Refugees from Afghanistan
After 20 years out of power, in August 2021, the Taliban seized the capital of Kabul after the collapse of the Afghan government. With many Afghans opting to flee the country in search of safer and more stable pastures, the nation’s neighboring countries are experiencing an increase in refugees from Afghanistan. Although the reign of the Taliban brings increased instability to the country, Afghans were already fleeing the nation years prior. In fact, apart from fearing that “[the Taliban] will impose harsh rule, neglect to provide basic services and abuse human rights, “many Afghans are leaving due to the severe humanitarian crisis in the nation. Due to these worsening conditions, countries and organizations are trying to assist vulnerable Afghans.

Humanitarian Crisis in Afghanistan

In October 2021, Afghanistan’s poverty rate stood at 72%, but the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) expects this rate to increase to a staggering 98% by the middle of 2022. Moreover, about 19 million Afghans are suffering from acute levels of food insecurity. Because of these conditions, people are fleeing Afghanistan in search of a better life. According to the UNHCR, almost 6 million Afghans face forced displacement. Estimates indicate that there are about 3.5 million internally displaced Afghans and roughly 2.6 million Afghan refugees residing in other nations. Compounding issues further, Afghanistan is facing a severe drought that has already led to the malnourishment of 50% of Afghan children.

The Taliban Takeover

The Taliban is a group of religious students from Afghanistan who aim to seize power to “restore peace and security and enforce their own austere version of Sharia, or Islamic law.” The Taliban began taking over parts of Afghanistan in 1994. In 1996, the group took over the capital of Kabul, and by 1998, had garnered control “over most of the country.”

During its time in power, the Taliban imposed harsh laws “forbidding most women from working, banning girls from education and carrying out punishments including beatings, amputations and public executions,” among other horrific punishments and restrictions. In 2001, a United States-led invasion is able to remove the Taliban from power. Unfortunately, “the Taliban reemerge” in 2006. In April 2021, after “President Biden announces the withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of September 2021, the Taliban gains traction taking over more areas. By August 2021, the Taliban seizes the capital of Kabul.

Halting Aid to Afghanistan

With the Taliban in power, Afghanistan is facing a colossal economic crisis. Afghanistan was heavily dependant on international aid even before the Taliban takeover — 40% of its GDP comes from foreign aid. The World Bank has stated that “about 75% of public finances were supplied by grants from the U.S. and other countries.” Now, the Afghani currency has lost all its value.

In August 2021, when it became apparent that the Taliban would seize Afghanistan, global powers, such as the United States, chose to halt foreign assistance to Afghanistan, as did the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Furthermore, before, families relied on money from family members outside of the country. However, Western Union and MoneyGram removed their assistance and services in Afghanistan, causing the deprivation of money from families abroad.

Evacuating Afghans

Days after the Taliban took over Afghanistan, the United States began the evacuation process of Afghans. In truth, the United States helped evacuate about 125,000 people for relocation. Unfortunately, thousands of Afghans who hoped to leave the country did not have the opportunity to evacuate, even some with passports. Many of the evacuees received special visas for “their service alongside coalition military forces” or their work “with foreign-funded programs.” A more minimal number of evacuees able to board the planes as refugees from Afghanistan were “Afghans seeking visas or asylum based on their fear of persecution due to their identity.”

Refugees from Afghanistan Receive Assistance

Due to the influx of refugees from Afghanistan, the United Nations has requested that countries nearby “keep their borders open.” In September 2021, several governments pledged to “resettle refugees from Afghanistan,” including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica. The countries specify maximum intake numbers, with some only accepting Afghans who fall into a specific vulnerable group or who hold specific jobs. The U.S. also pledged to take in 62,500 Afghans by the end of September 2021.

Amid a crumbling nation and citizens facing dire conditions, the international community is giving hope to Afghans for a better future with several countries willing to assist in the relocation of refugees from Afghanistan.

