Beyond Empathy: From Caring to Action

I believe that one of the goals of teaching is not just to pass information. It is inspire or motivate students to become invested in local and global issues. The classroom can be a catalyst for organizing for positive change.

I will always remember the day that my high school French teacher introduced our class to a man who had survived the Rwandan genocide. For over an hour, he talked to our class about his story. A story of loss and escape. It was a day that impacted me profoundly. It infused a sense of empathy in me that I, and my classmates, may not have gained had we encountered the topic of the Rwandan genocide through a textbook or article later in life. While this empathy is important, I realize it is not enough.

While the refugee crisis and the individual stories of these millions of people are nuanced, with polarizing political responses and complicated solutions, educators can still play a role at a grassroots level. While it may be impossible to stop the cause of the crisis, we can help educate our community, try to increase inclusiveness within our classrooms, and work harder to understand the issues facing refugee students in the U.S.  We can start with inspiring action within our students, which I believe is absolutely necessary as this next U.S. Presidential administration takes power.

I look forward to attending CTAUN’s 18th annual conference, “Refugees: the 21st Century Challenge”, at the UN Headquarters on January 27th, which will provide a comprehensive overview of the issues and initiatives facing this crisis.

Below is the day’s schedule for the event.

You can RSVP here and follow CTAUN on Facebook here.

Opening Session – 10-11 a.m.

UN Welcome

Background & History – Bob Clark, Rockefeller Archive Center

United Nations – Ninette Kelley, UNHCR
Karen Koning AbuZayd, UN or Anne Wittenberg, UNFPA

Morning Panel — The Issues – 11-11:45 a.m.
Moderator – Rima Salah, UN High Level Panel on Peace Operations

Bill Frelick, Refugee Rights Program Director, Human Rights Watch

Emily Garin, UNICEF

Mark Harris, President Emeritus of ELS Educational Services and Berlitz

Isabella Saavedra, Immigration Lawyer

Spotlight – Maher Nasser, UN/DPI – 11:45-12 Noon

Awards – Excellence in Education and Poster Awards – 12-12:20 p.m.

Lunch & InfoFair – 12:20-2 p.m.

Student Refugee Group – 2-2:30 p.m.
Moderator – Ramu Damodaran, UNAI

Students from different countries

Afternoon Panel – Assistance & Solutions — 2:45-3:30 p.m.
Moderator – Joseph C. Donnelly, Caritas Internationalis

Shelly Callahan, Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, Utica

Chris George, IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), New Haven, CT

Ravi Gurumurthy, International Rescue Committee (IRC)

Closing – CTAUN Global Citizenship Award – Fernando Reimers, Harvard 3:30-4 p.m.

“Refugees: The 21st Century Challenge” CTAUN Conference

We are living in a world that has the most globally displaced people since Word War II. (UNHCR, 2015).

While governments and policymakers grapple with the refugee crisis, educators and refugees’ receiving communities also play a role in shaping their future.

With a generation of refugees deprived of their education, how can educators and individuals help alleviate this crisis? This will be one of the many questions explored at the Committee on Teaching About the United Nations (CTAUN)’s 18th annual conference, “Refugees: The 21st Century Challenge“, at the UN headquarters on January 27, 2017. Educators and community members interested in deepening their understanding of the refugee crisis, from current initiatives to hearing from refugees themselves, are encouraged to attend. You can RSVP here.

CTAUN, a non-profit whose mission is to increase students’ engagement with the global community by providing educators with resources to teach about UN-initiatives and activities, believes that education is a powerful tool for change. 

You can follow CTAUN on Facebook here: