few surprises with what people share with me during the tour. In the past I have discussed refugee health with people who live on the street of the Canadian city we are touring in, I have done the tour with people who have lived in refugee camps themselves, and I’m sure there are many other “types” who listened silently as I taught them what they already knew too well. One young woman interrupted me after looking at one of the posters.  She said “that’s not what people look like in Nigeria- I’m from Nigeria”. True! What would we as Canadians think if outsiders started to present Canada with only its violations to basic human rights? 


 One theme that erupted among this young group was the concept of poverty-gap: Having a very rich population of people at the top of the pyramid with large base of the population being poor.  This also rings-true to my experience from working in developing countries. It is strange being able to access the luxuries I am used to here in Canada while others spend their day trying to find clean water. When showing pictures of people in inhuman situations, should the country or location matter? Humanitarian aid looks at people as a human being before any other affiliation.

The testimonials at the end of the refugee camp exhibit can be put to good use to identify the individual complexities that are not seen in pictures or stereotypes.  Without knowing the whole stories we run the risk of misunderstanding the true scope of the situation and perhaps blame the victim for not being able to live up to the standard of living that is easily acquired by the privileged population.

(By Kevin Barlow)

Halifax, Day 1

September 15, 2021

 A very fast and successful start in Halifax today!  We had so many school groups coming in starting from the morning - all of the guides were very busy all day.  But this is a nice type of busy-ness. Because every time I start a tour with a crowd of 6, 7, 9 or 12- graders, first there is a little bit of a hesitation in their eyes.  It is not easy to know whether they are really interested in the exhibition or the subject matter, or whether they are thinking “Oh well, this is another field trip that we have to go during the school year”.  But once we move from one station to the other and explain the living conditions of 43 million displaced people around the world and once they are able to see the many different hardships of being a refugee, they slowly get more and more interested. 

Midway through the tour, I have a very captive audience who ask very intelligent questions and give very insightful answers to my questions.  By the end of the tour, I really feel accomplished, as I know that this tour will make a difference in their understanding of the next news on TV that they will hear about a refugee crisis and they will be able to imagine what happened to these people when they are moving from one place to another.  And that makes me feel good at the end of an hour of constant talking!

 (Banu Altunbas)

We had around 1500 visitors and lots of media coverage on our first day!

Dr. James Maskalyk in a CTV interview


Take a look at a short video with reflections of one of our guides, Hassan Valji, and visitors of the exhibit.



Set-up day in Halifax

We have set up the exhibit at the Garrison Grounds in Halifax! Watch a video, with project coordinator Karel Janssens.



Day 4, St. John’s

September 11, 2021

Today I had the wonderful opportunity to guide a church group from Carbonear through the Refugee Camp in the City. The group consisted of 2 adults and about 10 teenagers. Despite the fact that one of the vehicles that had been traveling with the group was involved in an accident on the way toSt. John’s(nobody was hurt) this group was interested immediately in what I had to say. Right from when I introduced myself until I left them at the testimonial tent. They did not need to ease into the tour to be interested. They were a captive audience from the start!! So many of the students I have guided through tours over the past days have made such wonderful and insightful comments. At the end of each tour I like to ask the group, especially students, what stands out most in their minds that they want to pass on to their family and friends. I have heard great comments such as “We are so lucky to live inCanadawhere we have enough to eat.” “We are so lucky to live in a peaceful country.”

Today when I asked the group from Carbonear what they would remember, one of the teenagers said to me, “I can’t believe how long people have to wait for everything….food, water, shelter, health care.” We then talked about how sometimes we complain and get impatient when we have to wait for things here inCanada. Things that are not necessecities of life. The same student noted that “even while we were driving here today (from Carbonear) I asked many times how much longer would it be before we arrived.” She went on to say that the trip back to Carbonear would not include her asking how long it would take. When I thanked them for coming and especially for making the long drive from Carbonear, the same student looked at me and said “It was worth it”. Thanks again to the group from Carbonear and to all the groups I have had the pleasure to meet here in St. John’s. It has been a joy to be in my home province and share my experiences with each of you. Your feedback and interest has inspired me and to quote the student from Carbonear, it was worth it.

(written by Michelle Lahey)


Here are some of the many wonderful comments visitors wrote in our guest book:

“A brilliant idea and so well executed! It really brings home to us the need of others and how we can help. Thank you!” “Great job! Thank you for providing this opportunity for people to learn from your experiences.” “Thank you for this opportunity! It humanizes the problem to see faces, hear voices of people who face these problems to help.” “This was so much more than I expected.” “Iwant to be a camp worker when I grow up!” “This was eye-opening. Thanks for making this world a better place.”

St. John's


Lighthouse, St. John's


Day 3, St. John’s

September 10, 2021

Despite the cold, we had so many people turning out today.  I was particularly impressed with families coming with their children and wanting the education the young about the situation of the refugees.  I was also very much impressed how curious and how intelligent the kids were with their questions.  One particular 12 year old struck me deeply.  While we were  going through different parts of the exhibit, he said to me, “ can I ask you a question?” and I said “of course, go ahead” and he asked “ why do the wars happen?”, I wished at that point that I could have a good answer for him.  I wish also that I knew why the wars happen myself.  But seeing  a 12 year old questioning this already, I now have more hope that the world is going to be a better place with the new generation coming along.

I also will not forget an elderly lady going through the entire tour with me and at the end of the tour, she wanted to know and remember my name so that she can pray for me every day for the success of my work out in the field.  I am sure she will keep that promise.

