Doctors Without Borders brings Refugee Exhibit to Ole Miss

Published 10:30 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

Humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders is on the Ole Miss campus through Friday as part of its “Forced from Home” tour.

“Forced from Home” is a traveling interactive exhibition about the global refugee crisis. Through virtual reality documentaries, photographs and testimonies from aid workers and patients, “Forced From Home” exposes the challenges faced by more than 65.6 million displaced people around the world today.

According to the exhibit logistics coordinator Giless De Gilles, the organization does more than provide medical services to those in need.

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“Our primary goal is always to offer medical care. Our secondary goal is advocacy for our patients,” De Gilles said. “We travel around and just try to put into context why people become refugees, what their lives are like and what we’re trying to to do make their lives a little more supportable.”

De Gilles, who has a construction background, has spent time working in Africa and South America. What stands out most, he said, is the resilience of the people he helps, in spite of the obstacles they’ve faced to get to a safer place.

When people come through the exhibit, they often feel overwhelmed by being faced with the facts and personal stories of those in need.

Across the world, 65.6 million people are displaced — almost one percent of the world’s population. The “Forced from Home” campaign was started, De Gilles said, because 60 percent of the people Doctors Without Borders serve are considered displaced.

“That number right there, 65.6 million, seven years ago, that was in the 30 millions,” he said. “So in less than a decade it’s doubled.”

Often, people in war-torn countries such as Syria are faced with an impossible choice — stay and keep the country alive, or embark on a dangerous journey to seek sanctuary in an unfamiliar land?

One scenario presented in the exhibit is the idea of a family walking from Turkey all the way to Hungary. An equivalent distance would be hiking from Texas to Canada. Many refugees have embarked on similar, more treacherous journeys, and organizations like Doctors Without Borders are there to help them when they arrive at their destination.

Each stop on the “Forced from Home” tour includes a staff member who has worked hands-on in the field.

For the stop at Ole Miss, the organization brought in Emily Chomy, a French nurse who recently returned from Bangladesh, where Doctors Without Borders set up in a refugee camp helping Rohingya Muslims who have fled from violent persecution in their homeland of Myanmar.

“I ran a clinic (in Bangladesh), and my section had about 30 expats. Other sections had as high as 60 expats,” Chomy said. “It was a big mission. Now we are close to 900,000 people displaced, so it’s a mega camp.”

The camp is extremely crowded due to the influx of Rohingya refugees and small surface area. Because the Rohingya people are not recognized as citizens by their own government, they have little access to proper medical care or other amenities, which has resulted in a few outbreaks in the camp.

Diphtheria, measles, chicken pox and mumps are just a few of the illnesses Chomy and the team provided medical treatment, in addition to providing mental health services for the high percentage of refugees who are coping with witnessing horrific acts against their friends and family members.

“Like many people, seeing the unfairness of the world and the violence, I said, ‘It’s really concerning to me,’ and decided to do something about it,” she said. “And I feel good about that.”

The “Forced from Home” exhibit is located near Galtney-Lott Plaza on Business Row at the Ole Miss campus. It is free and open to the public, and will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Friday. For more information, visit http://www.forcedfromhome.com