Role-playing event gives students perspective on refugee lives

During “Passages,” a youth event held January 22nd at the Cobourg Community Centre and modelled after a United Nations initiative to raise awareness about refugees, participants, including nine students from Trinity College School, were given the opportunity to “become” refugees.

Led by “Youth Unlimited” in partnership with churches, local businesses and community volunteers, the role-playing event saw participants assigned family roles. Music and a fun-filled game were organized to mirror normal life. But soon after, the sounds of bombs and gunshots were heard.

Participants were ushered through a door into an area which served as a simulated border crossing. Soldiers in army gear with rifles searched and questioned the “refugees,” speaking a language they did not understand. Some refugees were turned back for incorrectly filling in a questionnaire, due to language troubles.

When family members managed to cross the border, they found themselves in a large room designed as a refugee camp where real refugees might spend days, months or longer. Families made shelters using the materials which had been provided by Cobourg’s Canadian Tire; cardboard boxes and tarps were quickly taken. Adversities, from snake-bites to stabbings, were role-played appropriately to give participants an idea of just some of the challenges faced by refugees.

During a debrief group session, participants watched a short clip about Syrian refugees arriving by boat after incredible challenges at sea, remembering that not every boat arrives safely. Students pretended to be interacting with refugees in Canada who do not speak English fluently; silent dramas were acted out to communicate ideas such as asking for assistance locating a doctor or trying to find the location of a grocery store.

TCS participants appreciated the role-playing opportunities, although challenging at times, and a number of students mentioned how, after the event, they would try to be increasingly patient and generous with the refugees they meet in the community. At the end of the evening, pizza and door prizes were also part of this well-organized event to raise awareness of refugees arriving in Northumberland County.

As Grade 11 student and one of the TCS Cultural Group Awareness group leaders, Suko Bhebhe, said, “I felt that Passages was a really good opportunity because it raised awareness for the current situation in and around Syria. Even though the simulation cannot possibly compare to the amount of hardships that the Syrian refugees go through, it still gave us the chance to see what is happening. Passages also gave the youth of Northumberland a chance to share ideas of how to make a difference.”

Thank you to Headmaster Stuart Grainger, Head of Senior School Kristopher Churchill, Director of Service Learning Kim Vojnov and others for their contributions towards supporting this unforgettable event.

- By Mrs. Rachel Stephens, languages & culture department