On Tuesday this week, London's Trafalgar square was transformed into a temporary "refugee camp" by the UNHCR in an awareness raising initiative to highlight the ongoing situation in Darfur, which saw similar scenes in 20 countries across the world. Zrinka blogged earlier this week about her own unexpected reaction to the exhibition. The hope is that the day-long camp had an impact on those who know nothing about Darfur, the UNHCR or refugees in general, the "absent majority" as Jenny put it in an earlier post.
Trafalgar square is surely a good place to start. Curious tourists, and somewhat less interested office workers taking their lunch in the sun wandered the exhibition and could ask numerous UN staffers all they needed to know. To me, there were a satisfyingly large number of (non-press) people engaging and asking questions. One of the tents housed a display of artwork by young Sudanese refugees (between 14-17) which had been completed in a Kenyan refugee camp, another showed what the inside of a UNHCR shelter would be like for a family, and there were a group of Sudanese women performers entertaining passers-by.
It is easy to question the point of staging these kinds of events, especially if you and those around you are fully aware of the issues, but a stark reminder of the necessity of such awareness building came when listening to a BBC World Service report later that evening: in a vox-pop conducted by the reporter "what does Darfur mean to you" none of the respondents could answer; "sorry, never heard of it", "nope, nothing". I would hope that, ahead of World Refugee Day tomorrow, at least one of those interviewed came away on Tuesday better informed - and better equipped to act.
Artwork completed by young Sudanese refugees
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