– Kayla De Alba
Photo: Flickr

Polish Border Crisis
In recent months, thousands of men, women and children have attempted crossing the freezing wooded border between Poland and Belarus leading to the Polish border crisis. The migrants are hailing from the Middle East and North Africa. One Syrian family paid upwards of $16,000 to travel to Belarus with the promise of entry into the EU. Once they arrived at the EU border in western Belarus, however, Polish authorities were unwilling to allow undocumented migrants into their borders. They are leaving people in limbo between the two countries and in danger of succumbing to the elements.

A New Refugee Crisis for Europe?

Poland and the EU have pointed fingers at Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian president, for manufacturing this crisis by luring migrants and flooding the EU borders. The Polish border crisis reached significant levels and threatened the EU with another influx of migrants like the continent saw in 2015.

The crisis has calmed down in the last weeks, as the first snowfall arrived in the area. Flights from the Middle East to Belarus remained on the ground and the repatriation of migrants took place. However, about 7,000 migrants remain on the Belarusian side of the border in makeshift tent camps.

Blocking the Border

Belarus has refused aid from Polish humanitarian organizations for the migrants. In September 2021, the Polish government established a state of emergency that prohibited media, medics and NGOs from entering the border zone. Anna Dąbrowska told The Borgen Project in an interview that this is a strategy for the government to “block free media from informing the public” about the situation.

The Missing Migrants Project, an initiative that records disappearances and deaths of refugees, has recorded 16 missing or dead migrants at the Belarus-EU border so far. However, these numbers may be higher on the Belarusian side due to a lack of information from the Belarusian authorities.

The Border Group: A Grassroots Initiative

Poland’s refusal to allow media into the border zone has forced journalists and activists to work quietly. They often work during the night to bring light to this humanitarian crisis. Grupa Granica (The Border Group) is a grassroots network of 14 Polish NGOs monitoring the situation and assisting migrants on the ground by providing supplies and legal aid. One of the most important tasks it faces is finding refugees and getting to them before Polish authorities do.

Dąbrowska said that with time there have been “more and more brutal actions by the border guards and the army.” Activists set up a hotline number that refugees can call when lost or in need of help. Once volunteers reach the migrants, they provide them with food, water, sleeping bags, shoes and other supplies collected as donations from good samaritans. As winter approaches, Dąbrowska said that aid workers and volunteers “rarely meet people in good physical and mental condition,” and that they often have not eaten or drank anything in days.

Homo Faber, an organization within The Border Group to which Anna Dąbrowska belongs, provides legal help to the refugees so they can claim asylum and continue their journeys. Homo Faber works in detention centers in Poland, providing further assistance there. For example, it partners with psychologists across Poland that give free services to refugees who have experienced trauma or abuse on their journeys.

Many refugees have made it into Poland and even Germany, but some have not been so lucky. Often, Polish border guards push migrants back over the border into Belarus instead of taking them to processing centers.

While the Polish border crisis has alleviated, Dąbrowska told The Borgen Project that there is still work to do. “Regardless of the length of the crisis we will carry out aid activities,” she said. However, she is worried about keeping the crisis at the forefront of public discourse as the plight of refugees becomes a “common occurrence” and one that is “less interesting” to citizens detached from the situation.

The Ways People Can Help

While the Polish border crisis is taking place out of the view of many, there are many ways people can help out. People can stay up to date with the work of The Border Group and learn more about migration and refugees. “It will be important to support us in the long term as organizations and individual activists,” said Dąbrowska, who hopes that the initiative continues to flourish.

Another way individuals can help is by talking to friends and family about the crisis. It is especially important to reach people who might approach this topic with indifference.

Individuals can also support leaders at home. The refugee emergency in Poland and Belarus has the potential to disrupt U.S. politics as well and our leaders must stay involved. One can communicate their concerns to their members of Congress.

While much work still needs to occur, the organizations in The Border Group Network have had a significant impact. They are bringing public awareness to the migrant crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border and physically helping those in need.

