Simulating the Refugee Experience on Maui and Hawaii

May 25, 2017

In November 2016, PAAC featured an activity called “Passages” at its annual, state-wide Fall Conference.  Developed by the United Nations High Commission on Refugees, “Passages” is an empathy-building activity that places students in the shoes of a refugee by simulating common refugee experiences.  It was a timely topic to address given the migrant crisis and increase of refugees worldwide.

PAAC has since facilitated the simulation to over 250 students across the state.  PAAC has also traveled to Maui and Hawaii Island to conduct mini-conferences that feature the simulation and activities that increase students’ awareness of this humanitarian crisis. 

The simulation is unique because it is not a typical classroom experience.  Students are not asked to look at powerpoints or take notes during presentations; rather, they learn what it feels like to be separated from their family during an air raid or go through an interrogation at an immigration checkpoint.  The experience stirs strong feelings that enable students to relate emotionally to the challenges faced by refugees.  Students feel a personal connection to the plight of refugees that motivates them to take a greater interest in the news. 

Hawaii Island Global Vision Summit:

The conference on the Big Island was coordinated by Kealia Haitsuka, a participant in PAAC’s Global Leadership Program, as her capstone project. It was held at Hawaii Preparatory Academy and students from HPA, Kealakehe High, Honokaa High, and Parker School attended. 

Maui Global Vision Summit:

Students from Maui High and Seabury Academy