As one New Hampshire church's youth ministry has taken more of a social perspective this year, a recent activity with youth from other churches has involved a group simulation of what challenges refugees experience in border crossings.
A youth group belonging to the Congregational Church in Exeter UCC participated in a refugee simulation with youths from two other churches as part of an effort to highlight social justice issues and make youth more aware of the world around them, according to a report from the UCC News.
Jen Daysa, the congregation's director of youth and family ministries said the approach to the activity was "an experiential learning experience rather than a lecture or a film."
Related experiences over the past year for the group include a visit to the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministry in Washington D.C. seeing a film on the topic of immigration and immigrants working in the L.A. garment industry called 'Made in L.A.'
"They were really inspired by that, so that's why we took more of a social justice perspective this year," she said.
The refugee simulation activity involved the use of an educational tool for teachers called 'Passages,' which was developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UN resource takes youths through various stages of the experience of some refugees, including a family's escape and separation, finding temporary shelter, the decision to leave their country, crossing a border, setting up in a refugee camp, meeting the local population and repatriation.
Daysa tailored the resource for young people in grades 6-12, setting up various experiences including crossing a border, experiencing language barriers and looking for a place to live. One setup involved an illegal border crossing that placed youths in a dark room with fog machines as adults with flashlights waited to catch anyone who crossed.
Adults were also told to make it difficult for youths to pass the process needed to enter the country, giving them forms written in gibberish to represent language difficulties and legal jargon challenges refugees often face.
Daysa said most of the participants "were really feeling the frustrations that can come from this scenario.
A debriefing allowed youth to think about the challenges face by refugees, with some offering suggestion for help, such as helping them find housing, and fill out job applications, among others.
She also remarked on youths' experience with participants from other churches.
"They realized that even though we might worship a little differently and do things a little differently we can all be really passionate about social justice issues and work together," she said.