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Understand the life of disadvantaged and dispossessed by living them – for 60 minutes

Reporter: Liz Yuen

What does Christmas mean to you? Perhaps it is having Christmas dinner with family members? Gathering with friends in your warm and cosy home? Going to Midnight Mass? You have the freedom to enjoy any of these rituals, but for refugees every day—even Christmas Day—can be a struggle to get through. For those in refugee camps, Christmas Day is just another day of hardship and suffering. Guarded by soldiers 24-7, they may have to mind every single word and action.

Living in a safe and affluent society like Hong Kong, it may be hard to imagine the lives of refugees. At Crossroads, you can get some firsthand experience by joining a simulation called “Refugee Run”.

Crossroads is a non-profit organisation which delivers quality excess goods collected in Hong Kong to poverty-stricken or disaster-stricken areas. It also organises simulations to make people aware of critical global issues.
Chan Nok Ka, a second year student from the Chinese University of Hong Kong participated in Refugee Run earlier this year.

Chan says it has made her more aware of wider issues. ”You wouldn’t otherwise think about what the solutions might be for these problems,” she says. People of all ages can join in the simulation and come up with ideas to help the displaced, she adds.

Apart from Refugee Run, Crossroads also stages Global X-perience simulations on a range of issues from HIV/AIDS to blindness.

These simulations can last from an hour to a couple of days. Most people choose to undergo a 60-minute experience but even this is enough to make a strong impact on participants.

Chan King-lok, who worked as an intern at Crossroads last year, describes one of the 60-minute X-periences as “a real eye-opener”.

It was set in the Indian city of Mumbai and participants experienced the lives of poor families who scrape by on the meagre income earned from making paper bags. “We were divided into groups of four and were given an unreasonably short time limit to meet the target [for making paper bags],” says Chan. “Since failing to meet the target means losing someone in your group, everyone worked really hard and some even snatched the finished paper bags from other groups.”

But when the allotted time was up, the person acting the role of the superior tore up all the paper bags the participants had given to him. “I was on the verge of tears when I saw that!” Chan recalls, adding that he felt for the first time how helpless the lives of others could be.

Chan says Crossroads managed to successfully create a tense atmosphere that made a lasting impact on the participants.

Christmas is not just a season for eating, drinking and making merry. It is also a time to share our love and care. This Christmas why not let Crossroads give you the gift of insight into and empathy for the plight of others from around the world? This Christmas, let us cherish what we have.