– Emma Tkacz
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in France
Over the past decade, Europe has become a hub for migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and unrest. Selling most if not all of their personal belongings, families leave their homes behind with eyes set on safer borders in Europe. France is among the most popular nations to settle in — during 2020 alone, 87,659 people applied for asylum in France. For those who do survive the journey, which includes walking, hitchhiking and overcrowded boats, new challenges await. Although the poverty rate in France stood at 14.8% in 2018, refugees and asylum seekers face disproportionately higher rates of poverty. When they first arrive in France, many of these families end up in tents and shanty settlements with little access to clean water and food. However, several programs aim to support refugees in France.

5 Programs Supporting Refugees in France

  1. French Refugee Council (FRC). Founded in 2013, the FRC is an independent NGO providing practical support to refugees in France with the objective of helping them rebuild their lives. FRC staff work directly with refugees by facilitating access to education, job opportunities and legal assistance. The organization hosts several programs, including integration workshops focused on equipping migrants with the skills needed to become “a productive part of the host society.” Refugees learn bout the “French job market and workplace culture” while receiving French language lessons. The FRC’s Teach a Refugee Program aims to “connect local citizens with asylum seekers and refugees through language classes.” Since 2016, 863 immigrants have benefited from this program, which aims to break the language and cultural gaps between immigrants and locals. The FRC also helps refugees who may have already obtained vocational qualifications by working to validate any existing degrees and work experience.
  2. Refugee Food Festival. In partnership with the city of Paris and the UNHCR, the nonprofit Food Sweet Food hosts the festival annually in June around the time of World Refugee Day (June 20). Food Sweet Food works with local restaurants in the city to open their kitchens and change their menus to local dishes prepared by refugee chefs. The public then receives an invitation to these restaurants to engage with the cuisine and people. Food Sweet Food sees cuisine as a way to bridge gaps and bring diverse communities together — the objective of this festival is to create an environment to change cultural perceptions, create dialogue and facilitate refugee integration. Since its beginning in 2016, the Refugee Food Festival has seen chefs from Ivory Coast, Iraq, Syria and more. Other European cities also welcome the event. The Refugee Food Festival has seen engagement from more than 116,000 citizens and 239 chefs in 19 cities.
  3. Doctors Without Borders. Well known for providing medical care to those who lack access across the globe, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is also active in France, specifically targeting unaccompanied minors. MSF works to provide legal, medical and other support to minors who are unable to successfully apply for child protection. Many young refugees find themselves extremely vulnerable, especially with regards to finding accommodation. To remedy this, MSF offers unaccompanied minors nightly emergency accommodation in Paris and Marseille, hosting up to 150 minors a night. Additionally, MSF makes its regular mobile health clinics available to “migrants of all ages in Paris.” In 2019 alone, “734 minors benefited from [MSF’s] services.”
  4. Comede. Formally known as the “Committee for the health of exiles,” Amnesty International, Cimade and Groupe Accueil Solidarité established Comede in 1979 to safeguard the health and rights of “refugees, asylum seekers, unaccompanied foreign minors,and other immigrants/foreigners” in France. Comede offers medical, psychological, social and legal care to these vulnerable groups with the aim of helping them increase their autonomy. Comede operates hotlines to connect individuals with any services that they might need when they first arrive in France. Utilizing hotlines and working alongside lawyers, health service providers and social workers, Comede has helped more than 100,000 people since its founding in 1979.
  5. The Salvation Army. With an active presence in more than 130 countries, the Salvation Army is one the largest charity organizations in the world. “A joint project between Paris and neighboring Saint-Denis,” the Salvation Army-run drop-in center is open to all migrants and refugees every day of the week. Opened in 2019, the center aims to assist the growing number of refugees who find themselves in shanty settlements when they arrive in France. The center provides showers, a charging station, washing machines and sleeping quarters. Refugees can also find free breakfast at another center nearby. The drop-in center also hosts French classes, and with 2,000 square meters of space, it has the capacity to hold 70 people but often sees visitors in the hundreds.

