Marianne Gallagher from Georgetown Prep in the United States kindly offered to share an experience about the school´s Refugee Simulation Project, which was held last year. Her aim is to inspire more schools from our global network to keep introducing this powerful experience to our students not only in what it is left of 2018 but also next year, as this is a Global Project that enables our students to reflect on the situations that many refugees are experiencing around the world today.

In May 2017, the Religion Department of Georgetown Prep created and facilitated a two- day school-wide Refugee Simulation. Every student at Prep was assigned an identity and a country of origin. Each had to find the other members of his family and navigate through the rest of the simulation with that family. The students experienced the dynamics of confusion, waiting in long lines and being questioned endlessly. Families were confined (inside our baseball batting cages) to a “tent space” that met, in size, the requirements of the UN. They were given paperwork to fill out and an assignment to learn the push factors associated with their particular country. Each tent had lamented facts sheets about the nation of origin, nutrition, water facts and the allotments allowed.  Instructions were given in French, German and Spanish in an effort to further demonstrate the isolation and confusion a refugee may experience. They had to wait to get food and water, amounts prescribed by the UN, and then walk to where those items were being handed out, the distance from the tents also prescribed by the UN. It was only the slightest glimpse into the hardship of the refugee experience, but it did provoke thoughtful reactions from our students. The experienced was capped on the third day with prayer and reflection in the chapel. 

Below are examples of the ID cards, Nation Fact Sheet, Food and Water Facts Sheets, Prayer.

Population: 10,817,354
Capital: Mogadishu
Ethnic Groups: Somali 85%, Bantu and other non-Somali 15% (including 30,000 Arabs)
Languages: Somali is official language. The second official language is Arabic, which is spoken chiefly in northern Somalia, and in the coastal towns English and Italian is spoken
Religions: Sunni Muslim
President: Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed
United Nations reports:
· 2 million refugees since 1991
· in 2016 200-300, possibly 800, drowned in Mediterranean Sea

Most refugees go to Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, and Yemen.

The Somali refugee situation has lasted three decades. In 1991, Somalia’s President Siad Barre was overthrown, which led to an era of conflict that has never been resolved. When the state collapsed, Somalia became known as a “failed state”, one that became the empire of pirates, kidnappers and Al-Qaeda bombers. Between 1990 and 2015, the share of Somali migrants living abroad grew 136%. In 1990, the total number of people born in Somalia but living outside the country was 850,000. By 2015, that number more than doubled to two million.

Refugee camps are meant to be temporary, but most Somali refugees have lived in camps located in neighboring countries for decades. Families live in cramped quarters under tents meant for temporary residence. Recently, Kenya pledged to remove Somalis living in refugee camps from within its borders, potentially sending hundreds of thousands of people back to Somalia who have not lived there for many years, or possibly elsewhere.

Average Domestic Water Use in the United States.-

The average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home. Roughly 70 percent of this use occurs indoors.

Allotted Water in Refugee Camp.-

Water is essential to life and health. In emergencies it is often not available in adequate quantity or quality, thus creating a major health hazard.

The human body’s basic water requirements vary between 0.8 – 2.6 gallons per day. The amount of water needed for other purposes, including cooking or hygiene, is more variable and depends on cultural habits, several other socio-economic factors and on the type of the water supply. Recommended basic water requirement for standard human needs is 13 gallons per day per person per day.

In a refugee camp, the optimum allotted water 3.9 gallons per person per day, the usual allotment 1.8 gallons per person or about 5 gallons per family of 4.

Reduction in the quantity of water available to individuals directly affects their health. As supplies are reduced,
·        clothes cannot be washed
·        personal hygiene suffers
·        cooking utensils cannot be properly cleaned
·        food cannot be adequately prepared
·        direct personal intake becomes insufficient to replace moisture lost from the body.
·        increased incidence of parasitical, fungal and other skin diseases, eye infections, diarrheal diseases and the often fatal dehydration associated with them.

Food Rations.-

·        The average meal in a refugee camp is 726 calories per person. An entire day’s ration comes to 2,178 calories per person.

·        The average American meal 1,257 calories per person. The daily caloric intake of an average American is 3,770 per person, almost twice that of in a refugee.

Intro and Prayer for Refugee Camp Simulation.-

Pedro Arrupe recognized the plight of the boat people of Vietnam, and in response he began the Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980. Since 1980 the welfare of the refugees has been an apostolic priority of the Jesuits. It is especially true today.

There are 65 million people who have been forced from their homes by war, persecution and violence. Over 50% are children.

34,000 people are displaced each day.  We are in the greatest humanitarian crisis since WWII.

Of the 65 million displaced persons. 21 million have been granted refugee status. Of those, only 107,000 were resettled last year. That is .001% of refugees were resettled last year.

The average stay in a refugee camp is 17 years.  . . . . basically, your life time.

Refugees are an apostolic concern not only of the Jesuits, but also the US Bishops and Pope Francis.

Indeed, the Christian story is a migration story- from slavery in Egypt, to the Holy Family’s escape from Bethlehem.  Pope Francis reminds us that as Christians, as men and women for and with others, we have an obligation to welcome the stranger as God welcomed Israel, as we would welcome Jesus in our midst.

Today and tomorrow we hope to introduce you to the structural dynamics of a refugee camp. Obviously, this experience in no way approaches the hard reality of life in a camp. After 42 minutes, you resume your life, you go to class, you go to lunch, you go home or back to the dorm, you go to dinner, go to sleep, safe and sound.

Our hope is that along the way you will remain mindful of those who have no access to education, who lives are threatened daily, who don’t have available an abundance of food or water, who have no home.  

 Our expectation is that you take this very seriously. Our hope is you will come away with a deeper understanding of the life of a refugee. 

Let us pray

Lord, you call us to welcome the members of God’s family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds.

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,

To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;
To realize that you call all people to learn the ways of peace and justice;
To share our abundance with which we have be blessed
To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.
We make our prayer through Jesus your son and our brother. Amen