KUALA LUMPUR: A smartphone application, Finding Home, created by advertising firm Grey Malaysia with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), will allow people to experience the struggles faced by refugees worldwide in their journey for survival.
The app, launched yesterday at the UNHCR headquarters here, is to raise awareness and empathy among the public to the plight of refugees fleeing their homelands in search of a better life.
UNHCR representative Richard Towle said the UN body wanted to get as many people as possible to go through the refugee experience by using the app.
“Not only in Malaysia, but globally, we hear so many stories about people being displaced and their horrific living conditions.
“This project is really about using modern technology. Gaming can be powerful and positive by tuning people into other people’s experiences in a virtual way,” he said.
He said that some of the refugees had no prospects of ever going back to their homeland.”
Towle said Finding Home would allow users to walk in a refugee’s shoes.
He said a research conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers last year showed refugees were some of the highest users of mobile technology.
His sentiments were echoed by Grey Malaysia executive creative director Graham Drew who added that smartphones were a survival tool for refugees.
“The refugees have smartphones when they hardly have anything else. It’s not a luxury for them. It’s how they find food and shelter, and connect with each other,” he said.
Drew said by using a smartphone as a storytelling device, the experience becomes uniquely personal and has greater impact on the user.
The app follows the life of a fictional 16-year-old Rohingya girl, Khatijah, and her struggles to survive as a refugee in Kuala Lumpur.
Launching the app transforms the user’s smartphone into a simulation of Kathijah’s phone.
At the start of the role-playing experience, Kathijah was separated from her brother Ishak while they were being smuggled into Malaysia at the Thai border.
The story will unfold depending on how the user responds to the text messages, photos and videos that Kathijah receives.
The app was developed in four months, with its narratives constructed from interviews with two focus groups comprising youth and adult Rohingya refugees living in Malaysia.
There are some 150,000 refugees in the country, of whom 56,000 are ethnic Rohingya. Some 35,144 are below 18.
The app comes with links to the UNHCR website where users can donate, apply to become a volunteer, or find out more about the refugee situation.
It is available for download from Google Play Store and will soon be available on the Apple App Store.