“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.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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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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Mong Kok school water challenge“I want to help, and you have opened my hands, desperate to do something.” Hong Kong school student

Since we started running poverty simulations for groups of Hong Kong school students, we’ve hardly been able to keep up with the demand for bookings! When children spend a few hours at Crossroads taking part in experiences like the Refugee Run or the Struggle for Survival, they emerge bubbling over with ideas about what they can do to help fix their broken world.
Mong Kok Kai Oi School brought a group of primary students to do Crossroads’ ‘Water Challenge’ (pictured right). It was a day that not only enriched the students’ English language skills, being immersed in English throughout the activity, but one in which they explored the burden of gathering water shouldered by the 1.1 billion people who lack access to clean water, and solutions to help.School group struggle for survivalStudents at Kingston School (in ‘Living with a Disability’ simulation, above) were so inspired by simulations they took part in at Crossroads that they went back to the classroom and came up with a strategy to raise enough money to sponsor two shipments of aid – one to a school in Zimbabwe, another to help orphans and foster families in Moldova.Crossroads has helped, literally, hundreds of Hong Kong school groups engage with world need since we began our Global X-perience programmes in 2005.

Want to book an x-perience for your school?

Click here to talk to us about how we can help your school group engage with poverty issues and explore solutions to help!
Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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Why set up a Refugee Run?

We live in a world where the plight of the forcibly displaced is too often reduced to a set of statistics or data on a graph or pie chart. Our longing is to work with refugees in order to bring alive, even under limited conditions, the dilemma faced by the 43.3 million people who are refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons).
How should that need be communicated?  One can use speeches, Powerpoint presentations, academic papers, and the like. We include educational ‘role play’, through simulation, because people tell us they connect far better with the need. As one CEO said, after participating in the simulation at Davos, “It’s the difference between hearing and being.”

What are its goals?

Three “E”s best capture the desired outcomes:
·    Education: We hope to give greater knowledge of this need.
·    Empathy: We want participants to engage, to care about refugees and IDPs.
·    Empowerment: We explore ways, during our debrief, for participants to respond. Businesses can do a lot, using their core competencies, to engage at a strategic level to attain a sustainable outcome. Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development have a critical role in this. Students can also engage, though differently. Our debriefing times are geared to the nature of the group participating.

Is it realistic? Is it respectful?

It is always a challenge to portray a global issue in a sensitive way.  Any simulation can only go so far, of course: somewhat like a live snap shot.
In this, the simulation format faces the same challenge as other forms of communication:  movies, documentaries, living museums, speeches or written papers.  All may fail to give a realistic, or even a respectful, representation of displaced people.
To guard against this, we have both refugee and NGO representatives work together on all parts of the simulation: the story line and its trueness to life, the props and set that best reflect reality and the points they consider of critical importance for participants to take away.
Raphael Mwandu, from DR Congo, is one example. He not only advises on the set, but, as an artist, helps construct it.  Further, he helps train the staff for it, serves as one of the actors and assists with the debrief. “The things you see in this experience are the same as those that happen in the camps,” he says.  “I love doing this work because I want to let others know what is going on in our world so that people can meet together and find solutions.”
The input of our refugee colleagues is further supported by refugees we know through our broader work, shipments we send to refugee locations, and visits we make to camps or other places of refuge.

What is the outcome?

Crossroads has held this simulation weekly, in Hong Kong, over the past five years and watched people become motivated in ways that they never have before.
Many of the Hong Kong corporate leaders who have participated say it is more powerful than other forms of presentation and, as a result, have remained involved with global issues, long after their simulation experience. Simulation experience has also birthed NGOs, projects and further engagement in the community, both adult and student.

Is it for money?

Those running it receive no financial remuneration. They are volunteers.
Those who participate are not asked for money. The primary goal of the simulation is consciousness raising.  During their debrief, however, participants discuss ways that corporate engagement can help provide sustainable strategies for those impacted by such tragic circumstances.

Who is it suited for?

Different people learn in different ways: some find experiential learning more powerful while others prefer a straight cerebral process.

Refugees and displaced people, however, have expressed concern that their plight may be beyond others’ understanding without a fuller opportunity to experience, even though brief, a measure of their situation.

Participants tell us that, when they undertake this experience, they find it effective in ways they did not expect. Even those who say they come to it with a measure of scepticism often leave with a very different perspective, deeply moved.

This simulation is offered in the hope of narrowing the gap between the understanding of those who are displaced and those who would like to engage with them. As the Chinese proverb puts it: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

How intense is the simulation?

It is a very powerful experience. For that reason, we have a minimum recommended age of 15 (unless with parental supervision) and we take time to warn those considering the experience that they will be placed in a highly intense situation. We also assure them that no actual harm will come to them.

In addition, we tell them that if at any point during the experience, participants feel they cannot manage, we give them a way to leave immediately and have staff ready to speak with them, as needed. Since we began offering this simulation, we have almost never found people do so, but the offer is always there.

How do people respond?

When we asked participants the impressions they gained of life for a refugee, they told us the following.
“A profound experience that reminds us of the plight of millions of forcibly displaced people.”Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations
“Beautifully done.” Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Management Ltd.
“Everyone should do this. It will change the way you see refugees.” Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia
“A remarkable experience… One is moved, emotionally, out of normality, to a better understanding of the fears and dangers present for refugees.” Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Earth Institute, Colombia University
“The bit of Davos I will remember for the rest of my life.” Sir John Gieve, Harvard University
“Humbling, inspiring, thought-provoking and motivating – a truly remarkable experience. Thank you!” Jane Nelson, Director of Harvard Kennedy School’s Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative
“The simulation was as close to real as I could imagine. I now have a much greater appreciation for the needs of displaced people and will be an advocate for sending the message.” Dan Brutto, President, UPS International
“Thank you…for the very powerful experience you gave so many of us…it was very well done – unsettling, authentic, transformative.” Amy E Roth, International Justice Mission
“I don’t know how anyone could do this experience and not come out morally obligated to do something about it.” Paul Ellingstad, Director, Office of Global Social Innovation, HP
“Most impactful experience I’ve had in a long time, with real inspiration to take action. Don’t miss this!” Mack Gill, President, Global Services, Sungard
“Thank you on behalf of the 43 million refugees.” Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board, Nestle
“A truly eye-opening session. It was a pause for deep reflection. I hope we can help in the future and will do all to make that happen.” Peter Lacy, Managing Director for Sustainability Service Group, Accenture
“Everyone at WEF should be required to do this.” Josh Spear, Founding Partner, Undercurrent.
“I’m most moved by the incredible dedication of this group of people to give a voice to the 43.3 million.” Hans Hickler, CEO for Agility, Asia Pacific Region
Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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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.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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