A video game wants to change how we look at an international tragedy.

Europe is in the midst of a dire migrant crisis. This year, Germany alone expects 800,000 people to claim asylum.

Many of the would-be immigrants are fleeing war-torn countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. Others are simply trying to escape parts of Africa and the Middle East that have been hit with famine and crushing poverty.

The journey can be perilous. An estimated 2,500 have drowned this year crossing the Mediterranean Sea, one of the riskiest routes to Europe. Asylum seekers often report violence and abuse during their journeys.


Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

A video game seeks to change how we think about the crisis and humanize how we view migrants.

While the EU governments continue to debate what to do about the crisis, London-based game developer Francois Alliot (he also goes by the name "Nerial") and his collaborator Arnaud De Bock took on a project to help humanize an often faceless collection of stats and numbers. Together, they created "Passengers," a game that puts the player in the position of a smuggler trying to assist refugees and asylum-seekers making their way to Europe.

The game is a bit like a modern take on "The Oregon Trail."

GIFs from "Passengers."

"Passengers" highlights some of the tough decisions facing both smugglers and migrants.

The game starts with two decisions: Where are you going? and Who are you taking?

Not every person hoping to make the dangerous trip will be able to. You're put in the position of deciding who you'll take with you, and who gets left behind. Do you take the scholar? Do you bring the accountant? Do you bring the former criminal?

In my first time through the game, I took as many people along for the ride as I could. Even then, remembering that these people all represent real stories playing out in the real world, I was left feeling that it's unfair that others would be left behind.

In the end of that first play-through, everyone lost. Including the "lucky" passengers selected.

After a number of passengers died along the way, my poor boat capsized after being hit by a storm. There were no winners. Whether lost at sea or left on shore, the characters were gone.


In Europe, the political gridlock around immigration can be just as bad as in the United States.

The U.S. has its own challenging political situation when it comes to immigration. We have over 11 million undocumented immigrants hanging in a perpetual state of limbo, and despite the fact that presidential candidates seem to talk a lot about it, Congress hasn't delivered a comprehensive solution in decades.

The issue is different in the European Union, which has 28 member countries (and no shortage of diverging opinions). But similar to the U.S., migrants in Europe are also struggling for their rights.

People protesting the British government for its crackdown on smugglers. Photo by Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images.

If we value human life, a safe haven must be available to all. These preventable deaths at sea are unacceptable.

Perhaps Nerial's game will spark more public interest in addressing the problem at hand. After all, if the immigration system wasn't so broken, people wouldn't need to take such dangerous routes to their destination.

Perhaps it simply serves as a reminder to be grateful for what we have. In either case, it's amazing how such a simple game can have such a profound effect on the player's own sense of morality and self-worth.

There is a human cost to any government's inaction on immigration. Thanks to one game, that became a bit more clear.

Interested in playing? Learn more about "Passengers" here.

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Some 75 years ago, in bombed-out Frankfurt, Germany, a little girl named Marlene Mahta received a sign of hope in the midst of squalor, homelessness and starvation. A CARE Package containing soap, milk powder, flour, blankets and other necessities provided a lifeline through the contributions of average American families. There were even luxuries like chocolate bars.

World War II may have ended, but its devastation lingered. Between 35 and 60 million people died. Whole cities had been destroyed, the countryside was charred and burned, and at least 60 million European civilians had been made homeless. Hunger remained an issue for many families for years to come. In the face of this devastation, 22 American organizations decided to come together and do something about it: creating CARE Packages for survivors.

"What affected me… was hearing that these were gifts from average American people," remembers Mahta, who, in those desperate days, found herself picking through garbage cans to find leftover field rations and MREs to eat. Inspired by the unexpected kindness, Mahta eventually learned English and emigrated to the U.S.

"I wanted to be like those wonderful, generous people," she says.

The postwar Marshall Plan era was a time of "great moral clarity," says Michelle Nunn, CEO of CARE, the global anti-poverty organization that emerged from those simple beginnings. "The CARE Package itself – in its simplicity and directness – continues to guide CARE's operational faith in the enduring power of local leadership – of simply giving people the opportunity to support their families and then their communities."

Each CARE Package contained rations that had once been reserved for soldiers, but were now being redirected to civilians who had suffered as a result of the conflict. The packages cost $10 to send, and they were guaranteed to arrive at their destination within four months.

Thousands of Americans, including President Harry S. Truman, got involved, and on May 11, 1946, the first 15,000 packages were sent to Le Havre in France, a port badly battered during the war.

Thousands of additional CARE Packages soon followed. At first packages were sent to specific recipients, but over time donations came in for anyone in need. When war rations ran out American companies began donating food. Later, carpentry tools, blankets, clothes, books, school supplies, and medicine were included.

Before long, the CARE Packages were going to other communities in need around the world, including Asia and Latin America. Ultimately, CARE delivered packages to 100 million families around the world.

The original CARE Packages were phased out in the late 1960s, though they were revived when specific needs arose, such as when former Soviet Union republics needed relief, or after the Bosnian War. Meanwhile, CARE transformed. Now, instead of physical boxes, it invests in programs for sustainable change, such as setting up nutrition centers, Village Savings and Loan Associations, educational programs, agroforestry initiatives, and much more.

But, with a pandemic ravaging populations around the world, CARE is bringing back its original CARE packages to support the critical basic needs of our global neighbors. And for the first time, they're also delivering CARE packages here at home in the United States to communities in need.

Community leaders like Janice Dixon are on the front lines of that effort. Dixon, president and CEO of Community Outreach in Action in Jonesboro, Ga., now sends up to 80 CARE packages each week to those in need due to COVID-19. Food pantries have been available, she notes, but they've been difficult to access for those without cars, and public transportation is spotty in suburban Atlanta.

"My phone has been ringing off the hook," says Dixon. For example, one of those calls was from a senior diabetic, she remembers, who faced an impossible choice, but was able to purchase medicine because food was being provided by CARE.

Today, CARE is sending new packages with financial support and messages of hope to frontline medical workers, caregivers, essential workers, and individuals in need in more than 60 countries, including the U.S. Anyone can now go to carepackage.org to send targeted help around the world. Packages focus on helping vaccines reach people more quickly, tackling food insecurity, educational disparities, global poverty, and domestic violence, as well as providing hygiene kits to those in need.

From the very beginning, CARE received the support of presidents, with Hollywood luminaries like Rita Hayworth and Ingrid Bergman also adding their voices. At An Evening With CARE, happening this Tuesday, May 11, notable names will turn out again as the organization celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the CARE Package and the exciting, meaningful work that lies ahead. The event will be hosted by Whoopi Goldberg and attended by former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter, as well as Angela Merkel, Iman, Jewel, Michelle Williams, Katherine McPhee-Foster, Betty Who and others. Please RSVP now for this can't-miss opportunity.

Anyone who has gone through the process of disentangling themselves from an addiction knows it's an ongoing, daily battle. It may get easier, and the payoffs may become more apparent, but it's still a decision someone makes each day to stay detached from their substance of choice.

Seeing someone who has a long record of sobriety—especially after a very public struggle—can be motivating and inspiring for others in different stages of their recovery journey. That's part of why actor Rob Lowe's announcement that he's reached 31 years sober is definitely something to celebrate.

"Today I have 31 years drug and alcohol free," Lowe wrote on Twitter. "I want to give thanks to everyone walking this path with me, and welcome anyone thinking about joining us; the free and the happy. And a big hug to my family for putting up with me!! Xoxo"

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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