Journeying thousands of miles in unsafe conditions in search of a better life, refugees find new challenges waiting for them when they arrive in Europe. These five organizations try to address the many facets of integrating and starting a life in a new society.

– Owen Mutiganda
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in Turkey
Turkey has the largest refugee population in the world, hosting more than 3.6 million Syrian refugees and about 320,000 refugees from other countries. With mass amounts of people migrating to Turkey, there are several complications that must be accounted for, one being the issue of accessible education for those entering the country. Listed below are three NGOs in Turkey that have been helping refugees and local students access educational resources.

Darussafaka Society

Five young male scholars founded the Darussafaka Society in 1863 with the aim of providing quality education and resources to those in need. The Darussafaka Society provides scholarships and academic opportunities to children in need of financial aid or children who have lost a parent. Each year, 120 students receive opportunities from the Darussafaka Society. Its aim is to present equality of opportunity in education to its students, even though its students do not come from financially stable households. Darussafaka alumni have found successful careers in both the public and private sectors in Turkey. Many others have taken the opportunity to study and work abroad. As the Darussafaka Society boasts more than 155 years of experience, it is currently working to provide online learning options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including international programs, through a virtual format.

Turkish Educational Foundation

The Turkish Educational Foundation (TEF) is one of the oldest educational philanthropic NGOs in Turkey, as it has been in service for about 51 years. Unique to the other NGOs, TEF is based in Berkeley, CA, allowing it to have more international connections and resources than foundations solely based in Turkey. TEF’s primary objective is to provide accessible education to those in need regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Each year, TEF supports 1,000 Turkish students with their programs. It offers several unique programs for international volunteers including a Youth Group which works to fundraise and communicate their message, and an English Learning Program where students can learn from English-speaking volunteers from around the world. TEF is currently working with its Youth Group to maintain the program’s success throughout the COVID-19 pandemic via virtual fundraisers and events.

The Imece Initiative

The Imece Initiative, one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey, has been working since 2014 to provide education services specifically to Syrian refugees in Turkey. One of the Imece Initiative’s primary beliefs is that education should not undergo distribution based on a child’s ethnic background, but that education should be accessible to everyone. “We wanted to create a community free of political and religious considerations,” stated founder Ali Güray Yalvaçlı. “To give the opportunity for anyone, regardless of their background, to contribute with their skills and time to help those in need.” One of its most notable projects is The Solar Age Project, which supports women refugees in Turkey by teaching them life skills that help them in finding employment once they undergo establishment in the country.

With organizations like these, it is easy to see that there are lots of opportunities for both refugee and native students in Turkey to receive the best education possible. Though it can be easy to lose oneself in the negative effects of poverty in the world, organizations like the ones introduced above provide hope for a better future of education for all.

– Andra Fofuca
Photo: Flickr

Irish Aid
Colm Brophy, Minister for Overseas Development Aid and Diaspora, announced an additional €2 million in Irish Aid support less than two months after the initial €1 million, crediting the severity of the “rapidly deteriorating humanitarian [need] in Afghanistan” as the reason for the additional support. In children under the age of 5 years old, there is a high level of food insecurity and the risk of malnutrition. Minister Brophy stated in the press release that “One in three Afghans is facing crisis levels of food insecurity and more than half of all children under five are at risk of acute malnutrition.”

Ireland Aid Can Make International Changes

The aid that Ireland is providing has the potential to save lives and serve as a model for other countries to follow. Showing the actual impact of aid on Afghan refugees can also spark a positive reflection on the Afghan community, rather than the negative connection from recent conflicts.

Only a month prior, Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney announced €1 million in Irish aid for humanitarian needs in Afghanistan. This initial assistance was in addition to the €2 million that the HALO Trust, Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH) and Concern Worldwide received at the start of 2021.

The funds will go to UNICEF and the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund (AFH). The AFH assists with the health, education and nutrition of the Afghan people.

