AAOS students partnered with nonprofits such as Catholic Charities and Refugee Resources to set up apartments for newly arrived refugees, and helped resettled refugee children improve their English skills. (Cara Pavlak — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)
(Washington, D.C.) June 14, 2012 — The sun beat down on the new arrivals as they looked nervously around at one other while standing in line. Finally, the border patrol officers sent them through the 'Kenyan' security checkpoint, questioning them about their identification and patting them down to ensure they had no weapons.
Some of the refugees were relieved as they passed through the checkpoint, but this turned into confusion when some of their friends were taken pulled out of line. Rumors spread that the young men were sent into indefinite interrogation and inspected for tattoos, as border patrol searched for an armed warlord on the run who was well-known for his tattoos.
The border patrol said they had heard rumors that this warlord, wanted for mass atrocities, intended to seek entry into the refugee camp. After this round of refugees passed through the checkpoint, the officers enjoyed a lull in new arrivals, passing the time with pick-up baseball, using a stick and crumpled paper, until the next group of refugees arrived.
This was just another scene that played out at Jesuit College Preparatory High School of Dallas, except that all 1,100 students were participating in the school's first ever Refugee Camp Simulation with Jesuit Refugee Service/USA's guidance. Through the leadership of the school's American/African Outreach Society (AAOS) — a JRS Action Team — Dallas students, parents, and faculty had worked with JRS/USA for six months to bring this innovative, experiential learning activity to campus.
As a JRS Action Team, AAOS students fully embrace the JRS mission to accompany, serve, and advocate for the rights of refugees and forcibly displaced people.
Locally, AAOS students partnered with nonprofits, including Catholic Charities and Refugee Resources, to set up apartments for newly arrived refugees, and helped resettled refugee children improve their English skills. Thinking globally and while acting locally, last fall AAOS also held a benefit soccer tournament, donating the proceeds to JRS/USA. This fundraiser helped JRS/USA purchase solar lanterns for refugee students in Kenya's Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya to enable them to study after dark.
When AAOS wanted to hold a large event to engage engaging their whole campus with refugee issues, they turned to JRS/USA. Our official Refugee Camp Simulation Toolkit helped them to plan their event, which enabled participants to get a glimpse into the lives of show solidarity with nearly 43 million displaced people around the world and shed light on the growing global displacement crisis.
For their Refugee Camp Simulation, the AAOS students, faculty, and parents decided to set upconstructed fashioned two "camps," to simulate two actual camps in Thailand and Kenya, side by side in the school's Terry Center building.
The AAOS coordinated student volunteers to run each station in the camps. They selected Thailand because it inspired the creation of Jesuit Refugee Service in 1980, and Kenya because of the AAOS' earlier fundraiser for Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya.
Each student participant, or "refugee," walked through various stations in each country. First, they passed border patrol and security checkpoints to enter Thailand or Kenya. Next, students had to pass medical inspections before they assigned living quarters in tents. Then, students received a small food and water portionrations of food and water before moving ongoing to the education station.
Here, JRS/USA representatives spoke with students about the work of JRS/USA's work and global refugee issues. While less than one percent of the world's refugees are ever resettled in another country, this the students' simulation resettled all participants to the United States, where they were greeted with the national anthem. An enthusiastic student dressed as Uncle Sam taught the resettled refugees the Pledge of Allegiance, and AAOS showed a video about featuring their work to encourage fellow students to join their volunteer work efforts with local refugees.
By the end of the school day, every Jesuit Dallas student had participated in the Refugee Camp Simulation, and the students raised sufficient funds for JRS/USA to sponsor three scholarships for at-risk youth in Kakuma Refugee Camp who require special needs education.
That evening, AAOS students, faculty, and parents returned to school with JRS/USA representatives to highlight our work with refugees. Guest speakers and performers, and a closing rendition of "We Are the World" by AAOS students, filled the evening.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA is proud to work with the community of Jesuit Dallas community in accompanying, serving, and advocating for the rights of refugees in their local community and abroad. We are happy to say that our first Refugee Camp Simulation was a tremendous success, and it could not have been done without the determination and commitment of students, parents, and faculty.
To learn how your school can host a Refugee Camp Simulation and other events as part of the JRS Action Network, click here or e-mail email@example.com.
by Cara Pavlak
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator