“War, poverty, refugees, modern-day slavery. Many people look at global issues, and long to see change occur. But can one person’s life really make a difference? Yes!”
David Begbie, Director of Crossroads’ Global X-perience

It was a mighty goal: running a full-day conference for 180 students and staff at a large international school in Beijing, with workshops, talks from international experts and complex discussions. Crossroads’ Global X-perience team was planning to travel and be there in person, until Covid hit and the entire event changed course to an online conference.

Our team worked closely with teachers to deliver the conference with interactive elements across the day. Spokesman David Begbie addressed the whole school (pictured above), as well as doing a live Q&A, and they showed personalised video talks from speakers like former child soldier David Livingstone and peace campaigner and author Zak Ebrahim. The students and teachers workshopped together on ways that they could engage with these urgent issues.

“Students were captivated by the speakers, participated with lots of passion during the discussion portion and had some great questions during the Q&A,” said the coordinating teacher. She said that the students are now fired up and keen to take action, ready to incorporate what they’ve learnt into their major projects for the year.

In these unpredictable times, schools are having to pivot to new and uncharted ways of learning. Crossroads is here to help.

Online and offline options

As of October 2020, we are taking bookings once more for some of our experiential simulations, with limitations around Covid-19 health and safety. However, we can also help your students can engage with important world issues online. Email globalx@crossroads.org.hk to talk!

Video resources

We’ve also prepared a range of videos on issues of poverty, which you can use freely in classrooms here:

How has Covid-19 impacted orphans, refugees and children at risk around the world?

How is Covid-19 affecting fair trade producers?

How is COVID-19 affecting people in poverty?

The challenge of water access around the world

For younger children, we’ve taken our Silk Road Storytime sessions online! You are welcome to use the videos at the links below, which include stories and crafts that encourage preschoolers to be empathetic global citizens:

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – The Magic Paintbrush

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – Biblioburro

Crossroads Silk Road Storytime – Circles of Hope

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time – One Hen

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time: The Colour of Home

Crossroads Silk Road Story Time – The Snail and the Whale

Want to talk further?

Start the conversation about how we can help your school connect with a world in need. Email globalx@crossroads.org.hk

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We often speak of our experiential programme that simulate issues such as the complexity of poverty. Read these words from a participant this year:

“Seventy of us enter a large room. We sit on a concrete floor, empty aside from rusty corrugated iron wall paneling and a few makeshift shops…The next hour is a haze of noise, rejection, begging, and work that fails to meet the minimum targets. We start with intent and vigour but the desperation grows each moment. We start to offer our possessions and confront our own values and integrity in the quest for survival. And I feel like I’m in a washing machine struggling for breath. I cannot think of tomorrow when today looks hopeless and urgent. I’ll work all day. All night. But the challenge to survive is overwhelming. And this is day one.”

The person writing that was part of NGO, Global Development Group. This participant, as the others, already knew poverty well. GDG is an association that brings together people dedicated to alleviating suffering.  Even so, the simulation proved powerful. We often hear practitioners say that, while they work amid poverty, the simulation of it still brings the reality home in new ways.

GDG held its International Development Partner Conference in Hong Kong this year and chose to include our Struggle for Survival simulation. Its participants, largely from developing nations, found it a time of perspective-shift, and reaffirmation of their organisations’ goals.

 

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“I still vividly remember the beginning of the simulation… a group of ‘militants’ broke in, forcing us out of safety. At that moment I realised what I had signed up for. Frankly, it was terrifying.”

Gingin Mak, a secondary student, undertook our simulation of the refugee crisis and, afterwards, told us how she found it. “Throughout the entire experience, the only thought I had in my head was: How are millions of people surviving through this living hell?”

Gingin was impacted so deeply by the ‘Refugee Run’ that she decided to channel her experience into a theatrical script. She called it, poignantly, ‘Home’. It tells of a young girl, Ola, who leaves her family in search of safety. “The plot reveals the raw pain of sacrifice,” says Gingin; “of restarting life and the loss that refugees face in the process.”

 Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation (YAF)

Undertaking the Refugee Run at Crossroads helped Gingin access the emotion and empathy with which she infused her play. “The authenticity of the simulation played a key role,” she says. “It allowed me to enrich my writing with personal experiences.”

