9 Ways You Can Help The Syrian Refugees NOW

9 Ways You Can Help The Syrian Refugees NOW

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.

Thankfully, there are distinct, simple ways you can help that don’t require massive amounts of effort. By taking small actions, you can make a real difference.

Nelson Mandela said:

Our human compassion binds us the one to the other – not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.

May these small actions help you turn the sufferings of others into hope. Here are 9 ways to make a direct difference in the lives of the refugees.

Support Doctors and Those Treating Medical Needs

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Image source

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

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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

Refugees mother and son

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.

Raise Money

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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.

Conclusion

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.

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”On my recent trip to Africa, I asked iKhaya Lodge to have someone meet us as we arrived in Cape Town.  His name was Frank Mountanda.  We have used him to get around Cape Point, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Water Front, and other similar places in this area.  He has been incredibly helpful, reasonable, and knowledgeable.  He is married to a South African woman, has two young daughters, and his own tour guide business.  What is interesting is that he is from the Republic of Congo and is a refugee.  He has a history so similar to those people we are attempting to assist.

When the Republic of Congo was in the midst of civil war, he was a young man and being forcefully recruited to join the war.  As his name and language were a dead giveaway as to where he was from, he fled for his life. He came to South Africa as a refugee. Over a period of time he was able to obtain legal status and finally citizenship. He met a local girl and married and their two daughters now attend a private school.

Over the years he has built up his business. He speaks French, Italian, English, and two tribal languages. He said to me, “You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”  He has returned to the Congo more than once and has brought his mother to South Africa.  He has taken a bad experience and turned it into an asset where he can relate to many nationalities, languages, and circumstances.

His status as a refugee is not unusual nor uncommon.  What seems to be uncommon is how well he has been able to turn tragedy into something extraordinary.  What we have to determine as we think about our future engagement and partnership with the UNHCR Maratane Refugee Camp in Mozambique, is how can help empower refugees to push forward.  I am convinced that giving people hope in the refugee camp to move on with their lives within the country they find themselves is far more productive than waiting for a foreign visa that is highly unlikely to ever arrive.  Living in the false hope of someone assisting, embracing a victim attitude, blaming circumstances will never bring about the kind of productive life God wants each of us to have.

#CreatingHope

To learn more about Business Connect and read the rest of Lou’s reflections in our monthly newsletter, visit this link: http://eepurl.com/bA-KYH

How Are You Honoring America on Labor Day?

How Are You Honoring America on Labor Day?

 

labor-day-1024x768Happy Labor Day from the team at Business Connect!  We are taking the day off from our explanation of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to, once again, show you an incredible story that came out last Thursday. It means a lot to us here and we want to be sure this is shared as much as possible.

The founder of Chobani Greek-style Yogurt, Hamdi Ulukaya, will donate most of his wealth, at least 700 million dollars, to help the Kurdish refugees as well as refugees from all around the world. Ulukaya announced that he is going to join the Giving Pledge, the funding system created for the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet where the “rich” donate half of their wealth, by building Tent, a foundation he will fund over time to raise awareness about refugee situations. Last year, Ulukaya pledged $2 million to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help those fleeing violence in his native Turkey.

“In 1994, I came to New York to study English and later became drawn to the idea that anyone can start something in America—all you needed was a dream and the willingness to take a risk,” Ulukaya said. “Building Chobani, I found that the real power of entrepreneurship was the impact you can have on communities. Ultimately, Chobani’s journey proved that if you have the right mindset, the sky is the limit.”

‘The real power of entrepreneurship is the impact you can have on communities.’  This statement is profound because it shows the heart of the person who created the organization. Overcoming global poverty, getting a sustainable business model and clean resources to people who need them the most, is at the core of our mission. Creating hope through business; can this be said any better than through the actions of Mr. Ulukaya?

Remembering his real story is what encourages him to get involved with his new foundation, Ulukaya says. Knowing his own people who are being attacked by ISIS, in the city of Kobani located in northern Syria, and Iraq, in need of everything after they had to flee from their home, Shepherd’s Gift Foundation of Chobani donated 2 million dollars for them through United Nation, UNHCR, in 2014.

“My story, like so many others, is only possible in America. The magic and power of the American dream is something I believe should be available to everyone—and is part of my hope for a modern Turkey and for entrepreneurs around the word,” Ulukaya said. “In the decade since I started Chobani, dramatic changes have occurred around the world. One result has been a shocking increase in the number of people made homeless by the conflict. Today, more than 50 million people—most of them women and children—are living as refugees or displaced people, robbed of life’s opportunities by war, persecution, and natural disasters.”

What a message to those who suffer from the hardships of repression, hopelessness, and racial and economic discrimination. Mr. Ulukaya, thank you for showing the true spirit of what we believe and thank you for honoring America.

#CreatingHope

 

 

It’s Been Too Long…

It’s Been Too Long…

11896386_947369247833_7686272375353689146_oIt has been a long two weeks.  Here are a few thoughts and reflections on our week at a refugee camp outside Nampula, Mozambique and our three days at the Kruger National Park in South Africa. On August 12th, I landed in Nampula. It is the largest commercial city of about two million people in the Northern Mozambique, not far from the Tanzanian border. It is also the home of the one and only UNHCR (United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees) sponsored refugee camp in Mozambique. It is a small camp, only 11,851 reside here compared to 50,000 plus in camps spread throughout East Africa and the Middle East.

I decided to make this trip because I promised a trip to my grandkids and our local church was working to resettle refugees in the Grand Rapids area. Many had come from this camp. Most of them are Congolese, some from Rwanda and Burundi.

It was a trip that almost did not happen. The first leg from Grand Rapids to Atlanta was uneventful.  However, as we started the border process for the nonstop flight to Johannesburg, South Africa, I was called to the desk to provide birth certificates for Mikayla and Rebecca, 15 and 16 respectfully — a new policy that no one had informed us of until this day.  We were told we could not board the aircraft.

After a few moments of panic, hurried phone calls, and quick negotiation, Delta decided they would allow us to board but we would have to stay in the Trait Hotel at Johannesburg Airport.  This is all due to increased child trafficking and the South Africa government’s attempt to get a handle on some of these issues.

We were met at the gate at Nampula International Airport by a wild waving crowd of refugees who were expecting us.  Over the next six days we sat through numerous celebrations, songs, dances, gift giving —  staring into the eyes of hungry and scarcely clothed children. We distributed over 500 Bucket to Bucket filters from Business Connect benefiting well over 2,500 people with clean and safe water for the first time.  My niece, Justine, and my two granddaughters, hugged, played, and fell in love with the kids.

It was a week of HOPE for people so desperate for hope.  Many families we met had been in the camp for up to 12 and even 16 years. It is daunting to think that of the 18 million registered refugees in the world, less than one half of one percent will ever find a home again outside of a refugee camp.

Some of you reading this short reflection supplied the funds to provide these filters and know the story. We can not do a thing without partners and without resources to bring filters to our local partners on the ground. There is no international media to bring this to our attention and it is so far away.  We can ignore it…if we dare. If you are touched by these words and want to donate supplies to the refugees, send a tax deductible gift to Partners Worldwide (Attention Business Connect) for Worldwide Clean and Safe Water, 6139 Tahoe, Grand Rapids, MI 49546.  Every $100 will provide clean and safe water for 20 people for two years and perhaps longer.

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