Macedonia - Richard Gere visited our camp operations in Brazda today for a half an hour together with the Macedonian hosts. There were approximately 20 to 30 journalists nearby during his visit desperately trying to get a good picture and sound bites from him - and that is all they actually did get.
Gere did not give any interviews to the media but was instead genuinely interested in our activities in the OPD. He was taken around the camp by Mary Lightfine, an American nurse working with MSF, and Jonathan Brock, the Canadian Project coordinator for Brazda camp.
Gere asked many pertinent questions about the general camp organisation and management as well as MSF's activities in the camp. Gere's tour started from the consultation tent where he saw some of the drawings of the children pinned on the wall.
He then visited the Pharmacy and signed giving autographs for MSF local staff from Kosovo - and some eager MSF expats as well. Despite the fame Gere has throughout the world, there are instant communications problems when people of different languages meet each other.
Lightfine and Brock had taken Gere to the 'Dressing' tent, where Gere was trying to talk with a patient, a middle aged Kosovar, to discover where the man came from. All he received as a response an empty gaze and a smile.
When he had been taken through the camp, Gere jokingly mentioned that he certainly felt MSF had done a better job in terms of organising the OPD than what he was able to do as a young Boy Scout.
Gere asked numerous questions during his visit, offering MSF an excellent opportunity to state the basic activities of the organisation both in this operation and with MSF activities worldwide.
Some of the questions and comments are listed below.
- "How is the camp's overall organisation done?"
- "What is the general health status of the refugees?"
- "What services does MSF provide?"
- "What was the process by which the refugees got to this camp?"
- "It is great that MSF takes time to sit and listen to the people (in the context of the mental health project: two tents in the OPD: one waiting room and one for actual consultation)"