Five for Friday: World Refugee Day at National Geographic

UNHCR.jpgStriking actress Angelina Jolie and silky-voiced NBC anchor Ann Curry visited National Geographic yesterday to participate in World Refugee Day events, as reported by NatGeo News Watch’s David Braun.

Joining a number of NG employees watching the proceedings via close-circuit television in our cafeteria, I was humbled by the genuine sentiments and stalwart calls to action offered by the two women. The real show-stealer, however, was Rose Mapendo, the 2009 recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award. Through tears punctuated with an endearing wit, the Tutsi survivor of violence in the Rwanda/Congo African region shared details of her harrowing journey from refugee to international advocate.

Rose-Mapendo-picture.jpgRose Mapendo accepts the Humanitarian of the Year award from UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterrez.

 As she told her story of flight from oppressive forces, captivity, and eventual salvation through international assistance, I reflected on the many geographic aspects associated with refugee crises. Here are five:

1)    Circumstances producing refugees

The circumstances forcing citizens into refugee status frequently have geographic underpinnings. Civil war and government-sponsored brutality often emerge out of conflicts over natural resources (physical geography) and ethnic tensions (cultural geography). In Africa especially, these circumstances are largely the result of post-colonial power dynamics.

2)    International awareness and recognition

The extent to which state governments, international organizations, and members of the public are aware of humanitarian crises and the plight of refugees is contingent upon multiple factors; including governmental transparency, freedom of the press, victims’ access to communications, geopolitics, etc. Increasingly, new technologies are providing deeper insights into conflicts occurring in remote areas of the world. Through Google Earth, for example, international audiences can view satellite images and photographs of events on the ground in places like Darfur.


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Guest Blogger Steve McCarville: Geographic Musings

Steve McCarville teaches computer technology and junior high geography in Omaha NE–41 N, 96 W. He has led grassroots geo-advocacy efforts in Nebraska for three years as a Public Engagement Coordinator for My Wonderful World.
nebraska_ref_2001.jpg**Last month we took a field trip to the Jewish Community Center to see a production of Hana’s Suitcase. The book tells the story of how a Japanese museum curator used an artifact from Auschwitz to discover the identity of a young Holocaust victim from Czechoslovakia. We used Google Earth and the Holocaust Museum Web site to look at her hometown of Nove Mesto, the camp at Terezin, and the infamous Auschwitz.

**We are finishing up Asia right now and will move on to Africa, which will be interesting as we have students and faculty from Sudan and Ghana. We will use the National Geographic lesson on God Grew Tired of Us! (for grades 6-8 and 9-12).


**Geography is always timely! In Nebraska we have five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and construction. Our state tree is an orange road construction barrel and the nice thing about construction is, when it starts, you have to practice your geographic orienteering skills. You have to learn a new way to the ballpark, a new way to the grocery store or a new way to work.

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