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Global Dialogue Forum: How to Build a Refugee Camp

On Tuesday night we went to the Lombardo Student Center at John Carroll University for a Global Dialogue Forum put on by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA) titled "How to Build a Refugee Camp."IMG_0896 First, we divided up into groups of eight people all sitting around a table. Then Mr. Paul Frankmann, former Exploring Humanitarian Law trainer at the American Red Cross, gave us our assignment which was to create an expansion of the Gihembe Refugee Camp for Democratic Republic of the Congo to accommodate 10,000 more people. We needed to take into consideration how the refugees were to obtain water and food as well as where sanitation facilities were to be placed and the need for medical supplies/treatment.

At first we were bogged down by such questions as what should be the daily food allotment per person but Mr. Frankmann moved us through the approximately 45 minute exercise and eventually our group came together and we all made use of our individual expertise to produce a rough outline of how the camp should be organized. We then shared our design with another table and they shared their design with us.

Afterwards, our friend Ms. Danielle Drake, Community Relations Manager from US Together, showed slides that were taken on her visit to the Beldangi Camp in Nepal and thIMG_0908e Gihembe Camp in Rwanda and talked how water, sanitation, health care, and housing are provided. We learned that one of the camps provides its residents with cash-based cards so that they could have more of a selection in terms of buying the things that they need. All of us agreed that such a card was a good idea because it would prepare its user for 3rd county resettlement which will, unfortunately, happen for only 1% of the refugees.

Nevertheless, the Cleveland area takes in an average of 850 refugees and year and this number will hopefully go up in the future. Ms. Drake concluded her presentation by showing us a slide about how we could all help at the local level via volunteering, donating, mentoring, advocacy, attending events, and talking to our family and friends about the contributions that refugees make to our community. In short, we all have the capacity to make a positive contribution and "change a life."

Of course, there was time for refreshments and networking so we talked about the need to combat human trafficking with Ms. Susan Hummer and Ms. Ritu Das who have both spent a lot of time doing humanitarian work in India.

Ms. Mary Stevenson recognized us so she shared her experiences working with the Peace Corps and "Save the Children" to construct a camp in El Salvador after the earthquakes of 2001.IMG_0893We got to talk to Mr. Frankmann who we believe to be a very committed person. He worked with the American Red Cross many years and now teaches French and 8th grade American history in the Aurora schools. He likes to impart the history of immigration to his students as well as the importance of respecting the dignity of all human beings.

Prior to the start of the program, Ambassador Heather Hodges of the CCWA said that she didn't know what quite what to expect from the refugee camps designs but believed that taking part in this workshop would be an interesting experience for us all.

As far as we are concerned, it was that and then some because we went home that night having learned that in order to be successful, a camp cannot be just a bunch of buildings and tents thrown together. After we arrived at home we found that we had a greater appreciation for the luxuries (and that is exactly the word) that we enjoy.




Michael Patterson 

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC.

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