Changing Visa Policies

On top of the Irish Aid support, Ireland has extended its refugee visas policy for up to another 150 Afghan people under the Irish Refugee Protection Program (IRPP). Ireland strongly condemns the violent action against the people of Afghanistan, especially the attacks against women and children.

It has called for safe and reliable access to humanitarian needs in Afghanistan for Aghani citizens and those who work with U.N. agencies and humanitarian partners, without exemptions. This means that even those across conflict lines must get the humanitarian access they need for safety.

Refugee Visas to Make a Difference

Ireland, which many know for its strong advocacy for women and girls, is attempting to play a role in relocating some Afghan women and girls to Ireland. There will be a priority for those who work in human rights issues and those who work with NGOs, including European and international organizations. Family reunification is also at the top of Ireland’s list in regard to the 150 refugee visas.

This is not the only way for Afghans to obtain refugee visas. There are a few protocols in place that help Afghans obtain refugee visas as long as they meet or find a way to meet the criteria. According to the 2015 International Protection Act, if an Afghani person already knows someone in Ireland who can handle their international protection application or if they have someone who will meet them at the border, they are exempt from the application fee. Deportation has also experienced less strict enforcement since COVID-19. Given the current state of Afghanistan, there is no clear answer to whether someone would experience deportation.

At the end of the day, Ireland is doing everything it can to assist with the humanitarian need in Afghanistan. In this time of crisis, it uses funds, policies and aid to do what it can. By expanding its visa list to accept more refugees, Ireland demonstrates that it will do everything possible to assist another country’s crisis.

– Veronica G. Rosas
Photo: Unsplash

Refugees in Iraq
Iraq has endured decades of armed conflict. Since 2014, around 3 billion families have experienced displacement. According to the United States of America for United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (U.S.A for UNHCR), more than “6.5 million Iraqis…including 3 million women and girls, require humanitarian assistance and protection.” Maintaining a sense of normalcy is difficult, significantly, if war and political strife exacerbate this struggle for normalcy. Many refugees in Iraq are without power and often cannot afford to keep it on. Simple chores, like doing laundry, become arduous tasks that could take all day to complete. Thankfully, one man’s trip to India proved successful in alleviating the onerous obstacle of handwashing clothes.

Sawhney’s Development of Machines

Navjot Sawhney, whose parents fled from unpartitioned India, always had an interest in humanitarianism and helping those in need. He was first inspired to create the manually operated washing machines after watching his next-door neighbor struggle with her laundry in India. The woman’s name was Divya and, upon returning from his trip, Sawhney developed the plans to create something that would make someone like Divya endure less physical strain when doing laundry.

While only volunteering at the time, Sawhney relied on his former career in engineering to develop the hand-cranked washing machine named after his neighbor. The devices, named after Divya, undergo construction in the U.K. and weigh about 5.5 kg per unit. They also wash, clean and dry clothing. Sawhney eventually developed the Washing Machine Project in 2018 and has received orders from around 15 other countries. Among the countries receiving the Divya, Sawhney has been vigilant in providing a sufficient amount for the families of refugees in Iraq.

Impact of Washing Machines

The Divya’s functionality and convenience make laundry less of an all-day task for displaced families, especially women. According to Sawhney, the long-term goal of this invention was to give women of displaced families their time back, potentially granting them a greater opportunity for an education. In 2019, Sawhney and other Divya engineers traveled to Kurdish, Iraq, to donate the machines. The displaced families, particularly the women, reacted positively to the devices. Sawhney gushed, “We have developed partnerships with large international NGOs and a funding pipeline.”

Plans for Invention

Even though Sawhney’s sojourn inspired the Divya in India, it essentially has not rolled out in the country yet. Sawhney intends to distribute the Divya to other displaced families in India, Lebanon and Uganda, among other countries. With the machine relying solely on 10 liters of water, its small size and minimal requisites make it easy to transport to other countries. Its success in Iraq proves that this machine will make the lives of those abroad even more accessible.

