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September 15, 2022

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

National Refugee Week at Notre Dame provides opportunity for students as globally minded citizens to live like and experience the hardships of those fleeing “the horrors taking place in their countries.”

Seeking to spark awareness of the hardships of refugees, students from Notre Dame Prep’s Circle of Support ministry group staged an immersive experience for their peers, transforming a breakroom in the upper school into a United Nations refugee camp. For two days during Community Time, groups of four to six students were able to tour the tent city and participate as if they were refugee families fleeing war-torn countries. The demonstration was part of weeklong activities planned for National Refugee Week, Sept. 12-16.

Upon entering, students were greeted at a mock registration table, where they were issued an ID card, ration card, hygiene kit, one gallon of water, a T-shirt, a pair of slippers, a bucket and a pair of sweatpants. Groups were then ushered to their living quarters, which consisted of one 11-foot by 11-foot tent.

“The world has the greatest number of forcibly displaced people at any time since World War II, according to UN data,” said Della Lawrence, who leads the Marist Way program at the school. “We feel it is important that our students, who we teach to be globally minded citizens, are aware of this issue as oftentimes refugees’ plight can suffer from the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ phenomenon.”

One group of students role-played a refugee family of six, with five women and one male. The five women had to creatively determine how to share two toothbrushes, a 6-ounce travel tube of toothpaste, and one towel among themselves. The group was also given a small container of cheese, a 12-ounce bottle of cooking oil, a bag of rice, a jar of beans, salt, condensed milk, a 12-ounce jar of jam, and a box of noodles to feed the family for two weeks. One gallon of water was expected to last a full week. A small kerosene-powered tabletop stove was provided for cooking.

“Think about all the ways you use water,” Lawrence told the students. “How would you ration one gallon for six people to drink, cook and clean with?”

Lawrence told the students that many refugees from Afghanistan, Kenya, Somalia and Ukraine expect to stay in a refugee camp for six months but often remain five to 17 years on average.

“For many children, this is life as they know it until they can find a way out through educational opportunities or family in other countries,” she said.

Another station the students set up had only two chairs, a piece of twine and a tarp to simulate life at the U.S./Mexican border.

“All you have to survive are the clothes on your back and whatever you can find,” Lawrence explained as students tried to huddle under the tarp to protect themselves from rain, wind and other natural elements.

Sophomore Lucy Milback said the simulation was eye-opening.

“I can’t believe what these refugees go through,” she said. “It definitely makes me want to get more involved and do what I can to help them.”

Fellow sophomore Anna Wisely said she was shocked by the living conditions in the refugee camp.

“It’s much harder than anything you could imagine added to the fact that many of these families already endured hardships just to escape the horrors taking place in their countries,” she said.

Students will close out the week with a Solidarity Walk in Pontiac along with participants from St. Damian Molokai Parish, local Catholic schools and parishes, Strangers No Longer and Catholic Charities of Southeastern Michigan.

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, an independent, Catholic, International Baccalaureate school, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at