We started this project to learn about the millions of refugees emigrating from war torn Syria to countries in the EU and border countries of Syria. The secondary goal of this project was to inform other people about the details of the crisis. What we were hoping to achieve with this project was to learn the details of why so many people are leaving Syria, while also informing other people about the topic. When we were first brainstorming how to present our information the class was torn between a play or a traditional exhibition. After pouring over our options we decided that a simulation was the best way to go in presenting our research.
We first started our research by finding out about the lives of refugees and who they were before they were forced to leave. We split up into groups of four and researched a refugees journey and tried our best to trace it onto the map. These refugee research assignments helped a lot when coming up with stations for the final simulation.
All of the individual refugees journey's
This handout was very helpful in figuring out what we should do with our station and how to make it entertaining, but also realistic. Its also the handout I'm most proud of for this project because everyone pulled their weight and worked hard to find information that was helpful to the station. This document helped us create our characters and determined their personalities. Researching this topic specifically made me realize the huge risk these people are taking just to get away from Syria. If the refugees are willing to go through this hell imagine how bad it was back in Syria.
This was the point in the project when we started to visualize what we wanted the station to look like, and how to represent what refugees are going through with realism. With this document I was able to provide a lot of research for my group and I so we could make our station accurate in its portrayal.
More specifically, we wanted to capture the feeling of helplessness, and being forced onto a boat heavily laden with people. One of my original ideas was to get a rope and tie it tight around a large group of people to represent the cramped conditions of the boat. Fortunately, this idea was kept till the final simulation. We were very limited in terms of what we could have the participants of the simulation endure, so we had to find more ethical ways to implement fear into the simulation. A couple days before exhibition I remembered an article that talked about the refugees having to navigate around rocky coasts to get to Greece, therefore I decided to setup a 'minefield' of sorts with small rocks. This proved to be challenging to pass through for the participants because they were very close together (which made it hard for them to move) and on top of that the rocks were also close together. The rules were that they had to follow the path of whoever chose to lead and they could only step around rocks with both feet. They couldn't touch the rocks at all, and they couldn't step over the rocks. Our simulation turned out to be quite difficult for the players and required a lot of communication between players which was really cool to see.
When it came to designing our station I brought a lot of ideas to the group that were used in the final simulation on exhibition night. It was my idea to tie a rope around the players to represent the boat, and to make a field of rocks that the players had to move through as a team. The rocks would represent the rocky Greek coast that refugees had to navigate. The rope was bound snug so the occupants of the rope (boat) had little room to move, this encouraged teamwork and communication to move as a group through the obstacles in their path. Seeing the participants work as a team and communicate to get through the obstacles was easily the most rewarding part of this project. According to our research and news stories that we watched, smugglers on the Turkish coast are ruthless and just looking to make a profit. They teach one of the refugees how to steer the boat and then they send the whole group on their way. We felt the best way to capture this was to be ruthless and greedy jerks. During play tests we routinely ripped people off, and the price of the boat changed with every group depending on how much money they had. My character was named Ferit, and was the youngest brother of a family owned fishing company that he ran with his two brothers Ferah (Peter), Ferut (Giancarlo), and a family friend named Yousef (Justin) who was out of a job and recovering from substance abuse. The hardest part about acting this character was not laughing as I got into fights with co-workers about pricing and how many refugees to let onto the boat at one time. As we play-tested we realized that it wasn't hard enough so we made appropriate changes such as moving the rocks closer together and implementing the rules mentioned previously.
The play-test was a success because we found out what needed to be done and we fixed a lot of things. We also realized that if this was going to work we'd have to communicate every single new idea or else group members wouldn't know what was going on and ruin the simulation. With the conclusion of the first play-test I came up with the idea that the refugees crossing should be grouped together to make it slower paced and more realistic. We remained undecided as to what role the coast guard should do because it was very hard to balance the position with how the sim played out. The single-station play-test was a disaster but we learned from our mistakes, we removed the coastguard role in our station because every refugee was being sent back because they got caught. I remember mid play-test I just realized that the role wasn't working so I stopped and moved the rocks closer together to make it challenging that way. The third play-test was a big step in the right direction because we used an area that was just narrow enough for the rocks to be close together which made the crossing very challenging. The rules weren't enforced for this play-test because we wanted to see how easy or hard it was going to be without them. In the next play-test we did everything came together and everyone was in character. We had monitors shadowing the crossing to catch the people that stepped over, touched, or didn't go around with both feet. It was just the right amount of challenge and the refugees had the option to pay extra for a life jacket that guaranteed a second life.
My Essay on the factions prevalent in the Syrian civil war
If I were to change anything about the project and simulation it would be more time to flesh out the process. A specific moment that stood out to me is when we figured out how our station was going to work with the supplies we had.