The Divya is still a relatively recent technological and environmental innovation, but a quiet strength lies in its smallness. This little gadget turns something time-consuming into something trivial, showing the effects of small acts of kindness and concern for others and the significant impact on populations.

– Maia Nuñez
Photo: Flickr

Self-Driving Boats can Reduce Poverty
Many countries around the world are developing autonomous boats for the purposes of transportation and military advancement. However, some scientists are developing autonomous boats for humanitarian and environmental purposes, such as aid transportation, marine safety, data collection and energy conservation. Self-driving boats can reduce poverty by saving refugees’ lives, distributing aid, collecting data relevant to poverty reduction and protecting the oceans, all of which benefit people in low-income areas.

Marine Safety

Self-driving boats can act as highly effective lifeguards, especially in waters that are too dangerous or difficult for human lifeguards to swim through. In 2020, the Australian government granted $5.5 million to a startup company named Ocious Technology to provide Australia with several autonomous boats to save refugees at sea from drowning. The vessels are solar-powered and are equipped with “360-degree cameras, radar, automatic identification systems and collision avoidance software.” The vessels are large enough to carry several people from sea to safety, in contrast with a human lifeguard who would likely only be able to save a limited number of people. According to Statista, “from January to September 2021, “almost 1,400 migrants lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Self-driving boats can reduce poverty by addressing refugee crises, providing humanitarian lifeguard assistance to those in need.

Aid Transportation

Self-driving boats are capable of transporting both people and goods. In addition to their “lifeguarding” abilities, the ships can transport humanitarian aid to economically developing countries. Many autonomous boats have propellers that allow them to move in any direction as well as a “series of cameras and sensors to guide [their] movements.” Some self-driving boats can also sync up with other boats, creating groups of boats that can travel long distances together. As a result, autonomous boats can be highly effective tools for transporting essential goods, such as aid. Without the need for a person to man the vessel, autonomous ships can safely deliver aid to war-ridden countries that are too dangerous for humans to enter.

Data Collection

Autonomous boats can collect a wide range of data relevant to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Equipped with cameras and a variety of sensors, the boats can collect mass data about the ocean as well as temperature, air pressure, wind direction, solar intensity, wave height and more at a given location. Scientists can use the sensors on autonomous ships to study and preserve marine life, discover food and water sources and even locate missing people and items. Furthermore, fishers can use data from the ships to maximize their catches and ensure the marine item is a sustainable source, which benefits fishers economically and ensures adequate food for their local communities. As such, self-driving boats can reduce poverty by preserving marine ecosystems and improving access to food in low-income communities.

Environmental Benefits

Autonomous boats can also collect rubbish, monitor marine biodiversity and hydrocarbons, check for oil leaks and collect oceanographic and meteorological data. The boats can help keep oceans healthy and clean, which is beneficial to both people and the environment. According to the United Nations, oceans provide humans with food, drinking water, rainwater and even oxygen. Therefore, as a global resource, it is crucial to preserve the sea. Autonomous robots can protect oceans from pollution and acidification, which both harm ecosystems and biodiversity to a great extent. Self-driving boats can reduce poverty by protecting the oceans, thereby supporting small-scale fisheries in developing countries.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad
Yo-Yo Ma, a renowned cellist and current United Nations Messenger of Peace, is no stranger to creating new music. In 1998, the musician decided to combine his passions of music and philanthropy to form the nonprofit organization Silkroad. This Grammy-Award-winning ensemble encompasses artists from many countries. In doing so, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad provides global opportunities for economically developing nations to create and learn about music.

Silkroad’s Roots

Named after the lands of the Silk Road, Ma’s organization unites musicians from across that region. Through music, the Silkroad Ensemble preserves cultural traditions by combining global talents and performing worldwide. It provides people from rural, indigenous and refugee communities with an intellectual and creative space. The diversity of the participating musicians is a beacon of hope, healing and inclusivity for many. It introduces audiences to the rich musical traditions of the represented countries. Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad also forms a bridge between socioeconomic classes and cultures.

