Life as a Refugee
This lesson provides students with insight into the reasons why people flee their homes and what nonprofits and individuals do to support these vulnerable people and help them rebuild their lives. Through video and research, students gain the opportunity to imagine the life of a refugee, his/her struggles, emotions, and triumphs, and to understand the role UNHCR plays in protecting and assisting refugees worldwide.
The learner will:
- define refugee as someone who has been forced to flee his or her country.
- analyze a multi-media presentation through note-taking and discussion.
- relate the work of civil society organizations to human rights and the First Amendment.
- Internet access
- access to the UNHCR video A World in Crisis
- student copies of Handout One: Viewing and Research Guide
- Extension: "Refugee Voices" resourcesaccessed through UNHCR
- internally displaced person (IDP): someone who has been forced to flee his or her home for the same reason as a refugee, but remains in his or her own country and has not crossed an international border. Unlike refugees, IDPs are not protected by international law or eligible to receive many types of aid
- refugee: someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group; a refugee either cannot return home or is afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
- stateless person: someone who is not a citizen of any country. Citizenship allows for certain political, economic, social and other rights of the individual, as well as the responsibilities of both government and citizen.
- UNHCR: the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; office established in 1950 to protect the human rights of refugees and provide for their assistance through legal, social, economic aid
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled
Have the students respond in small group discussion to the following statement: "In the First Amendment, we are guaranteed certain rights. Would you be willing to give up some of your rights in order to keep your home? Why or why not?"
First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Write the word refugee on the board or on a large piece of chart paper. Ask students to brainstorm words, phrases, or images that come to mind immediately when they hear the word, and write these in a web around the word. Responses may include concrete situations like war as well as more abstract concepts like fear. Try to gather at least 10-15 words/phrases.
Explain to students that they will be watching a short video about the UN Refugee Agency that will provide more information about the world’s refugees and what UNHCR does to help them.
Depending on the prior knowledge of your students, you may briefly discuss the purpose and mission of the United Nations. See the UN website for more information.
Distribute Handout One: Viewing and Research Guide and go over the instructions.
Show the video "A World in Crisis" or another UNHCR video. Students may take notes during the showing.
After students have watched the video, researched on the UNHCR website, and filled in the Viewing Guide, go back to the refugee word web. Ask students to add words/phrases based on the knowledge and understanding that they gained from the video.
Ask the students what the work of UNHCR has to do with human rights and the First Amendment. The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads,“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Ask, "Whose responsibility is it to protect refugees' rights?" Discuss how students feel about helping refugees.
Students’ skills and knowledge should be evaluated based on engagement in and contributions to discussion, as well as accuracy of answers on the Viewing Guide.
Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
Benchmark HS.5 Describe civil society advocacy organizations and their relationship to human rights.
Benchmark HS.6 Describe nonprofit advocacy organizations and their relationship to first amendment rights.