For the second year, Alvernia University students and the school’s department of Campus Ministry facilitated an interactive event aimed at offering participants a glimpse of what refugees might experience. “To Be a Refugee” is a simulation in which participants receive an identity card that lists the name, country of origin and background of a typical refugee. The students assume this role for the experience and move around the quad to learn about common problems refugees face when emigrating. Student participants were told disease, inadequate shelter, lack of nutrition and insufficient education for school-age children often riddle refugee camps. To raise awareness about these experiences, the facilitators offered interactive activities. In one of these activities, participants were encouraged to lie down on a tarp the same size as the tents many refugee families might occupy while in resettlement camps. The tarp, 5 feet wide and 7 feet long, could barely fit three people and when told that families with multiple children will often have to inhabit a tent this same size for months at a time- many students were struck.
“To Be a Refugee” was developed by an Alvernia alumna, and hosted for the first time, last year. One difference in this year’s program was that it incorporated a prayer vigil for all those affected by the recent violence at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Those gathered prayed for all who face religious violence and discrimination. This impactful event proved successful again and prompted students to think critically about what they can do to support refugees in their struggles.
To read more about “To Be a Refugee” click here. Also, please visit the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ office of Migration and Refugee Services to access additional information about the issues surrounding migration and resettlement.