In addition to providing a platform for musicians to perform, Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad also provides those from underdeveloped countries with educational resources. Silkroad creates educational partnerships for workshops and residencies. These partnerships extend to universities, public schools, refugee and indigenous communities and prisons.

Collaboration With Aga Khan

Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad collaborates with other philanthropic organizations. The Aga Khan Foundation is one key partner. This nonprofit international development agency aims to provide long-term solutions to poverty, hunger, illiteracy and health in South/Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Aga Khan Foundation works in more than 30 countries across the world. It currently operates 1,000 programs. In collaboration with the Silkroad, the two organizations provide educational and cultural programs in these underdeveloped regions.

Role as UN Messenger of Peace

Beyond Silkroad, Yo-Yo Ma combats global poverty through his role as a United Nations Messenger of Peace. Most notably, he is always wearing his Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lapel pin at every performance. The pin represents the United Nations’ goals for 2030. The musician aims to use the pin as a conversation piece, raising awareness for his passionate causes. These include but are not limited to a healthy planet, healthy population, no poverty, no hunger, gender equality and quality education.

The Melon Grant

Since the conception of Silkroad, Ma has stepped down from his role as the organization’s leader. However, the nonprofit continues to flourish. Recently, the group received a $3 million grant from The Andrew W. Melon Foundation. The grant is the most significant gift the group has received. The Silkroad will use this money to support the ensemble’s artists, expand two flagship education programs, create an internship program, promote diversity and more.

Yo-Yo Ma Advocating for Peace with Silkroad

As a musician and philanthropist, Yo-Yo Ma is notable. Through Silkroad and work with the United Nations, Yo-Yo Ma uses his platform to better the world. Most recently, he has done work with the Sea Change Project. This environmental organization works to protect the kelp forest in South African waters. Yo-Yo Ma’s Silkroad has provided a beacon of hope and collaborations between cultures, no matter what a country’s economic status is. Presently, he continues to work with organizations that benefit the world.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Relocate Afghan Refugees
The Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan after the U.S. military withdrawal has left hundreds of thousands of Afghans either displaced or seeking refuge. The United Nations has estimated that
 up to 500,000 Afghans will flee Afghanistan by the end of 2021. As a result, as the Taliban’s power continues to grow, countries across the globe have opened their doors to help relocate Afghan refugees. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one global organization that is taking a lead in this relocation work. The IRC helps relocate Afghan refugees in Mexico, Uganda and Pakistan.

About the International Rescue Committee

Founded in 1933, the IRC responds to catastrophes and humanitarian crises across the globe. Since its inception, the IRC assists those who have had to relocate by providing them with lifesaving care and long-term stability. To date, the IRC operates in over 40 counties and 22 U.S. cities offering a range of support to people who have been uprooted and are struggling.

How the IRC Helps Relocate Afghan Refugees

For the past 30 years, the IRC has worked to provide aid to Afghanistan and continues to amid the ongoing crisis. On August 31, 2021, the IRC announced that the Mexican government will welcome 175 refugees arriving in Mexico City. Throughout its history and to date, Mexico has been a safe haven for those seeking refuge. Upon their arrival, the IRC provides urgent medical care, welcome kits, COVID-19 PPE and Psychological First Aid (PFA) to those who need it. The IRC has also announced plans to provide refugees in Mexico with cash cards to communicate with families still in Afghanistan.

Uganda is a second country that works with the IRC. Since 1998, Uganda and the IRC have supported over 1.5 million refugees and are currently working with the United States and United Kingdom embassies to provide asylum for Afghan refugees. Similar to Mexico’s approach, upon arriving in Uganda, refugees receive housing, medical assistance, COVID-19 PPE, sanitary products and temporary immigration cards. IRC staff onsite in Uganda have also provided refugees with a 24/7 medical clinic along with individual and group psychosocial services.