‘Home’ was performed by the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation, in December 2017: an extraordinary achievement for Gingin. Her classmates from Renaissance College were likewise moved to help and focussed on producing educational packs for us to use in our refugee work. We are deeply impressed by the difference students can make when they care about world issues. Gingin and her colleagues are proof positive.

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“People like us often feel the world forgets us,” says David Livingstone Okello, a former child soldier from Uganda.

“They make policy decisions at their level, not ours. They don’t know what life is like on the ground.” When David comes to the World Economic Forum, his heart’s cry is to show world leaders and policy makers that their decisions affect real lives, populations living with the consequences.

David has been joining our refugee simulation at Davos for several years, and his story, recounted after the simulation, is gut-wrenching. He tells how he was abducted by rebel soldiers at 15, saw one classmate shot to death in front of him and others forced to kill family members. Those listening, having just been through the simulation of a conflict zone, find his words run deep. They are then invited to consider ways to use their capital power and influence, knowing they have the mandate to make a difference.

 

2018 marked the 10th year that Crossroads has been privileged to bring our simulations to WEF participants.

“It is the right way to start the Forum meeting. Putting harsh realities at the centre.”

– Igor Perisic, Chief Data Officer & VP of Engineering, LinkedIn Corporation

 

“It’ll change your perspective in ways no news report can.”

– Simon Shuster, Time Magazine.

 

“This is the closest you can get to empathising with an unthinkable experience that is an everyday reality for so many.”

– Tiffany Yu, Founder, Diversability

 

“This gives you a small but significant glimpse into the human side, the personal side, of refugee issues. You can never think of the issue in detached numbers and policies ever again.”

– Fulvia Montresor, World Economic Forum


WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM 2018 SPONSORS

We again brought our refugee simulation to world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this January. This would have been impossible without the generous financial support of our partners, who sponsored the simulation in 2018.

Premium Sponsors

Cathay Pacific

Facebook

Hewlett Packard Enterprise

Nestle

UPS

Sponsors

J.P Morgan

Linklaters

Microsoft

UBS

UNHCR, The UN Refugee Agency

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140 students from Diocesan Girls’ School had a taste of inequality when they did our ‘Some, Tonnes, None’ simulation in 2018. Along with many other Hong Kong schools, DGS makes Crossroads a regular fixture on their school calendar, as part of their curriculum unit of growing global citizens. One little girl, who was given an empty plate, remembered how it felt to see a classmate in her group holding a plate piled high with food.

“Now I think of those people who lack resources and keep struggling for a basic living,” she said afterwards. “It is really sad to know that there are many people who are still suffering chronic hunger.”

The parents of students who do this programme have told us they talk about it for months: face to face with a planet where 20% of the people live on 80% of world resources and vice versa.

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“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

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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“Nobody is born to be a refugee,” says Isaac, from a war-ravaged African nation. “Nobody chooses to be one.”

We’re not naming his country, but Isaac escaped civil war there, with just one thing on his mind: survival. When, though, he arrived in Hong Kong and sought asylum, there was a new, complex world to navigate. First, he, as with all asylum seekers, needed to face the round of interviews required to see whether asylum would be granted. Second, if granted asylum, he and those like him must then seek work as refugees, in some cases locally, though normally internationally.

Much of this is a world away from the one he had fled from. How should one handle interviews with officials, meetings with potential employers, and communicating in a professional way? It was a source of anxiety and confusion for Isaac, as for many.

The HR company, Aston Carter (Allegis Group) found a way to help. A group of its staff did our Struggle for Survival poverty simulation this year and found it eye-opening. “The impact was truly fantastic on everyone,” said Emma Watts, an Aston Carter consultant. “It created a mind shift for many people.”

The company already had social responsibility champions within their Hong Kong staff, but they sensed they could be more strategic. “When we first started, we did a lot of fundraising events,” said Emma. “Then we realised we could have greater impact if we could use our strengths.”

Being an HR company, Aston Carter realised they could help prepare people such as Isaac for what he would face. Working with Crossroads’ engagement team, they planned training events in interview skills, CV-writing and professional communication. Their first workshop in mid-2017 left its mark on participants and the Aston Carter staff alike.

