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Refugee Simulation for Sophomore Students at Saint Joseph Academy

 

 

In March, we were lucky to bring four students from our school to the LaValla Weekend in Esopus. It was an eye-opening experience for all of the students involved, and all of the adults accompanying them.

As a school, our main focus throughout this year has been on the Marist Day of Service. Because the Day of Service took the place of a service retreat for our sophomore students, we decided to change things up and do something different for their retreat day. On April 11th, we decided that we could try to replicate the simulation experience we had in Esopus, but under a different climate environment (i.e. no snow in Texas).

Before the simulation, we were lucky to welcome Sr. Norma Pimentel who shared her experiences from working at the refugee center in McAllen with Tomas O’Riordan. The CTM class led the simulation for the sophomores for the remainder of the day.

It was a powerful experience, even for some of our teachers who were helping out on that day.

We are thankful to the Brothers and the whole simulation team for having exposed us to the refugee situation in such a powerful way so that we could pass it along to our students.

Written By: Celeste Solis '91, Director of Admissions

 

 

Faculty Reflection:

 

The day started with prayer and I was here to fulfill my duty to the event. I did not realize that 3 minutes into the first activity, I'd be fighting back tears, but God has a way of speaking to us and showing us what He desires as He transforms us more into His image. I suppose that I still need a great deal of work.

Earlier in the semester, the upperclassmen wrote of time away spent in worship and prayer. I thought the tenth grade retreat would be one of those Holy-Spirit-filled youth services where everyone walked away cried-out and washed clean.

The Sophomore Retreat, however, would be a "refugee simulation."

"Why," I wondered?

Then in the first few minutes, God visited an indifference in my heart and gave me a picture of chaos--chaos that wasn't centered around my little world at all. And He all at once answered the "why" inside of me.

It was big.

Students wore bandanas to represent families. My group was red, a Middle Eastern group from a war-torn village that was under attack.

Blindfolded, they were separated from one another and walked to different areas of a big gymnasium. Suddenly, and without warning, sirens sounded, and students were instructed to find those that mean the most to them in the world: their family members.

Students stayed in character. The disabled and young could not walk; they were at the mercy of terrified villagers. Some never found their littles and their infirm, but the siren did not stop. People of all ages called out frantically for their loved ones. They were panicked, confused, blinded by smoke -- and I wanted to find a place to hide.

I wanted to be alone to cry my heart out or deflect all of my emotion and do something else--paperwork. But God said, "No." There was sad music to face.

I was suddenly dropped into that chaotic Syrian scene that we all witnessed in the news last week. I didn't see my students, but hurting people that live with a sort of horror that I have never known. Shortly after came the realization that being thankful that their situation is not mine is not enough. I can't just feel blessed without knowing the antithesis of the blessing I live.

It means more than that.

God has given me retreat today from my routine to see a bigger picture--His.

I am cried out and I suspect He will be washing me clean from some junk inside of me that needs to go.

Today was a change from the usual and I learned something new -- a different perspective on my journey. The sophomore retreat, I must admit, was not sophomoric in the least.

Written by: Ruth Poole, Teacher at St. Joseph Academy

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