Building Knowledge

Students and instructors in the Humanitarian Crisis Simulation course

In times of war, famine and natural disaster, well-trained humanitarian aid workers can make the difference between life and death.  In response to a growing in interest in aid work, the University of Minnesota's School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and Humphrey School of Public Affairs offers a three-day, immersive experience called the Humanitarian Crisis Simulation to train prospective aid workers and professionals to work with refugees in crisis situations.

In partnership with the Minnesota National Guard, American Red Cross, American Refugee Committee, and the Minnesota International NGO Network, the course aims to replicate a realistic, low-resource setting that allows participants gain hands-on experience. Inspired by the Sphere Project, the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP), and the Core Humanitarian Standard, its curriculum highlights the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to large disasters and crises.  Course content also draws from volunteer experiences of community members, including former refugees. 

The first portion of the course consists of interactive sessions that provide an overview of the field of humanitarian aid. Participants are then divided into emergency response teams tasked with developing a plan to address malnutrition, poor infrastructure, insecurity, and violations of human rights.

The course's instructor Assistant Professor Sarah Kesler sees the skills and practices taught in the course as part of a larger goal of building an engaged humanitarian aid field. “The course gives people a better appreciation for the complexity of delivering humanitarian aid,” says Kesler. “We also see that course members and volunteers gain a deepened sense of empathy for our newest citizens.”