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“Forced from Home” gives visitors a glimpse into lives of displaced people

on November 3, 2017

A large raft, fences and barbed wire are staged outside the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center as part of an interactive exhibit called “Forced from Home” hosted by Doctors Without Borders. Organizers hope the exhibit will raise awareness about the struggles refugees face and give people a glimpse into the lives of those fleeing violence. Visitors take on the role of refugees and explore a mock medical station, several replicas of refugee tents and view a typical refugee camp through virtual-reality goggles. The exhibit will run until November 5.



Volunteer Donna Canali describes the dangers refugees face to a group visiting the “Forced from Home” exhibit at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center in Oakland, on October 31. The 10,000-square foot interactive exhibit simulates the journeys and experiences of displaced people. Canali explains that a large portion of the more than 65 million currently displaced people worldwide reside in Iraq, Lebanon, Mexico, Tanzania, and South Sudan.


As part of the simulation, students visiting “Forced from Home” were assigned a country of origin and asked to imagine themselves as a refu­gee, an internally displaced person or an asylum seeker. Pretending to be a refugee fleeing from home, David Hernandez, 13, was given 30 seconds to choose 5 items to take on his journey. Hernandez chose water, food, a motorcycle, a passport and medicine, and was forced to give up a different item at each station.


Volunteer Dr. James Peck asks a student from Lighthouse Community Public School to carry a two-gallon jug of water—the daily amount given to refugees at refugee camps. (In contrast, the average American uses around 300 gallons of water a day.)


Standing behind razor wire fence, Peck describes the challenges many refugees face en route to refugee camps. Some countries where camps are located don’t allow women to pass on their nationality to their children without their husbands’ permission. As a result, many children born in refugee camps end up stateless.


In front of a mock medical tent, Peck talks about the most common diseases that afflict refugees in camps. He shows students a Plumpy’Nut bar, a peanut-based food used to treat malnutrition.


Peck points out two makeshift beds in the medical tent. These beds are specially designed for people with diarrhea—one of the leading causes of death in refugee camps.


Volunteer Tatiana Chiarella explains that up to three families may live together in this kind of “family tent.” During the winter, residents often cook inside the tents, filling them with smoke that can cause serious health problems.


Volunteer Diane Hailey, left, helps Michelle Mangan, center, and Ellen McCabe, put on virtual reality headsets. At the end of the “Forced from Home” exhibit, visitors can watch 360-degree movies of refugee camps in South Sudan, Syria, Afghanistan and Honduras.


1 Comment

  1. BT on November 9, 2017 at 11:07 am

    Ironic that this was situated next to a sizable homeless encampment along the Lake Merritt channel. I’m also worried about those people without homes.

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