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Embracing film and video games to tell the stories of children refugees

February 12th, 2021
topic:Child rights
by:Bob Koigi
located in:Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan
tags:children, COVID-19, film, refugees, Video games

Sama, Nora and Pouya are migrant children from Egypt, Somalia and Afghanistan who live in Greece. Sama wants to become an author, Nora hopes to be a doctor and Pouya dreams of being a pilot. They share their dreams and aspirations and the obstacles they have faced in a film as part of a new campaign that seeks to address long-held misconceptions about refugees and migrant children.

Reimagine the world like a gamer is a new initiative being chaperoned by UNICEF that includes a short film and digital mini game that places migrant children at the heart of the interactive multimedia platforms by transforming them from refugees to heroes.

The idea is to get viewers and gaming enthusiasts to look beyond the vulnerabilities of migrant children and see them for the achievers that they are, while helping them realise their goals.

The film then simulates a video game where the children are the heroes with the audience being the game player.

The campaign is timely, as it seeks to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from escalating into a crisis that would have an impact on children and their future.

As the virus takes a toll on every facet of the society, depressed funding has seen children struggle to access vital services, including medical care and education. And as the healthcare system chokes from intense pressure, an extra 6,000 children are likely to die daily in the next six months if urgent interventions are not put in place, studies show.

The situation is particularly dire for refugee and migrant children who are exposed and vulnerable. The initiative is a clarion call to global citizens to rise in support of this demographic and assist them in their life journey.

“Games and gaming are an outlet for children and young people with otherwise limited integration and play options in a COVID world," Gary Stahl, UNICEF's Director of Private Fundraising and Partnerships, said in a statement. "Games can be a social equaliser, allowing children and adolescents of diverse backgrounds to focus on what makes them similar, rather than different. Games create a fun and comfortable environment to start learning acceptance.” 

For the longest time, ad campaigns and media messaging have focused on painting a picture of misery, desolation and vulnerability among the refugee community in an attempt to inspire empathy. But Reimagine the world like a gamer campaign is changing the narrative by using two of the most famous media to inspire the world to see refugees in a different perspective and support their journey.

Globally, an estimated 79.5 million people have fled their homes due to circumstances beyond their control, including war, drought and floods. This includes about 26 million refugees, half of whom are below the age of 18. Yet even as their stories carry despair and pain, they continue to surmount numerous odds to make a living in refugee camps and in countries they now call home.

From Kakuma, the largest camp in the world, Zaatari in Jordan and Panian in Pakistan, refugees and migrants have risen beyond their frustration to build business empires, invent novel innovations and pursue education. Children who have been keen to follow in their parents footsteps have braved tough conditions to pursue education and build a future for themselves.

Such tenacity continues to inspire global action and collaboration as the world celebrates the resilience of the refugee population. “Technology as an integral part of moving our society forward can be a powerful tool in not just transforming the world but in changing mindsets," said Dr. Moses Kwach, a sociologist. "Embracing tech to tell the resilience of the refugees and their aspirations is one of the most effective ways of appreciating their journey and a key tool of ensuring that the world leaves no one behind.” 

Image by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies

Article written by:
Bob Koigi
Bob Koigi
Author, Contributing Editor
Egypt Somalia Afghanistan
Guatemalan immigrant Marvin comforts his son Junior after a nurse drew blood for a COVID-19 antibody test at a clinic on May 5, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut.
© John Moore / Staff
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