Building Bridges Toolkit

The Toolkit was designed to collect and share the know-how on voluntary projects involving people seeking or who have recently found refuge, as well as raising awareness on forced migration in general. The collection of guidelines, methods and case studies is non-exhaustive and should simply foster your own inspiration and support you in implementing projects on the topic. The creation of the Toolkit has been driven by the ever bigger need of the international SCI network to exchange best practices on projects in the field. It was coordinated by SCI Switzerland with the support of Útilapu Hungary. Its existence wouldn’t have been possible without the support of the Mercator Foundation Switzerland and the active contribution of the Building Bridges working group and a number of SCI branches.

METHODS AND TOOLS serve to support your work on the topic of refugees and migration with different target groups.


How it feels when you can’t cross the border

Time needed: 45 min

Objectives / aim: To provoke participants to put themselves in the shoes of asylum seekers

Level of Difficulty: medium; easy to organise, but the key is a well-facilitated debriefing

Resources needed: A big room, chairs, paper tape

Number of participants: 8 (min) – 20 (max)

Contact / Source: Hinka Stanimirova

    The activity includes a simple interactive physical game with prisoners, who try to escape into freedom and guards, who try to stop them. The game finishes with a debriefing, where participants compare what they’ve experienced to what people go through, when they have to cross borders to seek for asylum. It works on both emotional and rational level in order to achieve a bigger effect on participants.


    1. Make sure you have all the needed materials and that the space, where you plan the activity is big enough. Prepare yourself with some more background knowledge on the migration issue: global tendencies, current news, asylum-seeking procedure in your country.
    2. Prepare the place before participants come. Clear a place in the middle of the room and mark with paper tape and chairs the different zones of the prison game (prison, guard posts, freedom zone). See the detailed instructions below.
    3. Welcome participants. Present the game as an energizer. Give them instructions and start the game. Follow the  instructions below.
    4. After you stop the final round of the game, gather participants in a circle for a debriefing. You can use the questions from the instructions below. You can also adapt them by adding more questions depending on the direction you want to lead participants to after this activity.

      Space division

      The recommended size of the room or space needed is written above and to the right of the diagram in meters. Mark the black lines shown on the diagram with paper tape. Use chairs or tables to put on the side of the guards zones (the grey lines), so that participants cannot go around them. If you’re doing it with a larger group of 20 participants, you can make the space larger and do the debriefing in smaller groups

      Don’t tell participants the true aim of the game. Tell them it’s just an energizer. Split them into prisoners and guards (only 2 guards at the beginning, 1 at each post). Prisoners stand in the prison zone. Each guard takes its post, guarding the prison rooms or the prison fence. Then give all participants the following instructions:

      1. Your aim as prisoners is to escape the prison into freedom (the other end of the room). In order to do so, you need to pass through two posts of guards (the first post –in front of your rooms and the second –at the prison fence) without being caught.
      2. The aim of the guards is to catch all prisoners, who are trying to escape.
      3. It’s enough for guards just to touch the prisoners and they’re considered caught. Once a prisoner is caught (touched by a guard), they have to return back to prison zone, even if they were caught at the fence. They have the right to try to escape again.
      4. Guards can only catch prisoners, once they enter their “guards” zone marked by the paper tape. Even if prisoners stay behind that border just in front of them in the prison zone or the zone between the two posts – guards can’t catch them.
      5. Prisoners don’t have the right to touch the guards (trying to push, tickle them, etc.).

      Make sure that everyone understands the instructions, give examples, where necessary. When participants are ready, start the game. Wait until everyone manages to reach the freedom zone or else give them 5 min and then stop the game.

      Announce a second round of the game. For it, ask the previous guards to join the prisoners and ask for 4 new volunteers from the prisoners, who’d like to become the new guards. Repeat the procedure from the first round.

      Have a third round, this time with three guards at each guards zone. Try to choose again new volunteers, who haven’t been guards yet. This round is the most difficult, so it’s ok to give participants some more time 5-10 mins to try out different strategies and experience frustration. After maximum 10 min stop the game and ask everyone to get in a circle for the debriefing part.

      Prison game debriefing questions
      To the prisoners:
      1. How do you feel? How did you feel at first? How did you feel, when the number of the guards increased?

      2. What did you find most difficult?

      3. What happened when only 1-2 people were left in the prison? Did you have a strategy what to do in these cases? What strategy worked?

      4. How did it feel to reach the freedom zone? What provoked you to go back and help the others (if this happens)? What made you to stay in the freedom zone without interfering?

      To the guards:
      1. How did it feel to be a guard? When you were alone? When you were with more people?

      To everyone:
      1. Let’s imagine that the prison room guards zone is the border asylum seekers have to cross in order to get out of their own country and the prison fence guards zone is Europe’s border. What similarities do you find between your experience in this game and the reality of asylum seekers?
      (E.g. people, who need asylum can feel like prisoners in their own country, denied many of their basic rights; they need to fight not only to get out of their country, but also to get into Europe; travelling in bigger groups and having support from the destination country can be easier than running on your own; fewer people wish to risk leaving the comfort of their European country to help those in need, etc.)

      2. We played this game for fun. In reality the situation is much more serious. What main differences can you find between what you experienced and what is going on in reality?(E.g. If you’re caught at your home border, you often don’t have the chance to try to escape again; the journey between your home country and Europe can be long, dangerous and even result in your death; reaching Europe is not the end of your troubles – a process of asylum seeking that can be rejected even after years of waiting begins, etc.)

      Pay attention to what participants did during the game and shared in the first part of the debriefing and use it to make the comparisons in the second part. Make sure to prepare yourself by reading more about the current migration situation, as well as the asylum seeking process in your country.


        • The game is very good as an introduction to a longer session about migration and asylum seeking. It energizes the participants and provokes their interest in the topic.
        • You can do the activity outside as well. Just make sure you can mark clearly enough the different zones, participants run through and that you have a quiet enough place to do the debriefing.
        • You can shorten the activity by skipping the second round of the game and keeping the debriefing concise.
        • Don’t feel limited by the instructions. Use the idea behind the game, develop it with your knowledge and adapt it to your needs.


        You can share your experience, observations, tips and tricks, pictures etc. by uploading for instance a method or a case study to the Building Bridges Toolkit. As this Toolkit is a work in progress to which all involved parties are invited to contribute, we would also be very grateful for your support and contribution in order to inspire others to continue the work towards peace and intercultural understanding.