The IRC has also been working with Pakistan since 1980 and the partnership has helped more than 3 million Afghan refugees relocate. Despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has depleted much of Pakistan’s resources and ravaged its economy, Pakistani officials have assured temporary asylum for new refugees coming from Afghanistan. The IRC helps Afghan relocate refugees arriving in Pakistan by supporting them through cash assistance, health care, job training and “child-friendly spaces” where children can play and attend school in a safe environment. 

Types of Support the IRC Receives

  • Donations. The IRC website offers multiple avenues for people to donate. The Rescue Gifts page includes hundreds of gifts ranging from baby kits and survival kits to a year of school for two girls. People can also make a one-time or monthly donation that will go towards providing refugees with medical care and other emergency assistance. The IRC spends 87% of all donations on programming.
  • Volunteers. Volunteers help coordinate community outreach in various areas by hosting donation drives or working internships to get hands-on experience with refugee resettlement. They also help refugees adjust when they make it to the U.S. by hosting refugees in their homes with IRC’s partner Airbnb.
  • Community Support. Individuals can call their representatives and mobilize community members to contact their representatives. In addition, you can work alongside the IRC’s Policy and Advocacy team in the fight for policies and legislation. Text RESCUE to 40649 to start taking action

A Promising Future

The road ahead will be tough for Afghanistan and for the Afghan refugees. Nevertheless, the IRC’s support will change the course of the refugee crisis one donation at a time. 

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

How These 3 NGOs Are Helping Eritrean Refugees
The ongoing conflict in the Tigray province of Ethiopia has wreaked devastation. In November 2020, after months of political turmoil, the Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against Tigray regional forces. As a result, an estimated 353,000 people are in the worst classification for food security and thousands more have died. U.N.-backed data also show that 1.7 million are near maximum risk of food insecurity. Because of the crisis, several NGOs are taking on the fight in helping Eritrean Refugees. Here is how three NGOs are helping Eritrean refugees.

The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE)

John Stauffer founded The American Team for Displaced Eritreans (TATDE) in 2010, which is an organization that provides aid to Eritrean refugees seeking asylum in the U.S. and around the globe. TATDE works with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) by providing refugees in the U.S. and globally with adequate housing and resettlement support. This includes a new apartment checklist and a picture dictionary that translates Tigrinya, a prominent language that Eritrean people speak, to English.

In collaboration with other NGOs, TATDE assists in fielding emergency calls from Eritrean refugees on the run, defecting Eritrean individuals officials and those facing deportation. Some noteworthy work includes a scholarship program designed to provide nursing and other medical training to refugees living in camps.

Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides clean water, education, medical aid and shelter to those who have had to flee or have experienced displacement. Operating in more than 30 countries and with about 15,000 humanitarians, NRC aims to rebuild futures and save lives. Working with Eritrea’s Ministry of Education, NRC helps provide Eritrean refugees with educational and economic programs. The main goals include:

  • Offering training in hairdressing, electrical installation, masonry, plumbing and irrigation skills and fishery.
  • Providing business starter kits to recent graduates of business management, thus incentivizing them to start their own businesses.
  • Ensuring that teachers receive hands-on training and classrooms have the proper tools and supplies.
  • Maintaining and supporting the training curriculum helping Eritrean refugees.

To date, about 6.6 million people have benefited from the WASH program in Eritrea. The WASH program focuses on providing sanitary water to displaced people in refugee camps and shelters. The program helps use safe water for drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, solid waste management and public restrooms.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

In the first six months of 2020, UNHCR responded to the crisis by providing food and sanitary assistance to refugee camps on a monthly basis. Due to the current conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic, the work helping Eritrean refugees significantly slowed down. Access to the refugee camps remained suspended from July 13, 2020 to August 4, 2021, after violent clashes in the region prevented staff from reaching the refugee camps. UNHCR plans to allow for 200 refugees to receive regular cash assistance and 400 to receive protection assistance.

Progress is slow and while the Eritrean refugees still face hardships, efforts by NGOs like the UNHCR, The Norwegian Refugee Council and The American Team for Displaced Eritreans continue to show the good in humanity.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr