by Divya Badri
I live in Europe and when a detention centre opened in my neighborhood, it caused a strong debate on the potential impact of the presence of refugees on the local community. When I was at Davos, there was a simulation called A Day in the Life of a Refugee. Remembering this debate, I was curious and enquired more and was invited by David J. Begbie of Crossroads to participate along with my crew.
There is a saying that goes “One doesn’t have to operate with great malice to do great harm. The absence of empathy and understanding are sufficient.”
So, keeping that spirit in mind, Daniel and I went in, me as a participant and Daniel with the camera. We were told that there is no one narrative for refugees as each person’s story is different and that this simulation was developed by refugees, internally displaced people (IDP) and aid workers. That they are doing this for people not for politics.
I got ready to participate. Each of us participants were given a costume to put on, an id for the simulation and some play money. Daniel got ready with his camera.
SLX Swiss Learning Exchange is an ed-tech startup in Switzerland that creates blended-learning programs on its platform and shares the spirit of inclusivity that engages youth and peer-learning which the Open Forum wants to achieve.
For the following forty minutes, I was ‘in the shoes’ of a woman, who has been forced to leave from home by war, and looking for her father. For those like the real-life me, whom life has treated kindly, this was an intensive experience. I did not know who the others next to me were. I felt helpless, disempowered, sad to feel that home is no longer safe. We were briefed that if it was “too much” we could leave anytime but were also gently reminded that real refugees cannot walk away from such situations.
At the end of the simulation, was a debriefing. We discussed our feelings. For some, there was an immediate sense of camaraderie and for others, it was each man for himself. Then real refugees addressed us. I felt they spoke lot more openly to us than I have ever personally experienced. The fact that we just experienced the virtual environment they have been through in real life, made their words more relatable. It was only then, that David Begbie informed us that the Chairman of the board of directors of Nestle was amongst us all the while as a “fellow refugee”. I had not even attempted to figure out who was who during the simulation. Networking was the last thing on my mind at that time. For those forty minutes, we were all just humans in a similar deplorable situation. Forcefully moved around, vulnerable, helpless and seeking refuge.
My mission at Swiss Learning Exchange is to help people cope with the fast-changing world around us.
While other sessions discussed the issue of rising nationalism, this simulation had a direct impact that evoked empathy in us for the refugee crisis. I got a chance to speak to a fellow participant, Kayla, on camera soon after the simulation.
Hers was the kind of honest response you do not expect at Davos. Watch the video.
I hope this simulation comes to more and more places and reaches more people, everywhere. We need more awareness and empathy.
The Refugee Run is hosted by the Crossroads Foundation and is a simulation designed with refugees, internally displaced persons and NGOs. After the simulation, refugees, field workers and others will discuss the options for engagement with participants. It is an example of experiential learning. For the past forty years, the World Economic Forum is best known for its Annual Meeting in Davos-Klosters. Since 2003, its Open Forum convenes in January at the local Swiss Alpine School in the heart of Davos. They want to encourage dialogue and spread awareness on critical issues to the global economy . It is an open-debate format that is publicly accessible to local audiences in Switzerland and to global audiences via their website. Mr. Paul Bulcke is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé S.A since 2017 and instrumental in bringing The Refugee Run to Davos. Ms. Kayla M. Sanders is founder-CEO of Remy. #WithRefugees #compassion #empathy #slxlearning #DavosMoments