“It’s really important that you do this because it lets you understand what we go through.’

The young refugee was speaking to world leaders, at Davos, international heads of multi-national companies, government members, NGO leaders. And they hung on her every word.

Yusra Mardini and her sister, Sarah, fled Damascus when their home was destroyed in August, 2015. They made it to the Turkish coast where human smugglers put them in a badly overcrowded boat which, soon, began to sink. The sisters, both swimmers, jumped into the sea and helped swim the boat to Lesvos, Greece: a three hour marathon. Later, they found refuge in Germany and Yusra went on to represent the Refugee Olympic Team in Rio, 2016. Sarah, whose shoulder was damaged in the rescue, volunteered for humanitarian work in the Lesvos camps.

Yusra spoke after our refugee simulation at the 2017 World Economic Forum in Davos: a programme in which participants step ‘into the shoes’ of refugees. They are forced to make choices as they taste, for just a brief time, what it feels like to be disempowered and left vulnerable to potential abuse. Many were profoundly moved.

Yusra Mardini shares her story

 

This page features a few quotes from Davos participants.

“Everything I came here to say you have just experienced”.

– Filippo Grandi. United Nations Commssioner for Refugees, post refugee simulation in Davos.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, during the debrief and engagement session after he joined the simulation.

 

“This simulation is the most powerful way I’ve seen to enter into the world of refugees, empathise with their suffering and renew commitment to bring hope.”

– Kevin Jenkins. President / CEO World Vision International.

 

“I think it is very important for us to bring the simulation to Davos… because people like us often feel the world forgets us. They make policy and other decisions at their level, not ours. They don’t know what life is like on the ground.’

– David Livingstone Okello. Former child soldier/IDP

 

“I work in international development on issues related to refugees and identity and there is simply nothing I’ve done or experienced that carried such impact. Thank you, thank you.”

– Dakota Gruener, Executive Director, ID2020

 

“75 minutes to open your eyes and your heart.”

– Thomas Gass, UN DESA, with Antonio Gueterres’ office

 

“One of the most profound things I’ve done in my life.”

– Privahini Bradroo. BlueOak.  Co-Chair, World Economic Forum Council on Advanced Materials

 

“Incredibly moving, terrifying and critical experience. Thank you for the very thoughtful and experienced staff.”

– Scarlet Cronin, Tent Foundation/MasterCard


WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM 2017 SPONSORS

We bring our refugee simulation to world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, each January. This would be impossible without the generous financial support of these partners, who sponsored the simulation in 2017.

Cathay Pacific

Facebook

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Linklaters

Mastercard

Nestle

UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency

UPS

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In groups of 40, they left behind their identities as multinational CEOs, political leaders and businessmen, and took on the identities as a group of scared, disoriented refugees.

In January this year, Crossroads brought our Refugee Run to the World Economic Forum, where since 2009 we have been helping WEF delegates engage with poverty issues.  “A Day in the Life of a Refugee” saw more than 550 participants step into the shoes of refugees for just an hour. They listened to former refugees and humanitarian workers from the field share first-hand perspectives. They were then invited during the debrief to consider how they could each use who they are, their resources, their influence and core strengths, to make a difference to the refugee situation and the root problems that cause people to flee.

“Big discussions take place at 35,000 feet in Davos,” said one former WEF staffer. “The Refugee Run brings people back down to earth.” It was a privilege to work once again with the WEF in helping many of the world’s influential people find a new perspective on issues which are now more relevant than ever.

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“I am alive, but I’ll never be the same again.” WEF staff member

“This reminds us why it matters.”Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR

“It was humbling and grounding, especially in the context of Davos.” President of foods, Unilever

“This will change your entire perspective of those whose images you have only seen in the media.” Al Jazeera reporter

Watch CNN’s coverage of A Day in the Life of a Refugee here:

http://money.cnn.com/video/news/2016/02/01/davos-refugee-simulation-experience-crossroads-foundation.cnnmoney/index.html

See the full collection of photos on Flickr here:

A soldier checks refugee ID papers of Serena Caduff at the border, in A Day in the Life of a Refugee.

 

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A sampling of the comments by participants following the Refugee Run at the World Economic Forum, Davos 2014.

