‘A Day in the Life of a Refugee’ at the World Economic Forum, 2018
Our refugee colleagues often quote the old proverb: “You cannot understand a man until you have walked a mile in his shoes”.
This event is not a presentation watched by an audience. It is experiential. Participants take a few steps ‘in the shoes’ of people who have been forced from home by war. There can, of course, be no one narrative for refugees as each person’s story is different. There are, however, elements of their experience which are true for many. Our storyline, developed by refugees, IDPs and aid workers, seeks to capture those issues they consider most crucial:
- Forced displacement when home is no longer safe.
- Disempowerment when one’s future is in others’ hands.
- Inability to connect with loved ones when communication is severed.
- Insufficient resource to provide proper health care, education, food, shelter, infrastructure.
- Deepened suffering when human rights are not protected.
- Vulnerability to corruption, abuse and trafficking.
- Mental agony living with past horrors: depression, trauma, PTSD.
- Depth of longing for asylum status, right of abode and right to work.
This 75-minute simulation compresses time. The ‘journey’ taken during it may, in reality, be weeks, months or much more.
All cast and crew are volunteers and themselves refugees, IDPs or people working in the humanitarian space. All participate because they long to see deepened empathy for refugees and, with that, strategic solutions found for today’s displacement challenge: one unprecedented in scale.
“We need to fight to make this world safe for its refugees and IDPs.” Antonio Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 2005-2015, Secretary-General for the United Nations, undertaking the refugee simulation.