contributed by Katherine Jones
Countdown to Compassion: Bringing the Refugee Virtual Reality Experience to Your Church
A Child Ambassador’s primary focus is to connect sponsors with children. In the last year, however, as the refugee crisis has escalated, we’ve also embraced the opportunity to invite people to become “refugee responders.” Unlike with the sponsorship program, responders do not support a specific child or family; instead, their monthly donation of $29-$49 is dispersed among established camps where World Vision has a presence, mainly in the Middle East and Africa. As with child sponsorship, these funds provide clean water, latrines, food, health care, and—especially vital for refugee children—kid-friendly spaces.
While connecting sponsors to children is rarely easy, the political and social complexity of the refugee situation adds layers of challenge to our work of engaging response. Aside from not understanding why so many refugees exist, there’s often also a gap in understanding why they need our help.
Surviving Syria helps to bridge that gap in vivid, compelling detail.
Surviving Syria is a 360-degree, virtual reality, short film about a young boy named Ali and his family. Using state-of-the-art Oculus goggles, participants are immersed into the life of a real boy and his family, and thus into the sights and sounds of an actual refugee camp. The sensory experience helps people walk a short mile in Ali’s shoes, bringing his reality closer to home. It transforms abstract knowledge into concrete understanding.
World Vision is eager to enable you to bring this powerful tool to the people of your home church. World Vision handles shipping, volunteers, and oversight of the exhibit, allowing you to mobilize volunteers who share your passion for doing a world of good.
Interested making it happen? I invite you to learn from my experience as I brought VR to my church in Kent, Washington last month. Here, I’ve provided a checklist along with notes from my experience.
3-4 months out
One thing to note: VR does require a large amount of space, so you’ll want to check and double-check that you have the necessary physical capacity. To maximize participant flow, a large square-ish space works best, though WV will do their best to make less optimal floorplans work as well.
2 months out
2 weeks to go
Set up was easy. Kristen is a veteran VR organizer and knew exactly what to do. We had to simply follow orders. Our team of about six church volunteers, plus Kristen, assembled the exhibit in about 90 minutes.
Exhibit assembly included putting together the backdrops, stools and cordons. I set up my tri-fold and table, and I also helped get all the phones charging (which are attached to the Oculus goggles) and prepped for use.
We had twenty viewing stations available. At our peak, all were in use, with a line of people waiting their turns. Everyone I talked with afterwards appreciated the experience. The most common responses were, “I didn’t know” and “Thank you for bringing this here.”
A few people were reluctant to participate until I explained that while the film is provocative, it’s not traumatic. A very few declined to do it altogether. About half the people who showed up for church that Sunday participated in the exhibit, and about 1 in 15 of these made a donation.
I made a note to myself to follow up with the church in a week’s time to remind people who took a responder card without turning it back in to mail their cards to WV.
I also reported to the church the numbers collected by WV (attendees and donations) so that our church could celebrate their generosity and the power of doing good.
Greater Together is a collaborative blog written by volunteer child ambassadors for World Vision.