Students experience refugee camp simulation at Harrison High School

Local News

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – According to UNHCR, there are 3.7 million Syrian refugees currently seeking asylum in Turkey. Within Syrian borders, there are another 13.1 million people in need. Of that number, 6.6. Million are internally displaced, with 3 million in hard to reach areas.

The Global Human Project came to Evansville to give students the chance to experience what it is like to be a refugee seeking asylum in a foreign country and to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. 

“We walked out here and it was completely like we didn’t know a thing,” said Harrison High School Junior Faith Guzman.

Students from area schools got the chance to experience what life is like for millions of people around the world living in refugee camps, with a simulated world created by the Global Human Project. The students were given new identities when they first arrived.

“Our families is from Myanmar and I’m the father. My wife is nine months pregnant and along the way she lost her baby so we’re really struggling with that. We have a 61-year-old grandma and she hardly speaks so it’s really hard for her, and we have a 1 year old and a 6 year old, so we have to learn how to accommodate with them too, to make sure they’re not dying,” said Guzman.

Then the students are taken through a course that stimulates the everyday reality for many refugees and displaced people.

“They show their papers, they have to get across the border  but they might get put into jail. There’s a water station, there’s a food station, there is a language station so they need to learn a certain number of words in another language,” said Harrison High School Teacher Janelle Nisly. “It’s meant to create empathy.”

“One of the things that we learned is we can give people information about refugees, like that there are 20 million refugees in the world today and we can talk about where they come from and what their experience is, but until that information moves from their head into their heart, they’re not likely to take action, said Global Human Project Exec. Director Jud Hendrix.

As the students were given their own identities back, they walked away with a new appreciation for their reality. 

“I can imagine that it’s like ten times worse than what’s going on right now. A lot of people die on their way to the refugee camps. I think it’s really sad that so many deaths have happened just because they’re trying to get out of this dangerous country that they’re in,” said Guzman.

According to the Washington Post, the United States gave asylum to 12,582 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2016. With recent increases in border security the United States only admitted 62 Syrian refugees in fiscal 2018.

The Global Human Project originated in Louisville, but sets up simulations all around the country. One organizer estimates over 7,000 people have already taken part in the experiment. 

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(This story was originally published on October 9, 2019)

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