New App Lets User 'Walk A Mile In A Refugee's Shoes'

Developers hope that the refugee plight is better understood once users are able to experience firsthand what migrants fleeing war feel on a daily basis.



We are often sidetracked by hate. As stories of racism and prejudice continue to flood the news all around the globe, we frequently forget about the good stories that happen daily. 

With the goal of making people more sympathetic to the plight of those escaping war and misery, the United Nations has helped to launch a new smartphone app that gives the user the opportunity to “walk a mile in a refugee's shoes.” By helping common people to experience life as a refugee, the app should help us see the importance of putting people over politics. 

The “Finding Home” app works by simulating the daily struggles of a fictional character named Kathijah who's also a Rohingya Muslim. As she is forced to flee her home, the user is able to see — and feel — just how terribly tragic her daily experiences can be. The user takes over her phone, having access to her images, answering her calls, and reading over her texts. In at least one scenario, the user receives a message from Kathijah's brother, Ishak, who still lives in Myanmar.

“Kat, r u safe?” the message reads. “It was a raid, they found us. Had to run.”

Developed by advertising firm Grey Malaysia, the app follows the life of the fictional 16-year-old who fled her home in Myanmar due to the persecution her people suffer. The app's main character has one goal: To make a new life for herself in Malaysia.

According to the UNHCR representative in Malaysia, Richard Towles, the goal is to help others sympathize with the struggles refugees are experiencing daily.

“The refugee story is often a deeply personal one and difficult for people to understand,” he said. “We hope that this application will allow a viewer to walk a mile in a refugee's shoes in order to understand what they go through every day in order to find safety.”

In Malaysia, there are over 150,000 asylum seekers and refugees hoping to make a new life away from war. That's one of the highest numbers in the entire Asian continent, the UNHCR reports. At least a third of them are ethnic Rohingya Muslims. According to the U.N., they are among the world's most persecuted minorities. In Myanmar, they are denied citizenship and are often chased off their land whenever communal outbreaks of violence occur.

But the refugee crisis is not only present in the Asian world, as countless individuals have been forced to look elsewhere for shelter and peace.

With many facing unimaginable abuse in Europe, it's safe to say many in the Western world could use this and any other other effort that helps the public become more familiar with migrants and their backgrounds. There's a lot we still have to do to look at refugees with kinder eyes.

“The refugee crisis is everywhere, yet we are inevitably desensitized to it as it has been going on so long,” Grey's Creative Director Graham Drew said.

Hopefully, this app will help to give people across the globe a better idea of how terrifying the life of a person can be when all they know is war. Hopefully it will help others truly understand that all refugees are after is peace, anywhere that will take them. 

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters

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