Empathise! For humanity’s sake!

A moving photo from Humanity House.

What’s their story?

 The windows are blacked out and the radio is blaring. I’m
hiding. I walk through a door and jump, the loud bark of a dog jolting me in
surprise.  

I’m alone and following a trail left for me by Humanity House. A
yellow arrow on the floor guides me, twisting, turning and taking me on a
winding tour around a darkened building. Door after door presents different
scenes, starting with a suitcase packed in a hurry and dinner left cooling on
the table. I go on a journey, first leaving home, then trying to locate loved
ones until, finally, I arrive at border control, met by suspicious questions.

What’s it like to be a refugee? What’s it like to survive
a natural disaster or to escape conflict? This interactive experience, through
many sights and sounds, can help me not just think through but feel through what it might be like.             

The
border control office.

The scene in the missing persons office. Filing my details so I can find – and be
found by – others.

 

Globalising
empathy

It was on this trip to Humanity House with the Oxfam
Novib Academy that I started thinking about the role of empathy and social
change. I watch the news and read a paper, but what impact does this actually
have?  How does this make me feel? And what do I actually do about
the things I read?

Humanity House does something different. It helps us
think about global issues from a very human perspective.

Sadly, in the UK I sometimes think I’m more likely to
hear negative comments about refugees, ‘coming here…’, ‘taking our X, Y and Z…’,
rather than an actual reflection on the journey that led them here.

And this is where empathy comes in. Empathy is the ability to
understand and share the feelings of another, it is about stepping
into someone else’s world and their experiences. Whether its supporting refuges
in our communities or joining movements that question what’s driving conflict and
climate change in the first place, empathy can be a powerful stepping stone for
change.

It left me thinking, what role can empathy have in global affairs? How can it help us
to see the world differently?

Of course, empathy alone is not enough. But it is a good
place to start from.

Check
out Humanity House and its impressive programme of live-interviews, debates,
exhibitions, events & festivals, film screenings and more.

For
more on empathy, check out this
great
cartoon
.

Sarah Pelham

Sarah is working on Women, Peace & Security issues in the Conflict Transformation Team at Oxfam Novib. A feminist at heart, she is pursuing her Masters at Utrecht University. Growing up in England has given her the rare ability to thrive in Dutch weather.

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