Gonzaga College High School in Washington DC in the United States shares their experience implementing the Refugee Simulation “Walk a Mile in my Shoes”. This global project was held on April 13, 2018 during Gonzaga´s fifth Ignatian Heritage Day, an annual celebration of the school’s Jesuit identity and mission. Here is the reflection on this important experience.
This year’s event was dedicated to the global refugee crisis, and included an interactive simulation called “Walk a Mile in Our Shoes.” Created by the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the exhibit set out to show Gonzaga students what life would be like as a refugee.
At the beginning of the day, each student was given a card with the name and story of a real refugee. Several areas of campus—Eye Street, the Carmody Center, and the Upper Commons— were transformed into simulations of refugee camps. Students entered the “camp,” where they walked through stations to learn about food, water, shelter, education, and medical care in refugee camps. Along the way, they saw many of the challenges and daily obstacles that refugees face.
The goal was to give students the chance to reflect on the frustrations, disappointments, and hopes that refugees experience every day. Afterwards, students wrote postcards to refugee children in camps served by JRS.
In addition to the simulation, the day-long celebration included an all-school Mass and a viewing of a video about the life of Father Pedro Arrupe, SJ, the former Jesuit Superior General who founded JRS. Students had the opportunity to attend sessions with guest speakers from Unicef, The Catholic Immigration Network, JRS, and ShelterBox. In the Sheehy Theater, a video produced by Colin Carmody ’18 aired. It featured Gonzaga students asking questions, and refugees from around the world answering them.
“All Jesuit institutions are attempting to respond to Pope Francis’s desire for us to accompany and advocate for migrants and refugees,” says Carol Corgan, who leads Gonzaga’s Ignatian Formation Committee. “At Gonzaga, one way we are responding to this papal mandate is through our Ignatian Heritage Day. We hope today’s experience has a lasting impact on all of our students.”