Migration simulation puts participants in shoes of refugees

A forced migration simulation will be taking place at McDiarmid Alliance Church on Nov. 7 to give participants an idea of what it’s like for refugees forced to leave their home countries.

The event is a partnership between MANSO, Westman Immigrant Services and Mennonite Central Committee of Manitoba (MCC).

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Darryl Loewen, executive director of MCC Manitoba, said the simulations have been hosted around the province for a number of months and have gotten positive feedback from participants.

“It allows participants to place themselves in a situation where the region of their home has become unstable due to violent political conflict that forces them to flee,” he said.

“The simulation allows folks to imagine they’re part of a family who’s fled their home and they encounter four stations or check points along the way in the migration.”

The replicated stations in the workshop begin at the participants’ home, then they have to navigate a military checkpoint, an international border and finally the border’s other side, with each station coming with its own set of questions and outcomes.

Canadian Foodgrains Bank, which is a close partner of MCC, created the simulation and all the activities are done in a classroom seminar type environment using paper, conversation and imagination, Loewen said.

“It’s deliberately brief and short on detail so there’s a sense of urgency,” he added.

“There’s a sense participants don’t have enough information to make an informed choice and that’s deliberate, and there’s a sense that in most cases none of the choices are especially good choices, because that’s what’s available in the circumstances of a forced migration for displaced persons.”

In each case participants begin with three resources, all in limited supply, including money, food and health.

In nearly every choice at a given checkpoint the resources are likely to deplete, and with the fact resources are essentially the participants’ lifelines, the choices can end in unexpected danger, putting the participants’ lives and health at risk.

“Canadian Foodgrains Bank created the simulation as an educational tool; it’s available on their website under educational resources—MCC is a sponsorship agreement holder organization for newcomers who are privately sponsored in Canada, and as a result we’ve got a keen interest in a lot of programming in refugee resettlement and services to newcomer folks and for us it’s an important engager for our constituency,” Loewen said.

“It’s an engaging learning activity that brings to vivid life some circumstances that are true to life for more than 65 million people worldwide, and who by now include our neighbours in nearly every community in Manitoba.”

Loewen added the upcoming simulation in Brandon is a professional development activity for newcomer service sector employees and volunteers, but in the past it’s been done with children, youth, adults and seniors in the public.

“This is really accessible across all ages and it’s been really affirmed by past participants for getting a glimpse of refugee migration and immigration experiences that are just really quite distressing in the moment and provide a context for the trauma that so many newcomers have experienced,” he said.

Brandon’s forced migration simulation event takes place at McDiarmid Alliance Church at 635 McDiarmid Drive on Nov. 7 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
 

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