“It really opened the minds of so many of our staff,” said Emma, adding, of the asylum seekers: “It was fantastic to see just how much energy and hope they had, given their current situation, inspiring to all of us. This is what drives us to want to do more.”

Aston Carter’s training workshop for HK asylum seekers.

 

Those who attended likewise walked away changed. Rehan, from Pakistan, said, “This is the first time I’ve experienced this kind of training. I learned how to communicate with people for job interviews, and how to present myself.”

Of those first 14 participants, some have now moved on to the next stage of their journey. One young woman from Somalia, now resettled in Canada, is working in hospitality, and another from DR Congo was granted refugee status in Hong Kong and secured a job in a restaurant.

We love Aston Carter’s heart to look beyond their four walls and use their company expertise to engage with the real needs of the community around them. They write:

‘We are committed to showing that we are a responsible business. We partner with charities across our region… through volunteering activities and mentoring schemes.’ Or, in Emma’s words: ‘Having an impact on your local community is important for all companies to recognise. It’s all a matter of someone stepping up to take ownership of driving this in their offices.’

Do you want to step up and champion change from your office? We’d love to help explore ways your company can connect with those who need your expertise.  Email partnerships@crossroads.org.hk to start the conversation.

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Unilever's global supply chain managers took part in the Struggle for Survival x-perience.

Unilever’s global supply chain heads make and sell paper bags to ‘survive’ life in the slum.

Unilever’s global supply chain heads became ‘slum dwellers’ for a morning when they took part in our Struggle for Survival x-perience in London in May.

A team from Global X-perience in Hong Kong and Global Hand UK threw the Unilever staff into their new roles as impoverished families in a slum, desperately trying to keep themselves alive by making and selling paper bags, escaping loan sharks, disease and other perils.

After the fast-paced simulation, the participants, in small groups, were tasked with coming up with solutions that would help Unilever care better for the communities they work in and source from.

Staff discussed how Unilever can better care for and work with the communities where their goods are manufactured.

Staff discussed how Unilever can better care for and work with the communities where their goods are manufactured.

The event kicked off an international meeting for the supply chain heads. They  were already scheduled to meet when Unilever’s chief supply chain officer was so moved by Crossroads’ Struggle for Survival X-perience at the World Economic Forum in January that he invited our team to run it for his staff at this gathering in May.

“It had such an impact on me even within a 90 minute session,” said one of the staff after the simulation. “It generated loads of empathy, ideas and positive action,” commented another.

Would you like your company, club or organisation to do one of our x-periences? We’d love to talk about how we might work together! Email partnerships@crossroads.org.hk

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Esther, of Hong Kong, wasn’t born blind. She was three years old when an episode of measles took most of her sight, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that glaucoma claimed the rest.

“At the beginning, I couldn’t accept that this happened to me. I was scared. I didn’t dare go out,” Esther says, “but then I realised that if I stayed home for the rest of my life, it wouldn’t help.”

Upon receiving the bitter news ten years ago, Esther decided to undergo skills training. Today, Esther is one of four guides we employ to run our Blind X-perience. She leads thousands of business people , students and others from the community. When they first step into the darkness, people feel afraid,” she says. “But they tell me, as soon as they hear my voice, they feel comfortable and safe.”

Esther is painfully aware of the employment challenges facing people with visual impairment. “I know many blind people who can’t find a job,” she says, “even if they are university trained.” Having this part time job in the Blind X-perience is more than just welcome extra income, though. Esther loves letting visitors ‘x-perience’ the challenges of visual impairment, and the empathy that comes from stepping into those shoes for just 45 minutes.

“People tell me after this experience that now they understand blind people a lot better,” Esther says.

She also gives participants a glimpse of what life is like for the visually impaired in poorer parts of the world. For blind people in a Nigerian village, upon which the Blind X-perience is based, there is no such thing as special schools for the blind, talking computers, braille books or even proper canes.

Esther’s outer eyes may no longer work, but her insight is profound. We are deeply grateful for this talented, dedicated woman and her fellow Blind X-perience guides. She does a brilliant job opening the eyes of those of us who already thought we could see.

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read more ...

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