“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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It’s a nice problem to have. Our phones run hot and our email boxes burst with new messages as Hong Kong people generously offer goods to us each day. The people of Hong Kong love to give.

So, yes, a nice problem to have, but a problem, of sorts, nonetheless. With phone calls numbering 60, 70, or more, every day, it can be hard for even our dedicated team of volunteers to keep up.  They were sometimes overwhelmed. So was the system they were using. It was designed for an earlier time in Crossroads’ history. It worked fine, back then, but could not meet today’s demand. Nor, from what we could see, would it meet tomorrow’s.

Microsoft2When Microsoft first contacted Crossroads, it was to arrange a day of corporate volunteering and simulations. But after a day serving at our Crossroads’ site and experiencing a taste of poverty through the Struggle for Survival simulation, they were inspired to do more than just use their muscles!

Microsoft worked with Crossroads to come up with a partnership that truly used their core strengths, and solved our incoming phone calls dilemma.They donated and hosted a brand new IT system which is far better suited for handling the generosity of Hong Kong’s wonderful community.

“The most immediate benefit is that we have more visibility of our donation pipeline so that we will be able to match more donations to more needs and deliver relief faster. That means we will be saying ‘no’ [to donations] less often!” said Matthew Gow, Crossroads’ CTO.

With Microsoft’s partnership, it’s a joy to be saying ‘yes’ to more lives changed!

We can help your company engage with development issues

Crossroads has helped hundreds of companies, including some of the world’s biggest brand names, find ways they can develop their CSR programmes and serve the poor, through volunteer days, finding NGOs to partner with around the world, taking part in simulations, and much more.

Contact us today at enquiries@crossroads.org.hk to start talking about how we can help!


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Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

7,000 brand new toys for Christmas

The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

Excelsior Hotel close equips HK social enterprise

It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

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Helping equip Ukrainian maternity facility

"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

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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

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Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

HELPING LIGHT THE DARKNESS

The BBC calls if ‘the worst refugee camp on earth’. A camp on the far-flung island of Lesvos, Greece, seen by...

read more ...

7,000 brand new toys for Christmas

The quantity was astonishing: 7,000 brand new toys, donated through our Global Hand service by a leading toy manufacturer. NGOs across...

read more ...

Excelsior Hotel close equips HK social enterprise

It was the end of an era when Hong Kong’s beloved Excelsior shut down in early 2019. As their doors closed,...

read more ...

Helping equip Ukrainian maternity facility

"Finally, the repair of our maternity hospital is finished," wrote our colleagues in the Ukraine. "Your beds are in refurbished rooms...

read more ...