Oxfam Canada Brings a Museum Without a Home To The Rooms

Oxfam Canada brought its award-winning Museum Without a Home to The Rooms last night. The exhibition is a tribute to the history being made and friendships being forged by people who have had to flee their homes and escape conflict and those who welcome with open arms. The exhibition features objects that have helped make newly arrived refugee’s lives richer, easier or safer. These objects included a soccer ball given to Syrian children upon arrival in the United States and were accompanied by personal testimonies from the people who donated the objects and those that received them.

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Museum Without a Home is part of a new campaign by Oxfam Canada which aims to help change the humanitarian system so that the power and decision making goes into the hands of those who have been displaced. Melanie Gallant, Outreach Officer of Humanitarian Campaigns with Oxfam Canada spoke to The Racket hours before the exhibit opened.

According to Gallant, while conflicts between countries have declined, civil wars are on the rise and serve as the main driver behind most of the humanitarian crises in the world. “Currently there are 68.5 million people forcibly displaced in the world, of which 40 million are internally displaced within their country, and over 20 million refugees in a neighboring country,” she said.

Areas in the world that are hosting the largest refugee populations include Bangladesh, Lebanon, Uganda, and Tanzania while countries experiencing conflict with large numbers of internally displaced people are Yemen, South Sudan, Syria, and Columbia. “[Museum Without a Home] is raising awareness on these refugee issues more broadly, and more specifically the unique challenges and risks faced by women and girls displaced by conflict,” said Gallant.

St. John’s served as the first stop on the Canadian tour and Gallant noted the city’s “long history of solidarity and hospitality with newcomers, and [its] strong social justice roots”. She said, “We are thrilled to be making St. John’s the first stop in our tour, and excited to be partnering with a local organization, Refugee Immigration Advisory Council, doing amazing work in helping newcomers integrate into Newfoundland communities through the arts.”

The Racket reached out to the Refugee and Immigrants Advisory Council (RIAC) for comment about their involvement with Museum Without a Home. Program Coordinator Taqwa Mahmood said, “[We are] proud to be a partner with Oxfam Canada for the Museum without a Home [because we] share the same concept of enriching the community through its diversity and bringing people of all backgrounds together to celebrate.” Mahmood said the RIAC is a charitable organization that assists newcomers to St. John’s and Canada. “We don’t try to integrate newcomers, but rather give them the tools they need to participate in the community to the best of their abilities. We also provide information to the general public about the challenges many newcomers face, in order to make our city a more welcoming place that is better-equipped to interact with people from diverse origins and circumstances."

Taqwa Mahmood posing with one of the exhibits at The Rooms.

Taqwa Mahmood posing with one of the exhibits at The Rooms.

People living in St. John’s can help refugees in need by joining Oxfam Canada’s movement for changes in the humanitarian system and signing a petition to ensure women and girls displaced by conflict have a say in the decisions that affect them. “[This can include] everything from deciding where to put the toilets in a refugee camp, to having a seat at the table during peace talks for their nation,” said Gallant. “In addition, we encourage the people of St. John’s [and the rest of Canada] to get involved with local organizations working on refugee issues, such as the Refugee Immigration Advisory Council and others, and to support humanitarian responses that provide lifesaving essentials to people forced to flee their homes,” she added.

Gallant hopes that Museum Without a Home will raise awareness on refugee issues more broadly but Oxfam Canada’s goal “is to push for changes in policies that will ensure that women displaced by conflict have the resources, voice, and agency to live in safety and contribute to their communities.”

Museum Without a Home is a powerful exhibit that shows that we all require the same comfort items. Whether it is a stuffed toy or a soccer ball no matter where we come from and what we have experienced, we all want to be accepted and feel belonged. The exhibition moves on to Ottawa on November 22, Calgary on November 26 and concludes in Vancouver on November 29. Ticket are free and can be secured by clicking on the appropriate city’s link.

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