Published: March 3, 2016
Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice held a refugee simulation Feb. 26. The simulation, designed to increase students’ awareness of what life is like as a refugee, took 15-20 minutes to complete, but had a much more lasting impact.
Some students, like Miranda Capezzuto, a junior occupational therapy major, went in with an understanding that changes needed to be made but desiring to better grasp the severity and urgency of the situation.
“I think it’s such a prevalent issue in the world right now, and I think the first step to change is first empathy,” Capezzuto said. “If you don’t have a full understanding of what they’re going through, it’s tough to enact change.”
Other students, like junior philosophy major Jordan McCauley, expressed similar sentiments.
“I’ve done a couple of the other events like this on campus, but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to come to this, so I just kind of wanted to get a feel for what the refugees are going through,” McCauley said.
Students who decided to go through the simulation first went to the border, where they were given an identity of an actual refugee. One of the refugees, Matilda, lost her home and eight children when she refused to let the government extort her family. After passing through the border, students got to see what a typical shelter might look like for 4-10 refugees and learned that many did not meet the standards for living space per individual. Within the shelter was everything the typical family of four would receive at a refugee camp: four blankets, four sets of utensils, four bowls and a large pot.
The next two stations compared typical American food intake and water usage with that which would be allotted to a refugee for one day. The typical American’s food consumption was nearly twice that of a refugee’s, and each refugee received only one gallon of water per day for everything – cooking, cleaning, bathing and drinking. To put that in perspective, the station also had five gallons of water set out – the amount of water used in just two minutes of an American shower.
The final station focused on advocacy for the refugees. At this station, students learned how long a person from their country might be in a refugee camp and had the opportunity to send a premade letter to their state representatives. Students also were told about the work of the Jesuit Refugee Service both locally and internationally, as sophomore biology major Nailah Harvey explained.
“Then, we were just telling them about what the JRS is currently doing internationally and in the Scranton community, such as when we recently went to Avoca International Airport to welcome a Congolese family who had been in the camps for a couple of years,” Harvey said.
The full effect of the simulation could only come together after students had completed each of the stations. Many students walked out with an enhanced understanding of what life as a refugee can be like, including junior exercise science major Meg Blount.
“You know that it’s bad, but to make it physical and have a concrete representation of it gives you a much better idea of the reality they live day in and day out,” Blount said.
The refugee sim-ulation, like so many other programs put on by Campus Ministries’ Center for Service and Social Justice, brought students both awareness of the situation and a newfound appreciation of life in America.
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