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Temporary Exhibit In Seattle Will Give People A Glimpse Into Life As A Refugee

Julia Vandenoever
photo courtesy of Doctors Without Borders
A guide in Boulder, Colorado, at the Forced From Home exhibit

A new weeklong exhibit at Seattle’s South Lake Union Discovery Center aims to give people a better understanding of the stress of having to flee your home.

The Trump administration has reduced the number of refugees the United States will accept in the year that ends next September to a maximum of 45,000.

Worldwide, there are more than 22 million refugees right now, out of a total of 65 million who have been displaced from their homes, according to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The free exhibit is called Forced From Home. It’s organized by the aid group Doctors Without Borders.

Casey O’Connor is a project coordinator with the group who lives in Seattle when she’s not leading medical aid projects in places such as Uganda and Syria. She is one of the guides for the exhibit.

O’Connor said visitors experience different stages of being a refugee. They start with thirty seconds to decide which five things to bring with them as they flee home. Clothes? Money? Keepsakes? Passport?

“And then along the way, people end up having to give up one of those five things that they decided to take because the traffickers are asking for more money,” she said.

Touring the exhibit takes about an hour. Visitors will also have the chance to watch virtual reality documentaries about people who have been displaced.

O’Connor said she hopes it will help people understand that refugees are not economic migrants but people who are fleeing from violence and war. She said her time spent working in places like Syria has reminded her what a privilege it is to be an American.

“I remember this young man saying, `I don’t know why you came here. I really appreciate it, and I’m sorry that you’re going, and I wish I could go with you,’” she said. “Which kind of can break your heart that you have this built-in safety because you’re not from that country.”

Doctors Without Borders is an underwriting supporter of KNKX.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.