LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Emerging from the bushes, ‘families’ are stopped by border control and are quickly taken to jail in this simulation of refugees crossing the border.
Natalie Kincheloe participated in the event.
Her family for the exercise is from the Republic of the Congo, and they have just arrived at a refugee camp.
“It’s been particularly eye-opening so far. For example, we went to the food station first, and they gave us this tiny little container of food and they said they only get one of these per day. It’s just eye opening, and it’s just a really interesting way to see the experience,” Kincheloe says.
The event is called ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes.’ Participants go to five different refugee stations, including food and a medical screening.
Jud Hendrix, the executive director of Interfaith Paths to Peace, says he hopes this will give participants a better understanding of the challenges refugees go through just to get to a refugee camp.
“The purpose of it is to help us become a more welcoming community, to be able to step into the shoes of somebody that might’ve had a vastly different experience than we’ve had,” Hendrix says.
Participants in ‘Walk a Mile in my Shoes’ take on a character in this simulation. Everyone is from the eight countries which have the largest refugee population in the community, including Cuba and The Republic of the Congo.
“Ultimately, it instills that sense of how can we help? You know, how can we assist those that are coming into our community that may not speak the language, they don’t understand our culture, they have to navigate really complex systems,” Hendrix says.
Yesterday, nearly 500 fifth through eighth grade students participated in the event, and in the afternoon, several adults had their chance.
“I would encourage anyone to come do this because it just puts you in a different perspective and a different set of shoes. I think having the set scenarios and families really helps give it a dynamic and direction,” Kincheloe says.
Interfaith Paths to Peace hosts the simulation at schools and employers besides the large simulation event annually.