The Syrian refugee crisis has reached massive proportions. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have been displaced from their homes and are trying to make a new life elsewhere. Others are stuck in refugee camps, desperately hoping for the chance to move to another country. As you watch the news and read the headlines, it’s easy to feel helpless. Like there’s nothing you can do to make a difference. You want to help, but have no idea what you should do. Here are 9 ways to make a direct difference in the lives of the refugees.
Support Doctors and Those Treating Medical Needs
The medical needs from the refugee crisis is staggering. As a result of the mass destruction, hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children have suffered significant injuries. And yet because of the surrounding conditions, they don’t have easy access to doctors and medical care.
By supporting organizations like Doctors Without Borders (also called MSF), you can help alleviate the health crisis that so many Syrian refugees are experiencing. Doctors Without Borders goes to the most difficult places and provides medical care for those who need it most. Doctors Without Borders provided this update in January:
Since the beginning of the intervention on December 15, MSF teams have distributed 1,328 non-food item kits (including hygiene kits, kitchen kits, winter kits, mattresses, and more), to internally displaced people from East Aleppo living with the host community in Idlib Governorate. Additionally, 300 winter kits (clothes, blankets and other items) were distributed in different areas of Idlib Governorate to people evacuated from East Aleppo and displaced people coming from the Northern Aleppo countryside. MSF also supports hospitals in the region with medical equipment and drugs and has provided a tent to support a mobile clinic and a generator, fuel, and supplies for blood transfusion to a maternity unit.
Open Your Home To Refugees
Those refugees who manage to escape the country need a place to stay. Try to imagine yourself in their shoes. You’ve just escaped with your life but now have nowhere to live. It’s a terrifying thought. By opening your home to refugees, you can meet them in their darkest hours.
Through organizations like Refugees Welcome, you can make your home available for rent or for free to these refugees. If you choose to rent, the organization will even subsidize some of the cost. This is a simple way to make a large difference. One Syrian refugee had this to say after staying with two Germans:
Suddenly I was not a grown up man with a life anymore. I felt like a child. Brian and Wilhelm helped me with everything … To be completely helpless, that was the hardest thing.
By opening your home, you can help those who feel helpless themselves.
Adopt The Right Attitude
Many people have a very aggressive stance toward refugees. They don’t want them in their country, much less their homes. We’ve seen this especially in the American political arena lately. Compare that attitude to these Canadian children.
These kids model compassion and generosity. They are willing to sacrifice their own space for the good of others. They want to do whatever they can do relieve some of the suffering these refugees are experiencing. Our attitudes drive our actions. An attitude of compassion creates actions of mercy. Let’s model our attitudes after these children. As Stephen Bauman wrote:
Imagine the sheer chaos and suffering if displacement of this magnitude were to afflict our country. Where would you go if barrel bombs began falling indiscriminately on your neighborhood, or if a terrorist group unhappy with your religion threatened your life? If you could safely reach another country, how would you hope to be received?
Spread The Stories
It’s one thing to see statistics of the refugee crisis on the news, but it’s something else altogether to hear the stories of the Syrian refugees. When we hear their personal stories, it creates real, human connections. It allows us to see that they’re real people, just like us. It helps to defuse the situation and create compassion.
One significant, yet simple way to help is by spreading these stories. Share them with your friends via email and social media. Tell their stories in your church groups and social clubs. Statistics don’t generate compassion, stories do. Time Magazine tells the story of a couple who left their home, including this poignant paragraph:
The couple packed their bags with clothing, photos from their wedding and a few keepsakes: a set of colored bowls they had received as a gift, a glimmering golden plate inscribed with the Shahada, the Muslim profession of faith. The following morning, they walked out the door and left their life behind.
These stories do so much more than statistics. They touch the heart. Make a concerted effort to begin sharing the stories of the real people who have been affected by this crisis.
Write Letters To Refugees
Even though you may not be able to be on the ground in Syria, you can still make a tangible difference in the lives of the refugees. You can communicate your support to the refugees by writing letters of encouragement and solidarity. Take just a few moments to tell them that you’re thinking about them and doing everything you can to help. This may not seem like much, but it’s this kind of personal connection that can give hope to a person in dark times. You can find out more about writing to refugees here.
87 year-old Helga wrote a letter to a 16 year-old refugee, describing her experience of being displaced from her home in Germany during WWII:
In February 1945 there were terrible Air Raids in our town. My father lost his life during one Raid and our house was also hit by a bomb and we lost everything. My mother and I were lucky to be able to take one of the last trains out of the city! Our last possessions were in one suitcase. Always remember the good times and look forward to what the future may bring. It is always difficult adjusting to living in a different country. I know!
This kind of letter is a simple, yet powerful way to support those who have been displaced from their homes.
Support Refugee Run Businesses
When a refugee comes to a new country, they face the immediate, daunting, frightening challenge of providing money for their family. They must quickly come up with a way to generate cash to meet even the most basic needs for their families. For example, this man began selling pens to support his family.
One powerful, yet simple way you can support refugees is by supporting their businesses. This is also a very empowering action. It prevents them from feeling like charity cases and let’s them feel like they’re providing a service of value.
Donate Money and Supplies
You may not be able to take a refugee into your house, but you can easily donate money to support those refugees in need. Here are some organizations you should consider supporting:
- Calais Migrant Solidarity: This group focuses on organizing support from the United Kingdom to those stranded in Calais.
- Doctors of the World:This medical group provides care to vulnerable people, as well as being passionate advocates for people’s right to health.
- The Jungle Library: A powerful way to help people is by providing education and books. This organization created a makeshift library set up at the camp at Calais and they need more books
- Folkestone United: By organising protests and taking donated goods to Calais, this group is putting boots on the ground.
- Avaaz.org: This group is dedicated to making a difference locally by lobbying local councils, providing language support, and housing refugees
For a list of more organizations providing aid in the refugee crisis, read this article.
In addition to donating money, raising funds from family, friends, and contacts is a great way to provide immediate assistance, spread awareness, and get others involved in the relief efforts. Sites like GoFundMe make it simple to raise money for those in need as well as share your campaigns across social media.
Additionally, you could consider:
- Selling something like baked goods
- Having a yard sale
- Having a car wash
- Putting on a dinner
- Having a silent auction
The options are limited only by your creativity. Once funds are raised, you can donate those to one of the organizations above.
Use Social Media
Social media is a hugely powerful platform for spreading a message and raising awareness. In addition to following the social profiles of the organizations noted above, you can spread the word to your friends and followers.
You can share articles, status updates, and photos across the various social networks. Consider using a hashtag like #RefugeeCrisis at the end of all your posts. Also, with the availability of live video, you can easily begin sharing video messages of support for those whose lives have been destroyed by the crisis.
Note to self
There are real, simple, tangible actions you can take to make a difference in this crisis. You don’t need to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars or go overseas, although it would be wonderful if you could. By taking small actions on a local scale, you can make a big difference on a global scale.