The program was created as an attempt to provide education and awareness toward the plight of refugees to the greater Catholic Community. One way to do this is through school system program days, while inviting parents of students to “work the camp” as staff. The Archdiocesan School Office is the main partner in this project as the value of recognizing a small bit of what refugees go through is expressed to both students, faculty, and parent (sometimes grandparent) volunteers.

Facilitators of the program will help participants to understand that they can imagine, but not truly know, the depths of suffering and experiences that refugees live each day in the world. Successful participation requires learners to role-play. In doing so, a temporary reality is created by stepping into the shoes of another. It is essential that the plight of the refugee be presented as an ongoing reality that immediately impacts lives, classrooms, parishes, and neighborhoods. Refugees live amongst us now. Catholic Charities has also published a Refugee Camp Simulation Guide, Seeking Refuge: Forced to Flee, which allows for replication in other reveving communities. Students participating in the refugee camp immersion project walk through a simulated camp, station to station to get an idea of what life in a refugee camp is like. The simulation project is intended to raise awareness for the refugee cause and recruit future donors and volunteers.

At least one refugee resettled by Catholic Charities works the “education” station of the camp program, informing the “family groups” about terminology in their respective languages. The family groups must be familiar with these terms as part of their requirement to be released from the camp at the UNHCR desk. Students, volunteers, and teachers often have palpable reactions when the refugee participant shares his or her journey with them. They leave the event with an entirely new understanding of the experiences and resilience of refugees.


Seeking Refuge: Forced to Flee – A Refugee Camp Simulation Mark Bouchard [email protected]
Louisville, KY


Catholic Charities of Louisville’s Seeking Refuge: Forced to Flee, is a participatory simulation in which learners gain insight into the challenges associated with seeking refuge in a refugee camp. Participants engage in an experiential process that also fosters a sense of humility, grace-filled charity, and solidarity. The agency is affiliated with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Migration and Refugee Services department.

For Fiscal Years 2009-2016:

  • Refugee camp simulation guide distributed to 48 different sites across the U.S. and Canada.
  • 4,400 students and community members have participated in 87 camps.
  • Catholic Charities of Louisville has seen an increase of 6% in donations.
  • The percentage of agency volunteers involved with refugee resettlement increased by 4%.