ACTIVITY 16: Packing Your Suitcase


Overview: Simulates the emotional and practical decisions a refugee must face and their unforeseen consequences.

Time: About 10 minutes.

Materials: None.


1. Read/explain this scenario:

You are a teacher in ___. Your partner disappears and is later found murdered. Your name appears in a newspaper article listing suspected subversives. Later you receive a letter threatening your life for your alleged political activity. You decide you must flee. PACK YOUR BAG: you can only take five categories of things and only what you can carry. List what you would take."

2. After a few minutes, call on participants to read their lists aloud. For every list (usually 95%) that does not include the newspaper article or the threatening letter, say, "Asylum denied!"

3. Read the legal definition of a refugee. Discuss how this definition is applied in real life and why most participants were denied "asylum" because they had no proof of well-founded fear of persecution to qualify for refugee status.

4. Discuss making decisions under pressure, reasons for personal choices, emotions evoked by the decision-making process. Conclude by explaining the purpose of this activity.

Source: David Donahue and Nancy Flowers, The Uprooted: Refugees and the United States (Alameda, CA: Hunter House Publishers, 1995) 24.