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Overview of Plan and Supplies Needed

We give very specific information on what Cabrini University developed for our simulation. We hope this helps you, but feel free to modify and improve what we did. We tried to create a modest reenactment of what Syrian Refugees have to go through to find safety.

There are five different aspects of the simulation. You will need from 10-13 Ambassadors to do the simulation as outlined here. In approximately 20-25 minutes, participants will:

  1. Receive an identity card of a Syrian child and some money, and choose 5 items for journey.
  2. Go on a journey and be harassed by smugglers, who will take their money and 4 of the 5 items;
  3. Participate in a reenactment of life in a refugee camp as a child and receive debrief of that experience;
  4. Reflect on and discuss what they learned and have the opportunity to ask questions;
  5. Advocate and receive take-aways as reminders of the experience.

1. Receive an identity, money, and choose 5 items for journey

  • At the Identity Station at the start, the leader gives an overview of the simulation.
  • The leader assigns each participant an identity, gives each a sum of money, tells them to read their identity and to select 5 items for the journey (out of 16 items).

Identity Cards and Greeters (video) 




Each participant is given a Syrian child’s identity card at the beginning (See video at 2 Greeters, above.) Print enough cards so each participant gets one. There are six different children’s identities. The children are Omama, Shahad, Aya, Bana, Sakeena, and Soundos. These are all real children. You can click the links to learn more about each one. The stories and photos are from a variety of sources including CRS and the UNHCR. Click on their names to learn more. The six photos are on a single sheet that can be printed on heavy stock and then cut up as identity cards, given out one per participant. All six can be printed on a single sheet as a take-away at the end, with your own message. The sheet is made in Apple Pages and can be downloaded and edited in Pages. If 60 participants are expected, you would print 10 sheets of card stock and cut up the identity cards.

Possessions for the Journey

We used play money, and the participants had to pay the smugglers. Another option is used by the Doctors Without Borders simulation, “Forced from Home.” Doctors Without Borders identified a number of items (video) a person might begin a trip with, including a cell phone, a passport, wallet and money, jewelry, a pet, family photos, medicine, water, toys, extra shoes and clothes, baby food, etc. One by one, the refugees must give them over to the smugglers. Smugglers will each demand something from the participants. The participants can choose photos of 5 items and by the end has one or none left. You may download these pictures in Word documents, Possessions1, Possessions2, Possessions3, Possessions4, and print what you need.


2. The journey and smugglers (with video)

You have several options for the journey. Cabrini performed the entire simulation inside the gym. Therefore, we set up some physical obstacles to signify the journey. You can see what we did in the video of “Journey and Smugglers.” You could also have an obstacle course outside, with smugglers demanding money and the possessions noted in the previous paragraph (cell phone, jewelry, passport, etc.) The smugglers can assume costumes, if you wish, and be intimidating. Smugglers, by definition, are low-life.



Journey Debriefer

The person who does the journey debrief should explain how many have fled, what might happen on the journey (including many ships capsized), illness, human trafficking and rapes, etc. Cabrini also had a computer and monitor showing a very brief professionally made video, People of Nowhere, that powerfully shows a smuggler’s boat.

The New Yorker has an excellent 6-part documentary of the journey. The third part is about a land journey.

3. Refugee Camp


We set up a tent and had 2-3 Ambassadors re-enacting what life might be like for children. Children may have been traumatized, suffer a break in the schooling, experience loss of many types. See the video of the re-enactment.


Debrief of Camp Experience for Children

The UNHCR gives information and short videos of what children experience as refugees. A lot of information is crammed into 15-20 minutes. For many participants this may be the first time they have focused on the experience of millions of people. They may have seen images in social media and had the dangers of refugees stressed by President Trump, but the actual nature of the vast majority of refugees is not understood by most Westerners. Therefore, it is important to have a well-informed person doing the debriefing here near the end. She should prompt the participants with questions, as you hear the Ambassador here doing.

4. Reflection (full explanation here)

The Ambassador at the Reflection station should continue to help the participants process what they have learned in light of Catholic Social Teaching. The station can have quotes from Pope Francis and others about refugees. Quotes and photos could be enlarged and mounted.

You can use this downloadable sheet the applies Catholic Social Teaching to the refugee experience and helps participants think about our response. It can be printed on the reverse side of the sheet of the refugee children as a take-away.

5. Advocacy (full explanation here)

What can participants do? Advocacy can take many forms.

  • Speak to others. Speaking to friends and family is a way to immediately spread the message.
  • Use social media.
  • Call, write, or visit elected officials.

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