Imagine being persecuted, the community where you lived burned to the ground, forcing you to flee.
Or your town and village destroyed by fighting and war meaning your only chance to live is to escape.
According to the UN, five million people have fled Syria because of the conflict there and in Myanmar more than a million people have sought refuge in Bangladesh because of persecution.
We listen to the numbers, see the pictures, we hear the news, and maybe even donate money.
But it is almost impossible to really understand the trauma, the emotional turmoil and difficulties these refugees are experiencing.
That is what one Kent charity is attempting to address.
Empathy Action, based in Tunbridge Wells, has created an interactive experience to enable people to step into the shoes of people forced to flee their homes.
Called Desperate Journeys, the simulation is designed to bring those taking part as close to the issues as possible.
Ben Solanky, Co-Director of the charity and himself the son of a refugee, says
“We want to educate, but also to generate empathy so people are moved to take action to use what skills and resources they have to transform the world for the better”.
Desperate Journeys is firmly based in fact, using first-hand accounts and case studies to highlight the human stories behind the headlines
The maze-like set is assembled in a large hall and will run for around 90 minutes as part of a two hour experience for up to 30 people delivered by the Empathy Action team of volunteers.
It is not the first interactive experience which has been run by the charity to provide a glimpse into the lives of those most in need in the world.
‘The Poverty Trap’ saw venues such as halls in churches and schools transformed into a slum in the developing world with up to 100 people encouraged to participate in a role play to highlight how difficult it can be for those in dire circumstances to change their situation.Although providing only a fleeting glimpse of the hopes and fears of those who experience extreme poverty as a 24/7 reality, the interactive experience touches deep emotions in a number of those taking part.
Head of Geography at Headington School, David Cunningham, said:
“My own experience of facing the reality of poverty in Ethiopia left me profoundly moved and changed my outlook on life. Empathy Action’s ‘Poverty Trap’ simulation is the closest thing I’ve experienced to those realities without leaving the country.”
For further information contact: Ben Solanky 07792 419903
Note to editors: Empathy Action (Charity no. 1162224) aims to promote the prevention and relief of poverty and to advance education by:
- providing experiential learning opportunities
- undertaking research and
- assisting in the provision of education, training, and healthcare projects