Sunday, June 23, 2013

Experiencing Life in a Refugee Camp

On Thursday, June 20th, we were excited to go on a field trip to Red Deer to experience what life in a refugee camp is like.  The Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.) hosted this event in conjunction with World Refugee Day.  Throughout the year we have learned about the rights of people, why people sometimes leave their countries and organizations that help.  To experience life in a refugee camp was definitely something new to us.  To help prepare us for this trip, our teacher read us the book "Brothers in Hope".

After arriving at the camp, we started at the registration booth.  We were told that often, the line ups were very long to register and that you wouldn't want to leave your spot in line.  Everyone was given a registration card, along with food and water ration cards.  We were told to never lose these cards because then we wouldn't be able to stay in the camp.  We had to be able to show our registration card whenever we were asked.  The registration card told us who we were, our age, where we lived and why we were leaving our country.  For the rest of the experience, we pretended to be that person.

Next, we moved onto the water station.  Between 5 and 7 litres of water was given to each person, per day and that is all they had to drink, wash and cook with for the whole day.  Your card would be marked that you had received your water for the day and you couldn't go back for more.  We were told that refugees could go gather their own water from the river outside of the camp, but that it was very dangerous to leave the camp and the water might not be good to drink and make us sick.  In refugee camps, it is usually the women and children that are responsible for getting water.

 After that, we learned about health care in the camp.  If you weren't feeling well, you could go to the nurses and they might be able to help you.  We learned about the importance of washing your hands and using a mosquito net when you sleep.  Mosquitos can make you sick and give you a disease called malaria.  At this station, they had a pretend person who was sick from malaria, wrapped in a thermal blanket, inside a tent (see the picture below).

Our next station was finding out more about the Red Cross.  We had learned about this organization in class and so it was great to hear from people who actually work for them.  In a refugee camp, the Red Cross helps people to find their family members.  On our registration cards, it told us who our other family members were.  They often put up a message board where you can post messages to your family to let them know you are at the camp.  We got to look for messages from our family and many of us found messages from our family!

 Next, we moved onto the education station.  Here we learned that kids (but usually just the boys) were invited to start going to school.  There weren't usually any desks, paper or pencils and only a few books.  The students would do any writing in the dirt using sticks.  They would also use small rocks to help them with math.  At the school, students would also learn about landmines and how it was very important to stay away from them and tell someone if you found one.  To keep the kids active, soccer was often played--but with a ball made from whatever they could find.  The ball we played with was made out of plastic bags.

 We learned that the adults could try to find work in the camp and be paid a little bit of money.  If an adult had a skill, like sewing or building, it was easier for them to get work.

At a refugee camp, people are given materials to make their own shelter.  They would be given whatever was available.  In our case, we saw a shelter built out of big branches, tarps and blankets.  Each family was also given a small bundle of firewood and one pot for cooking.  We were surprised at how small the shelters were and many people had to live together in one.  We were also told that you had to protect your belongings because people would steal from each other.


Then we got to hear from William.  He was from South Sudan and fled to a refugee camp in Kenya.  He lived there for a couple of years before getting the opportunity to come to Canada on a scholarship.  He told us that the shelter he built here (in the picture above) was much nicer and bigger than the one he had to live in during his time at the refugee camp in Kenya.  It was so interesting to hear his story.

Our last stop was the food station.  Here we learned that the refugees could only get their food ration once every two weeks and the line ups were very long on those days.  People would stand in line for hours just to get the small amount they were allowed to have.  Of course, you had to show your food ration card and you couldn't go back for more.  We were amazed at the tiny amount of food they received--a little bit of flour, sugar, salt and beans.  In fact, most of us had bigger lunches than what they showed us the refugees received for a whole day!

We ended at the resettlement station.  It was here that each of us learned our fate.  Most of our group remained in the refugee camp for years.  A few of us returned to our homes after spending some time in the camp.  A couple of us died.  Only one person was lucky enough to move to Canada.

We were wondering...

What do you know about refugees and refugee camps?
Have you ever heard a refugee's story?


  1. This is an incredible experience! I am an ESL teacher, and I have worked for many years with refugees and asylum seekers. I would love it my kids could experience this- where is it? Thanks for sharing!!

    1. Mrs. Braybrook's Grade 3 Wolf Pack classJune 24, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      This camp was in Red Deer, Alberta for just last Thursday. They usually do this event once a year. Ava was surprised at how little food they got. Colten was surprised at how much water they got--it was not very much! Orion was surprised that the bathrooms were out in the open and you had to use a shovel to dig a hole to go to the bathroom in. Kira was surprised at how small the tent was. Kaiden was surprised at how they made the soccer balls--it was pretty clever! Averill thought it was inspiring to hear William's story. Overall, it was great learning trip!

      Mrs. Braybrook's Grade 3 Wolf Pack class


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