“I was skeptical but this simulation has been too powerful. Overwhelming. A call to action.” Marina Ruta, Davos resident

“A transformational #refugeerun experience today at #wef14 … A powerful way to seal our personal commitment to improving the world” via Twitter, Xavier Mesnard, Partner & Global Leader, Strategic Operations Practice, A.T. Kearney SAS France

Refugee_run

“A degree in peace and conflict studies never challenged me in such a visceral way as this.”  Martin Bekker, Head, Strategy, Royal Bafokeng Administration South Africa

“I did the Refugee Run in a past year and found it to be amazing and life changing.”  Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikimedia

“What an incredible experience. I can’t believe this is the reality of 45 million people. Keep up the good work and for raising awareness.” Eva Fowler, Senior Project Associate, New Vision for Agriculture initiative (NVA), WEF

“Thank you for such an incredible and moving experience. I feel hugely compelled to take action.” Justin Keeble, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability Services, Europe, Africa and Latin America.

“While it can never compare to real trauma/resilience of refugees, Crossroads has a chilling simulation at WEF.” via Twitter, Robert Kauffman, International Relations and Strategic Partnerships, Int Fed Red Cross and Red Crescent

“Thank you for this experience. It gives you an idea about what it means to be a refugee, maybe much more than we can do with our reporting on the situation.” Katrin Else Eigendorf, Reporter, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (German Media)

“It is very important for ‘corporate guys’ to experience that life! Only then can we do something!”  Agostino Galvagni, COO & Exec Committee Member, Swiss Reinsurance Company Ltd Switzerland

experience_event_refugee_run

“Powerful, moving. I hope we can all find a way to help. Thank you.” Tiffany Ann Kary, Writer and Reporter, Bloomberg News USA

“More events of this format could connect people and leaders on their hearts (not on their number-oriented brains) and once connected emotionally then we are actually really able to change the state of the world.” Veronika Schubring, Novartis

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Each January, some of the planet’s most powerful corporate leaders gather in the small Swiss town of Davos to discuss how they can use their resources and influence to improve the state of the world. It’s the World Economic Forum, and this year, Crossroads was privileged to bring our Refugee Run to the event, giving participants a deep, though brief, experience of life as a refugee.

While we’ve been running simulations in Davos since 2009, this was the first year we were part of the official programme, giving us a new, unique opportunity to reach some of the world’s changemakers.

Refugee_run

We focused, in particular, on the escalating crisis in Syria and the plight of the refugees in the neighbouring countries. We brought aid workers from Jordan and Lebanon who spoke of the refugees they serve. Wonderfully, people of Syrian nationality attended too, including refugees.

simulations_Davos_2014_2

Those who took part in the experience ranged from the King and Queen of Belgium to leaders of multinational corporations, to Sheryl Sandberg (below), COO of Facebook, who spoke to the participants about ways to find peace in this troubled region.

simulation_famus_people

Many of the CEOs who attended were blinking back tears: people who are used to managing their international companies, but who found themselves feeling helpless and disempowered when confronted with the reality simulated. We had scores of comments that echoed one another’s themes.

‘I was skeptical but this simulation has been too powerful. Overwhelming. A call to action.’

‘A powerful way to seal our commitment to improving the world.’

‘Thank you for such an incredible and moving experience. I feel hugely compelled to take action.’ – Justin Keeble, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability Services, Europe, Africa and Latin America.

‘While it can never compare to real trauma/resilience of refugees, Crossroads has a chilling simulation at WEF.’ via Twitter, Robert Kauffman, International Relations and Strategic Partnerships, Int Fed Red Cross and Red Crescent

‘I did the Refugee Run in a past year and found it to be amazing and life changing.’ – Jimmy Wales, Founder, Wikimedia

Company directors responded in many ways. Some spoke of renewed commitment to keeping factories open in the Syrian region so people could remain employed. Several offered to fund schools for refugee children in camps. One spoke of using the company’s solar technology to support the need for power in camps.

Raphael, former DR Congo refugee and now aid worker, shared his experiences and insights with participants.

The goal is, in a broken world, to be a crossroads: a place where those in need can be linked with those who can help. In Davos, we often feel that we speak to some of the world’s most powerful individuals on behalf of some of the world’s least powerful.

To see the full set of images from Crossroads’ Refugee Run in Davos, click here.

Want to book the Refugee Run for your organisation?

We’d love to talk! Click here or email life-x@crossroads.org.hk, or visit Global X-Perience for Crossroads’ full range of simulations, catering to a variety of individuals or groups.

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