This simulation exercise allows participants to experience what a refugee goes through when he must flee his country. Obviously, it is impossible to really know what a refugee experiences until we actually become one. That being said, throughout the exercise, participants will become aware of the challenges and dangers that refugees face. Participants will also face the experience of exile. They will have to make difficult decisions. They will also face hardships; and may even confront death.
In the past few years, we have heard much about the refugee crisis, as well as the wave of refugees and the migrant flows. Yet, these terms conceal what is most profoundly human in the experience of exile. They depersonalize real human tragedy and drama that the refugees live. The simulation exercise A Journey into Exile invites us to put ourselves in the refugee’s shoes, so that we may remind ourselves that a refugee is much more than a mundane statistic. This simulation helps us to become aware that a refugee is first and foremost a human being, whose life is not all that different from our own, and whose existence has been turned upside down.
The objective of the simulation exercise is to foster the participant’s empathy towards refugees. In many Western countries, public opinion is becoming more and more hostile towards refugees. Our hope is that the simulation exercise becomes a tool that helps non-refugees be more welcoming towards refugees, and stand in solidarity with them.
The exercise breaks into many different activities that are closely interlinked. Each participant plays the role of a refugee from a specific region of the world. According to his region, the participant-refugee will have to choose between a few options: he can attempt a dangerous journey in order to reach a Western country; or he can stay in a refugee camp; or he can take refuge in a city of a neighbouring country and become an urban refugee.
In the midst of the participants’ journey, we will invite certain participants to read the testimony of actual refugees who have gone through similar journeys. What’s more, over the course of the exercise, we will ask the participants to answer questions in order to push their reflection and the discussion further. Ideally, the exercise ends with some time for feedback where the participant shares his feelings about what he has just experienced.
The facilitator plays a key role in the flow of the exercise. He is the one who breathes life into it, by making sure to read with enthusiasm the different parts of the text. In other words, he sets the tone. It is therefore essential that he be well prepared.
Not only does he have to be well-acquainted with the exercise itself, but also be well-informed on refugee-related issues. By being well-informed, the facilitator will elicit good discussions and will be a good resource person for the participants. To find out more about migration issues, the facilitator could explore the websites of the following: Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR), UN - Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Furthermore, it is strongly recommended that the facilitator be a participant of the simulation exercise before facilitating it for others. Finally, it would be important that the facilitator personally meets refugees - if it has not already been done. Personal contact with a refugee allows us to approach this important task of facilitating a meeting where we discuss the tragedies of people who were forced to flee their countries and who face painful situations, with humility.
The simulation exercise, A Journey into Exile, may stir strong emotions for some participants, especially if they themselves or people they know have personally lived through similar experiences. Therefore, it would be important to make sure that there be resource people on hand who are also able to determine what kind of follow-up could be offered. You could call upon a professional who has experience in counseling (social worker, psychologist, spiritual director, etc.) who could, if need be, respond to a participant in distress. We recommend that a list of resource people be drawn up and given to the participants at the end of the exercise so that they may consult a professional who could help them deal with the emotions stirred up by this simulation.
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Canada wishes to spread the simulation exercise A Journey into Exile on a wide scale. We simply request that anybody who will make use of the exercise recognize publicly that it is the creation of JRS Canada. As well, we request that JRS Canada’s logo be used on all promotional material that will be used for your event.
No user fee is requested. However, donations are welcome and help us continue to finance our activities.
To receive the tool kit or to request a facilitator to present the simulation exercise in your community, please fill out this form.