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A Day as a Refugee: Middle School Simulation

Today, more than 30 million people around the world have been displaced due to war and violence, making nearly 10 million children refugees. As previously blogged about, countries facing an inordinate amount of displaced persons today include Somalia, Colombia, Palestine, Haiti, and Iraq.

On Monday, April 11th, the Education Department of UNA-GB guided a group of participating middle school students from the Greater Boston area through the “Torn from Home: My Life as a Refugee” exhibit at the Boston Children’s Museum. The special event was hosted in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees. The traveling exhibition provided an interactive second-hand look at the plight of refugees, particularly the children supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The 6th and 7th grade students from Josiah Quincy Upper School came highly prepared for the day’s simulation – when Rachel Farkas, the Asia Program Associate at Boston Children’s Museum,  sat down to give a brief introduction of the exhibition, they enthusiastically differentiated between refugees, evacuees, and environmentally displaced people!

To simulate the camp experience, the students were divided into 4 smaller groups: registration, medical, education and home. Through a series of inspiring hands on activities and guided questions from UNA-GB staff, students were able to address a myriad of complicated issues afflicting refugees. Upon ‘registration’, the students were issued individual identification bracelets and compared the food rations of a camp with their diets. In the medical center, they examined malnutrition, disease prevention, water and sanitation. While crammed into a tent, students discussed “What is home?” and “What does home mean to you?”. After exploring the exhibition, they gathered on the benches and mats of the minimalist school area to discuss the opportunities education presents to children in refugee camps and to share what each group had learned from the exhibit.

That afternoon, the students represented different countries associated with the UNHCR. They used their newfound knowledge from the exhibit to fuel a debate of the international issue of Environmentally Displaced People. The success of the day was evident due to the energetic debate amongst the students and the variety of resolutions drafted. To grasp the impact of Model UN simulation, read or watch personal feedback from the students themselves.