Honoring the United Nations World Refugee Day

Volunteers from around the world will collaborate to raise awareness of the struggle of seeking refuge and the power of giving refuge. The project includes a “chalkboard conversation” experience to raise awareness, a dialogue session to go deeper, and online sharing to create a “virtual quilt” in honor of those seeking and giving refuge today. Sign up to lead a group in your community!


While the global crisis of refugees is a geopolitical issue: We all have times where we are seeking refuge from the “storms of life.” At the same time, we all have the power to give refuge — to create a place of physical and emotional safety where we can nourish one another. To create a space to support and care for fellow humans.

Create a Group to Learn and Share

In the weeks before and after the United Nations World Refugee Day, June 20, 2016, volunteers will bring together groups to learn about giving and seeking refuge. Groups can include people of all ages – children, youth, and adults – and could be any size. A family can do this together, or a workplace team, or a group formerly-known-as-strangers can come together.

The first stage is a community action for raising awareness. Teams will set up a chalkboard conversation where people in your community can express their feelings about giving and seeking refuge. The comments people write will be photographed and shared online.


The next stage is a free workshop where participants will unlock the power of emotional intelligence to support one another to be more effective in giving and seeking refuge. They’ll create a “quilt square” synthesizing what they learned.

The final stage is to go from neurons to neighborhoods: we will map the journey of seeking and giving refuge and resources in our communities supporting those who are displaced. Together we will create an “virtual online quilt” of this shared human experience — in honor of all the people today seeking and giving refuge.

We All Seek Refugerefuge-definition

While we might not be fleeing war ourselves: Many of us have been displaced. Many of us have families who have been refugees, seeking freedom from violence, fear, oppression, or privation. Many of us are, at times in our lives, refugees. People of all ages sometimes feel isolated and alone. What do people need when they are uprooted, disconnected, fleeing, impoverished, invisible, stuck in between?

Stunningly human, beautiful moments occur when the need and strength come together — when people who are ready to give refuge, and people who are seeking refuge, unite to create something new.

The Seeking Refuge campaign is about the shared human experience of displacement and acceptance. Together we will explore big questions, such as:

  • What can each of us give to support to one another?
  • What do we do when we feel like we don’t fit in?
  • Who has stood up for you?
  • What does it take to stand up for others?
  • What does it take to stand up as someone who chooses civil society?
  • Where are the opportunities in our own communities to support a world where more people can find the refuge they need? In order to do so, what capabilities do you have now, and what capabilities do you choose to develop?  

Sign Up

Anyone is invited to join or form a Seeking Refuge team to participate in the campaign. As a volunteer facilitator (or co-facilitator team), you will bring together a group… from three people around your kitchen table… to thirty in an office… to three hundred in a community hall.

You can choose for your group to do the Chalkboard Conversation exercise, or the Seeking Refuge Dialogue (workshop), or both. The project is designed for flexibility, so you can adapt to the needs of your community.

Sign up!

A resource kit will be provided, and free virtual/online training will be available in May and June to support you to plan and run your event(s).

We are pleased to share that #MeWeSyria, a Syrian youth storytelling initiative of Ashoka’s Youth Venture, is a partner in this campaign.  From #MeWeSyria, young Syrians in Jordan and Turkey are sharing with ‘Seeking Refuge’ and ‘6Seconds’ the stories, quotes and short videos they have written, directed and produced. By sharing and interacting with their content, you, your community and young Syrians will be able to participate in the dialogue together. The videos shared by #MeWeSyria are available in the Facilitators’ Kit for Seeking Refuge, available by filling out the application here.

We encourage you and your participants to share their learning on social media using #SeekingRefuge, and by tagging with #MeWeSyria, youth in refugee camps in the Ashoka Youth Venture will be able to see and respond to this “virtual online quilt.”

The United Nations World Refugee Day

Seeking Refuge is a way to participate in the United Nations World Refugee Day.  As UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said,

“Refugees are people like anyone else, like you and me. They led ordinary lives before becoming displaced, and their biggest dream is to be able to live normally again. On this World Refugee Day, let us recall our common humanity, celebrate tolerance and diversity and open our hearts to refugees everywhere.”

Seeking Refuge is an opportunity for us to recognize that shared humanity, and to practice the skills that let us open our hearts to one another.

Sign up to facilitate Seeking Refuge in your community.

Thank you to Susan Stillman and the 20 members of the Seeking Refuge Planning Committee who designed this event, and coauthored this introduction.


Share these photocards from #MeWeSyria




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Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.
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