Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard the phrase “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes.”  It was one of the most common expressions my parents used when I was growing up as they tried to get me to look at a situation from a different point of view.

A lot of people do think if you could just put yourself in someone else’s shoes for a moment, perhaps you would understand why life is not as easy as you seem to think.

But what about the lives of people in protracted refugee crises across the world? How simple is it for someone who has never been touched by this type of devastation and violence to actually imagine what life is like? Let’s try.

Would you be able to imagine what life as a refugee would look like? Can you imagine the challenges and daily struggles you would face?

Perhaps I’m naive, but I don’t think it is easy for everyone to comprehend the changes imposed on someone’s life once they’ve become displaced.  Luckily there are tools that can create a capacity to understand what another person is experiencing. Film has proven to be one of the most effective methods to create a sense of empathy and compassion.

Another powerful tool to help an audience understand a situation is to re-frame it in a familiar context.  By shifting the debate away from refugee statistics and refocusing on the attitudes of those who may not be sure who refugees even are, one can create connections through common experiences and increase understanding.

The videos below all have one aim: to raise awareness for the refugee cause with a new perspective.

They will force you to imagine what the Syria Crisis would look like in New York City or London, to see what a year of conflict could do to a child, but most importantly to recognize refugees as ordinary people.

I guarantee you will see the current refugee crisis through a different lens after watching these videos.  So unlace your shoes and go ahead and step into their world.


1. Most Shocking Second Day Video

This campaign was modeled off of the popular “one second per day” format, where people chronicle a year of their lives or their children’s through one-second clips. You see her life transform over a year of conflict, with the ad concluding with the sentence, “Just because it isn’t happening here doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.”

The video, created by Save the Children and Don’t Panic London, has nearly 50 million views. The collaboration reframes the Syria Crisis in a Western context and aims to remind people that the violence in Syria is still very real. Don’t Panic said, “Our solution was to tell a story that would bring the realities of Syria home, and to do it we combined the one-second-a-day and photo time-lapse formats to create a new way of showing an ordinary girl’s world falling apart in just a year.”

2. What if Manhattan…

What if Manhattan were Syria? The Hamdi Foundation, a charity operating in conjunction with UNHCR,  released a powerful video on regarding the plight of Syria’s millions of refugees. It depicts New York City’s usually bustling borough of Manhattan as a desolate, abandoned ruin — its crosswalk signals winking at no one, its subway cars empty of passengers.

“If the 1.5 million people living in Manhattan fled their homes,” a caption in the video reads, “the world would notice.”

3. Would you give your jacket to Johannes?

The Norwegian nonprofit SOS Children’s Villages set up a candid-camera featuring a young boy, without a coat, freezing at a local bus stop. Most people stopped to help the young boy, offering their own coats and scarves, asking if he needed help and sitting with him to make sure he was safe.

The ad ends with the question “Are you a person who would act when you see someone who needs help?” and a plea to send aid to Syrian children.

4. So You Think You Can Stay Reality Show

So You Think You Can Stay is a parody of the worldwide well known TV show So You Think You Can Dance. The Norwegian Organization for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) wanted to raise awareness about asylum seekers that are often rejected for the same reasons as shown in the campaign. The contestants in the campaign are fictitious people, but their stories are based on real asylum cases taken on by NOAS.

“We want to show the stories of some of those who fled to Norway in our talent show. We will present people like Amir, who based on our experience, should be granted residence permit in Norway, but nevertheless has had his asylum application refused,” says Mari Seilskjær, advisor in NOAS.

5. See refugees through new eyes

This haunting video was part of an innovative anti-xenophobia campaign which encourages Bulgarians to “see refugees through new eyes.” The powerful slogan and ad attempts to make an emotional connection with the viewer and urges them to look at refugees through a different lens.

“The idea for this campaign, the most ambitious we have ever launched here, is to encourage people to see refugees for who they are – regular people who have fled horrific violence and persecution,” says Roland-François Weil, UNHCR’s representative in Bulgaria.

6. “Refugees are scum” Social Experiment

This social experiment that took place in Australia begins with a man wearing a sign that reads “refugees are scum.” This incites angry reactions from locals and one pedestrian even rips the sign off of the demonstrator.

But what are the reactions from the public when he switches his placard to say: “Help the refugees?” Watch the video to find out.

The video was created to launch Act for Peace’s fundraising appeal for the Ration Challenge. You can learn more about the Ration Challenge and Act for Peace here.

7. Clouds Over Sidra: A Virtual Reality Experience


This one will require a little more effort on your part, but it’s definitely the most powerful video on this list.

Clouds over Sidra is an immersive experience that was created for the United Nations using the Samsung Gear Virtual Reality 360-degree platform. In this 8 minute groundbreaking film, a young Syrian refugee girl takes you on a virtual reality journey through the Za’atari camp in Jordan.

To get the full experience you’ll have to download the app VRSE for your smartphone in addition to viewing it through a VR viewer, for example like the 10$ cardboard one Google has designed. The video goes outside delivering traditional facts and provides the viewers with a unique journey to understanding what life is like in a refugee camp.

“The idea is to help generate empathy toward the 3.5 million Syrian refugees living outside Syria,” producer Socrates Kakoulides said.

These videos are just some of the numerous campaigns trying to spread awareness for the refugee cause. Did we miss any of your favorites? Tell us in the comments below.


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