Six Region I members – four veterans from three branches of service and two awesome civilians – had the opportunity to participate in Harvard University’s Humanitarian Simulation this past weekend in the roles of educators and learners.
Recognized as one of the only comprehensive and reality-based humanitarian simulations of its kind globally, TR members were afforded the unique opportunity to not only get experience responding to an international humanitarian crisis, but also learn how to translate their own skills and experiences to disaster response.
120 Harvard graduate students camped out in Harold State Forest for three days and were forced to respond to a simulated massive refugee crisis complete with diseases, severe malnutrition, child soldiers and a host of other intense and insecure situations. Students were tasked with rapidly making decisions with limited information in an austere, stressful and dynamic environment where, in real life, mistakes can cost lives.
To assist in simulation, Team Rubicon members took on multiple roles. Army veteran Rick Lawson and Rachel Laquidarar played landmine victims, teaching the students the importance of triage in mass casualty situations and the challenges of communicating when victims speak different languages. Rick Treiss, an Army veteran from New Hampshire, used his WASH background and experience in Nepal on Operation Tenzing to instruct students how to set up community latrines that would help curb the spread of a deadly cholera outbreak.
Marine veteran Loretta Charles, from Vermont, played the role of the annoying tourist/volunteer traversing through all the simulations to show students how to deal diplomatically with difficult people and build unexpected partnerships. Loretta observed, “This exercise is the humanitarian world’s boot camp, if you will. Often for the first time, participants are thrown into situation that makes them uncomfortable with people that they don’t know. They are forced to gather and deliver information in a constantly changing and unstable situation. While these skills may already be in the tool box of TR members with military or emergency backgrounds, it is valuable to see how these skills can be adapted for utilization in humanitarian crises.”
Ashley Robshaw played the role of a refugee and taught students the importance of demonstrating empathy and making human connections when interviewing people in crisis. She reflected, “So much of this weekend was about how to talk to people in crisis, how to make a human connection, and how to demonstrate empathy in an effective way to those we’re trying to serve. It’s not the kind of lesson you often get to experience until you’ve already made a mistake, and to have a safe space to practice these interactions and learn from them before going out to use them in the real world was an invaluable experience.”