“International humanitarian law.” These words did not hold much weight with me before I joined the Red Cross club at my university in Valparaiso, Indiana. Since becoming a member, though, I have acquired a wealth of knowledge concerning these three very important words, and it has changed the way in which I see the world and people in it. Through the different activities and research methods that we used to understand this extensive topic, my IHL Action Campaign team members and I acquired the ability to think outside of our own lives and truly understand what others may be going through on a daily basis.
My favorite experience, and certainly the most interesting, had to be our Refugee Simulation Camp that we set up the university’s community room. Months of research, preparation, and teamwork went into building this display; however, once it was finished, more than half of everyone heading to the library curiously stopped to marvel at our work and each of us were truly proud to be part of such a team. Every student who took a tour through our Refugee Simulation Camp was truly invested in the material. They showed emotion for the cause, and with every new person, we found ourselves appreciating what we had done to spread the word of IHL.
When we began designing the camp, and researching the different areas that we would each represent, such as water, family, education, food, and sanitation, it all seemed like words on paper with no weight. How were we to accomplish such a grand idea? It seemed like an impossible task to take all of this new material and turn it into a living example of a refugee camp. However, as the semester went on and we continued meeting, our ideas started to become a reality.
The day before the simulation was exciting. Seeing the community room, a large room normally filled with tables and chairs, completely barren was like giving a blank canvas and paint to children. On this day, we began constructing. With small amounts of PVC, duct tape, and tarp, we started to form miniature examples of the living conditions one can expect to find in a refugee camp.
On opening day, all of our research was put to the test as other team members were tasked with manning their stations and giving speeches with examples. The information we had studied and learned so diligently over the past few months was presented flawlessly, and all of the hours we put into making this IHL Action Campaign a success was worth every unsure moment just to see people truly engaged about such an important subject. We reached 312 people in total (10% of the student body) in one day, and we can only imagine what we could do if given the opportunity to hold the Campaign again. It was an amazing experience and I am so honored that I was able to be a part of it.
Guest blogger: Mary C.
*The purpose of the IHL Action Campaign is for young people to teach their peers about the importance of IHL, as well as issues related to gender, refugees, and humanitarianism.