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How a video game is giving refugees hope

Here’s your mission. Ensure a newborn has safe passage down the crocodile-infested Nile River, protect first-born Hebrew sons from death at the hands of Egyptian soldiers, unlock 10 commandments, and lead your followers to the Promised Land.

Should you choose to accept, you’ll be providing hope to refugees around the world – thanks to an initiative started by Chinh and Khoa Vu.

Khoa (left) and Chinh Vu. Photo: Courtesy of Ayotree

Their adventure game, Moses the Freedom Fighter, educates players about the refugee experience while raising funds for Oxfam’s work with refugees.

It's the Vus’ first venture into gaming, but even more remarkable than this accomplishment is their decision to donate all proceeds to Oxfam’s refugee fund, which benefits millions of people who have been displaced by conflict in Syria and other countries, including Yemen and Iraq. Though free to download and play, all money brought in by ads goes toward supporting refugees. They’ve also set up a donation page.

Khoa describes the decision to team up with Oxfam as a no-brainer. Chinh and Khoa—raised by parents who escaped a totalitarian regime in Vietnam and immigrated to the United States as refugees—know first-hand what it’s like to flee from a life of oppression and tyranny. 

Chinh set off on a high-stakes voyage from Vietnam to freedom when he was six years old. His father was a high-ranking officer in the South Vietnamese Army. After the war, he was sent to a re-education camp and during that time, Chinh was cared for by his grandparents. When his father was released in 1979, he told Chinh, “We’re going on a little trip.” That trip turned out to be their escape.

Chinh and a number of other family members, including his father and younger brother Joe, were part of the mass migration from Vietnam by boat—a group later termed “boat people.” During the treacherous journey, they were lost at sea for three days before their SOS sign was sighted by a fishing boat that pulled them in to the mainland. In the scuffle, two female relatives got caught in a riptide and drowned. The Vus were stationed at a refugee camp on Pulau Bidong, an island off the coast of Malaysia, which at the time hosted as many as 40,000 refugees, before they were resettled to the United States. 

Khoa, a decade younger, was born in the US, but he too was shaped by the Vu family origin tale. “I heard stories from my parents about this crazy boat voyage,” he says. “They endured pirates and people drowning. Now, the images we’re seeing of Syrian refugees look so similar. I’ll sit down with my mom to watch TV and she’ll say, ‘the boat people, we are the same;’ she recognizes herself.”

Video game fanatics themselves, bulding their own game was a dream of theirs. They began developing it over a year and a half ago. Then, just as they were finishing up their game, President Trump signed an executive order barring refugees from Muslim-majority countries from the US.

What started out as a simple game became a symbol of resistance.

“All of a sudden there’s this ban, and it was like wait a second, hold on, we come from a refugee family,” said Khoa. “We realised the same thing keeps happening, whether it’s the Syrians of today, the Vietnamese of yesterday, or Hebrews during Moses’ time.”

Moses the Freedom Fighter was released in March. Since then, it has been translated into 14 languages and downloaded and played more than 5,000 times by people in 29 countries. “After we released the game, we found that it connected with a lot of people,” says Khoa.

The Vus set a fundraising goal of $10,000 by World Refugee Day on June 20. As of June 15, they have raised more than $2,000. For Khoa and Chinh, the most fulfilling part of the experience is seeing their message of empathy and acceptance for those who have faced down genocide, intolerance, and injustice not only amplified, but reflected through support for their fund.

“Ultimately, the statement we’re making is not political,” says Khoa. “It’s humanitarian. This game is for anyone—from refugees to undocumented immigrants to migrant workers—who has been pushed to the outskirts of society, or felt the hand of oppression.”


Derived from the blog by Divya Amladi (Oxfam America)

The game is available for download via iTunes and Google Play.

For more information on the game, visit http://www.freemoses.org/

Help the brothers reach their goal!