From well-known conflicts in Syria to less commonly discussed issues in Afghanistan and South Sudan, the global refugee crisis seems to be getting worse every day. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) records that an average of 28,300 people are forced from their homes every day.
Overall, 65.6 million people have been forced from their homes, 22.5 million of which are refugees, and over half of these refugees are younger than 18. Only 189,300 of these 22.5 million people have been resettled. These figures may feel overwhelming and disheartening, but this situation is not hopeless. As the refugee crisis gains more and more attention, many people find themselves asking a similar question: How can I help refugees?
Though it is a complicated issue, there are many ways that individuals can help and make a difference in the lives of refugees.
Donating money—as well as time and skills—is an effective, simple way to help. There are various good charities and organizations to look into when considering donations. A few include The White Helmets, UNICEF, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders, Kiva.org and the International Rescue Committee. Each of these organizations addresses a different facet of the refugee crisis, and they can always use financial support.
If donating money is not a financial possibility, consider donating time or individual skills. Refugee resettlement offices function across the globe, and these offices can usually use a new volunteer or intern. Another way to offer personal skills is to work as an English tutor to help refugees learn English. This can help increase refugees’ chances of employment, and it will also facilitate their adjustment to a new country. Those who have proficient legal knowledge can offer assistance with legal documents and provide other legal services. These are just a few of the ways to give time and skills to aid refugees’ transitions.
Be Welcoming and Kind
You may be asking, “But how can I help refugees if I cannot provide skills or money?” Simply be kind and welcoming. Violence or natural disasters have forced refugees from their homes, and many of them report feeling lonely and isolated when they move to another country. If you have refugees in your neighborhood, make them feel welcome by introducing yourself or even getting them a housewarming gift. Host a dinner party or barbecue and make them feel part of the neighborhood. Introduce your new neighbors to people in the community so that they can begin to develop their own place within the existing social structure. It’s difficult being the new person, and kindness can go a long way.
You can also go out of your way to support refugees and their businesses. If possible, employ them and make them an active part of your company. If you are not in the position to hire people, patronize businesses that do employee refugees. Better yet, patronize refugee-run establishments. This supports their livelihood and increases their financial stability.
At first, this may seem like a strange response to the question, “How can I help refugees?” However, knowing the complexities of the refugee crisis can help one better address the struggles that refugees are enduring. Instead of spreading what friends or family say, do your own research. Learn about the different causes of displacement. Refugees can help dispel ignorant, and possibly harmful myths, about the crisis. Once people know more about refugees, they are able to better educate others as well.
Don’t Stay Silent
No one is entirely sure who once said that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Regardless of whoever first said it, the meaning remains true. In times of crisis and peace alike, it is important for people to take action and speak out. Make calls and send emails to congressional representatives and senators urging them to support refugees. Additionally, speak up if you witness an act of ignorance or hatred. Finally, use social media to spread your newfound knowledge, share refugee stories and struggles and gather support for others to speak out. Even just talking about these issues among friends and family makes a difference. Be an ally and an advocate, and make it known that refugees are not alone.
“How can I help refugees?” At first, this question can feel impossible, but individual actions do make a difference. Though these five methods above may seem small, what you do to help others makes a meaningful and lasting impact.
– Rachael Lind