The tour is really an eye opener for many people who only saw the images of a refugee camp for 30 seconds on the news.  It gives them a whole new perspective on what is happening all around the world, and maybe how fortunate we are to be born in this part of the world.  I feel very encouraged to see the interest of the crowd in St John’s for our exhibition that I am so excited for the next step ahead in Halifax!

(written by Banu Altunbas)


Listen to a report about the refugee camp exhibit on the CBC’s ‘On the Go’

And here is a quote from a seven-year old after one of our guides explained how we use the MUAC tape to measure the upper-arm circumference to test children for malnutrition: “I think I was born with an arm bigger than that!”

Day 2, St. John’s

Watch some video footage and comments from visitors…

September 8, 2021

My first tour of the Refugee Camp yesterday was with a group of grade 7’s.  While the group was most certainly enthusiastic for the tour they hadn’t had a chance to complete any of the pre-learning materials.  It was only the second day of school here in St John’s and I am not sure these children knew what they were in for when then lined up for my tour.

 The tour started as usual. Working our way thorough the stations we hit on all the key topics, refugees vs. IDP’s, security within a camp, shelter and so on.  At the food station we discussed distribution and the daily rations of rice, beans, salt, sugar and oil for the residents of refugee camps.  The children’s mouths hung open in shock when I held out a plate demonstrating the daily ration of this mix to them and said “This is what you will eat today, tomorrow and the day after that”.   In their lives of kitchens with stocked fridges, freezers and cupboards it was a difficult reality for them to wrap their heads around.

We continued on through the stations, and soon arrived at the malnutrition tent where I always emphasize how our approach to malnutrition has improved exponentially through the years with the introduction of RUTF (ready to use therapeutic food), namely Plumpy Nut.  This product has allowed us to treat malnourished children on an ambulatory basis thus eliminating the need for mothers to choose between their one sick child and the rest of their family living in the camp.  As I was wrapping up my talk a girl who had been quiet throughout the tour thus far raised her hand and asked: “But wouldn’t everyone in the camp be malnourished even if they aren’t hungry or underweight because the food they are eating doesn’t have all of the nutrients they need to live?” GASP!

It was my turn to be shocked and impressed. In my three years of touring with the camp I have never been asked such an insightful question, and of course the answer is yes.  While the products used in food distribution alleviate hunger the reality is that they contribute to malnutrition within the camp by being nutritionally deficient.  If an 11 year old can figure this out on her own why is it that malnutrition is still an ongoing issue within every refugee camp worldwide?

(written by Sherri Grady)

MSF staff in the exhibit’s information tent

In the information tent at the exit, visitors can talk to our staff and leave comments. Here are some of the comments from our visitors’ book:

“Eye opening, sad and very informative!”. “Informative and inspiring. I want to join!” “This was an incredible experience. Thank you! “I am so glad to have indoor plumbing…”"This is a tour everyone should take!” “Nothing puts it into perspective better than a real-life example that you can see and touch.”

Day 1, St. John’s

September 08, 2021

 And we started the exhibition!!!! Very exciting day for those of us who are doing the exhibition for the first time, but with the arrival of the crowd, we got into the rhythm quickly.  The weather was not necessarily on our side with rains and cold, but it was very impressive that people continue to come despite all this.  Apparently, living in Atlantic Canada, people never change their schedules due to weather conditions.  Nice to see that this could be the case for the next days, as it is very difficult to know how the weather will be until the end of the exhibition.

I was very impressed with the level of interest that young people had in this exhibition.  It is hard to imagine how refugees struggle when we never saw something like that in our lives, but visiting this exhibition, people realize how difficult it must be for millions of people.   That’s what I think is the great facilitation of this exhibition. 

At the end of the day, we all felt that even it was a slow start today, it was a very successful opening.

(Written by Banu Altunbas)

St. John's mayor Dennis O'Keefe visited the exhibit


We got a lot of media coverage on our first day! One of our guides, Anne MacKinnon, was a star on the NTV evening news !

Clic here to watch 

Karel, our project coordinator, in one of his many media interviews

Set-up day in St. John’s

September 07, 2021

The eve of the kick off of the “Refugee in the heart of the city” exhibition by Doctors without borders (MSF for the French acronym) in St. John’s, New Foundland. We have all arrived to St John’s in waves starting couple of days ago. But most of the volunteers who will be working during the next four days for the exhibition here arrived today with me. I already met a fellow MSF’er on the plane from Halifax. He saw me reading the same document that we- “ the guides” are supposed to read and he tapped me on the shoulder to say hi! That’s the MSF spirit to start with!!! I have a good feeling that it will be a great next four days.

Upon arrival to the hostel and checking in quickly, we went to the exhibition site to meet the others who already arrived before us. The entire logistics, administration and coordination team arrived already in St John’s couple of days ago. Today the camp site was to be erected, but unfortunately the weather was not on our side during the morning hours with a lot of gust that didn’t allow them to set up the ground. So we were running behind schedule and things were not ready yet, but no panic. As MSFers we are so used to these types of unforeseen challenges in the field, we are flexible and we do make contingency plans. So, with new arrivals, everyone gave a hand immediately. There you go, a second quick example of MSF spirit.

Many of us don’t know each other from before, and few worked together in the field and were happy to see each other again. But there is a MSF bond that binds us together, and only introductions needed are the names. By the end of the day, all of us feeling very cold (as by that time it turned chilly again) and the logistics team continued to make the final touches for tomorrow’s big opening. (written by Banu Altunbas)

 Read an article about the refugee camp in The Telegram