Personal Stories of Real Life Refugees To Be Revealed at Westminster College Simulation

Westminster College students will participate in a United Nations simulation game to discover the challenges and feelings of those who experience refugee status as well as hearing the true life experiences of Westminster students who have been refugees from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, March 22, in Hazel Wing Room 112 of the Reeves Library on campus.

This individual event was cancelled earlier because of weather and is now a part of an expanded workshop weekend entitled “Footprints of Peace: walking in their shoes.”

An educational tool of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the game entitled “Passages” allows students to experience the trials refugees face from the time they make the decision to flee to the time they return to their homes, including the physical challenges they face on their exodus; the emotional toll of leaving home, friends and family; the hardships of a refugee camp; and the challenges they confront upon returning home. Various areas of Reeves Library will be set up to simulate the journey of a refugee.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., Westminster international students who have been refugees will tell their stories and student leaders involved with issues of diversity, inclusion and displaced persons will discuss refugee issues. These students include Bethia Kadoe from Burma, Karim AlZeer AlHusaini from Jordan/Palestine; Paola Protti Nunez from Costa Rica; Sanchia Kakwezi from Uganda; Meredith Bolen from the United States; Rachael Holloway from the United States; Letila Batisaresare from Fiji; Jennyfer Larios from Nicaragua; Joseph Munyambanza from the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Sanaa Khan from Yemen.

For example, Kakwezi will speak on the realities of living with memories of the violence in her country and AlZeer AlHusaini will discuss his struggle for a sense of belonging and identification with a “country.”

“Those who participate in this simulation will discover the real problems that confront refugees and feel the psychological anguish caused by separation and flight,” says Kathryn Barden, Head of Library Public Services at Westminster, who is leading this event. “They will witness the reasons people are forced into refugee situations, the sequence of events that brings them to refugee camps, and possible solutions to refugee problems.”

The final debriefing phase of the game will be led by international political activist Shauna Aminath, Westminster Class of 2008, who is on campus this week as a Global Scholar in Residence. This culmination gives students the opportunity to express how they felt when they were going through the refugee experience followed by a game of farewells to bring unity within the group once more.

“Empathy happens when we turn the page on prejudice and isolation,” says Barden.

Then on Saturday, March 23, from noon-3:30 p.m., Aminath will lead a student workshop focused on the tactics and skills activists use with  non-violent and peaceful strategies to bring about political and social change. She is the former Deputy Secretary for President Nasheed of her home country, the Maldives, who was the first democratically elected official to lead the country and was removed by a coup d-etat by the current regime. Since that time, Aminath has peacefully demonstrated in her current position as President of the Maldivian Democratic Party Youth Wing and Policy Secretary on behalf of new democratic elections.   Her activities have led to her arrest and imprisonment twice.

This student workshop will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of Fulton, located at 718 Court Street.

The entire campus weekend experience will kick off tonight with a showing of “Sons of the Cloud,” a documentary directed by Javier Bardem, which will be shown from 7 p.m.-8:30 p.m. in the Lecture Hall of the Coulter Science Center on campus.  The film is sponsored by the Amnesty International Club.

Sponsors for the two days of events are Amnesty International Club, the Center for Engaging the World, Emerson Center for Leadership & Service, Reeves Library, U.S. Institute for Peace, the President’s Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge and Westminster College.

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