Refugee “Journeys” on Display at the Met

On November 4, 2017, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City hosted a special program called “World Culture Festivals: Journeys” featuring over 18 performances, storytelling, interactive gallery activities, and artist-led workshops. The event was for young families to celebrate their own journeys and explore how people on the move have shaped the world.

In partnership with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) put together a hands-on exhibit called “The Refugee Journey.” The exhibit included virtual reality technology, a full-size refugee tent, biographies of famous refugees, and other interactive activities. UNA-USA was able to educate over 360 young families about the realities of the refugee crisis, the refugee journey, and what they can do to help. People of all ages walked away from the exhibit feeling empowered with greater knowledge and inspired to take action.

Some of the most popular attractions were the three virtual reality experiences that showcased different refugee experiences. The first film was Clouds Over Sidra. Filmed in December 2014 in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, home to 130,000 Syrians fleeing violence and war, the film features Sidra, a young girl who has lived in the Camp since the summer of 2013 and wants to return home. Children make up half of the camp’s population. The second film was Under the Net, featuring an 11-year old girl named Amisa, a refugee living in the Nyarugusu Refugee Camp in Tanzania with her mother and six siblings. Struggling to survive each day, with no protection from mosquitoes that carry malaria at night, viewers experiences Amisa’s life through her eyes. Hope abounds as her family moves into a new home, gets treatment for malaria, and she and her siblings prepare to start school in the fall – none of which is possible without the life-saving protection of bed nets. The third film was Sea Prayer, written by UNHCR goodwill ambassador and author Khaled Hosseini. It tells the story of a father and a son, on the eve of their sea crossing to Europe. They are being forced to leave the devastated war zone that is the city of Homs, where the father few up. It is written from the perspective of the father, narrated by Bafta-winning actor Adeel Akhtar, and meditates on the dangerous sea crossing that lies ahead.

The exhibit also featured biographies of famous refugees, an opportunity to test one’s knowledge on the refugee crisis, a “Your Phone is Now a Refugee’s Phone” experience, and coloring activities for children were available. There was also an opportunity to learn more about UNA-USA’s Adopt-A-Future initiative, a program that raises funds to support refugee education and build schools in two UNHCR camps in Kenya, Dadaab and Kakuma.

To bring this effort to your community, consider using these interactive videos and activities for your next event, partnering with a local art museum to showcases the journey of refugees, or hosting an Adopt-A-Future fundraiser at your school to support education for refugee children.