Crossroads Foundation helps people experience 45 minutes in a refugee's life

Local charity brings to life the terrifying realities of the plight of refugees for scores of employees taking part in dramatic simulations

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 April, 2013, 6:28am

A local charity is giving Hongkongers the chance to get an insight into the terrifying existence that many of the world's refugees endure on a daily basis.

In just 45 minutes, the Crossroads Foundation's Refugee Run Simulation conveys such experiences and much more.

Based at an old army base in Tuen Mun opposite the Gold Coast shopping precinct, non-profit organisation Crossroads simulates the realities of life as a refugee so others can understand their plight. One of the organisation's programmes is the Refugee Run Simulation, which vividly brings alive the dilemmas faced by 43.3 million people who are refugees, sometimes in their own countries.

Each person was given a card with his or her new identity on it. Everyone was now a refugee, and about to be put through the rigours of a refugee camp in an unspecified country for 45 minutes. I had the identity of Shadid Ysmael, a 42-year-old married farmer with an injured shoulder.

All the women had to keep their hair covered with scarves, and were told to have no interaction with men unless they were part of their refugee family.

Everyone was then ushered quickly into a separate building where the action really began. What followed was a series of confrontations with a variety of armed guards.

The "refugees" went through role-playing scenarios like going through checkpoints, erecting their own tent and queueing up for food that was all done while being constantly harangued and intimidated by the guards.

The loud noise of simulated attacks and bombs going off was played intermittently in the background.

One thing that everyone had in common though, was that they all had their eyes on the floor throughout the simulation and finished up missing something.

If you wanted to get past the guards, and you hadn't enough cash to give them, they demanded to have something else - by the end of the session I was missing my watch and shoes.

In a debrief session afterwards, everyone shared their thoughts on the experience, which were all positive. The consensus being that sometimes it takes more than speeches or power point presentations to really connect with an issue.

"To make the experience as real as possible both refugee and NGO representatives work together on all parts of the simulation to best reflect the reality of the situation," Crossroads' head of public relations and development, David Begbie, said.

Crossroads says the primary goal of the simulation is consciousness-raising, as part of its stated mission to link those who are in need with those who can provide help.

During their debrief, participants are encouraged to discuss ways that corporate engagement can help.

For more details call 2984-9309 or e-mail: