Life in a refugee camp is something that most U.S. high school teenagers don’t think about: It’s too remote and too abstract of a concept. But that’s not the case for students at Dominion High School in Sterling, Virginia.
As part of the Loudoun International Youth Leadership Summit, teacher Jennifer Rodgers incorporated the American Red Cross’ Exploring Humanitarian Law program module on refugee camps to get her students thinking about global issues. This program provides educators easy-to-use materials to expose students to issues of international humanitarian law—the rules that govern war.
The Summit, held for ten days in April, hosted students from China, Germany, Lebanon, Singapore, South Africa, and South Korea as well as a delegation from Costa Rica. A collaborative effort by the entire community, including numerous student clubs and classes, the Summit focused on the theme of “Defining Freedom, Defending Dignity.”
The students designed a refugee camp and then discussed their decisions with other students. The international students, some of whom had experience refugee camps, had described the importance of maintaining dignity, gender considerations, and providing resources such as schools, shelter and food distribution.
When one student suggested that there needed to be separate sleeping areas for men and women, a student from Lebanon—where nearly half a million Syrian refugees have fled since the beginning of the conflict—had a different perspective. Muslim women and children need to be chaperoned by men, he said. To have them separate would be against cultural standards. Another student mentioned the importance of keeping ethnic and tribal groups close together so they would feel some familiarities of home.
In addition to providing a more global context to students, the Summit also offered the opportunity to learn from each other.
“I was surprised at how much I learned about America,” said Donjae Lee, a student from Korea. “And how other students got to learn about my country. In such a global world, learning about each other and how we can work together is so important.”
For more information on the American Red Cross’ Exploring Humanitarian Law program, visit http://ehl.redcross.org.