Summer camp role play gives kids glimpse of refugee life
Summer camps increasingly popular in Finland
by Anna von Hertzen
Strange things are happening in the forest in Loppi. A bleeding soldier is lying on the side of the road, asking two young passers-by for help. The kids look at each other and wonder what they should do.
Soon two screaming child soldiers emerge from the bushes, forcing the youngsters to their knees. The child soldiers shout threats and kill the soldier who was asking for help. The kids are told to leave or else.
When the situation is over, an elderly man and woman pass by on their bicycles. They look at the child soldiers, but move on in silence. There is no need to call the police, because this was all just role play.
Summer camps for children and young people have been popular this summer.
For instance, the Saraste camp of the Scouts of the Helsinki region, as well as camps of the 4H organisation, and various sports camps have grown in popularity.
The Uusimaa Scout District has been holding the Huima 2012 scout camp in Loppi, with 2100 participants.
One of the activities at the camp is a role playing game organised together with volunteers of the Finnish Red Cross.
The idea of the one-day activity was to give the scouts a feel of what the life of a refugee has been like in the midst of a conflict. At the same time the participants learn about the rules of war.
Nearly 50 scouts joined the role play event. The participants, aged 15 to 17, did not know what to expect. The game began with a briefing, in which the kids were given their roles. One was to play the mother of a Somali family, one a grandfather, and the third the child.
Watches and mobile phones were taken away, and they were urged to eat a hearty lunch. Food – in the form of a small portion of rice with a few drops of oil, would not be available before the wee hours in a refugee camp.
In the game the participants are required to flee rebel fighters, queue for travel documents, and spend time in a jail.
Heavy walking, waiting, and hunger were too much for some. At about midnight there was a pause, when the director of the game asked if anyone wanted to stop.
The answers came in a flood of questions: “How long is this going to last?”, “Will we get more food?”, “When can we go to sleep?” Nine of them left the game.
On Friday morning Lauri Simola, 16, is exhausted as he jumps into a hammock. The role-playing game is over, he has slept only about two hours, and his legs feel like they are made of concrete. Simola is nevertheless pleased that he managed to complete the game, saying that it was a wonderful experience.
“The bullying and the hours of sitting in a jail were agitating. It is shocking to think that this kind of thing happens all the time around the world.”
The kids meet on Saturday to discuss the game with experts of the Finnish Red Cross. Also on hand is a Somali refugee to explain what it feels like when it isn’t just a game.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 4.8.2012
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