Conflict simulation, peacebuilding, and development

roleplaying a refugee camp

Although this report is from last year, I thought it was worth posting:

NORTH ANDOVER – This weekend, Jamille Bigio is pretending that the ponds and woods of Harold Parker State Forest are the arid countryside on the Chad-Sudan border. When she hears gunshots fired by turkey hunters, she will pretend that it is the sound of clashing militias in the war-torn Darfur region.

The Harvard graduate student is planning to go abroad to do humanitarian work when she graduates this spring, even if the thought of gunfire in a foreign country gives her a twist “in her gut.”

“For me the struggle is to get an appreciation of what’s going on on the ground,” the 26-year-old said yesterday. “I don’t want to be a policy wonk.”

Many college students have protested the humanitarian crisis and the killings in Darfur. But about 50 medical residents and graduate students from Harvard and Tufts are getting a taste of what the conflict might look and feel like up close.

Campers in the tick-infested forest will eat only military rations and pretend that they work for organizations like Oxfam, CARE, and Doctors Without Borders. As part of training to become the next generation of leaders of such relief organizations, they must learn how to manage a refugee camp.

Peter Walker, a Tufts professor and one of the organizers, said the program is designed to help students see whether they are cut out for humanitarian work and the sacrifices it requires. As part of the exercise, the students are responsible for helping 5,000 refugees survive in makeshift camps.

It certainly looks like a very interesting case of experiential learning.

A hat tip to  Toby Bonthrone at Tufts for bring this to my attention. Toby is  teaching a course on counter-insurgency, and who will be taking his own class out to the woods for some sim-COIN in March (and no, I won’t tip off his students to what will be happening to them!)

One response to “roleplaying a refugee camp

  1. startides 15/04/2014 at 9:14 am

    How did your trip go?! You might be interested that the American Red Cross just held a Global Refugee Simulation and Conference earlier this month. To read about one person’s account of the event, check out “Hey there, Refugee. Here’s a Burlap Sack. Thanks for Coming.” (A Personal Account from the American Red Cross Global Refugee Simulation & Conference) by Amy Gorman

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