During my time in Europe, I’ve received several questions about the refugee pins that I sport on the left side of my denim jacket. What some of my readers may or may not know is that prior to taking off for my Euro trip I worked as an analyst for refugee admissions. A refugee is a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster. Working towards increasing refugee admissions in the US was a job that I absolutely loved. It was great to wake up knowing in some way or fashion I was helping someone reach the peace of mind they deserved. I became really passionate about this matter after my trip to Rwanda in 2014. It left a huge impression on me when I realized that over 1 million people were subject to their deaths with not even one option! The tragedy of what was the Rwandan genocide was a large failure for the international community. I vowed then that I would never standby if something like this happened in my lifetime. Unfortunately, it has and we now have the largest refugee population than during World War II. Over 13.5 million Syrians are in need of assistance and over 50% of them are children.
Many of us will never know what it’s like to be forced from our homes due to senseless acts of war and violence. Many of us will never know it feels like to see your loved ones killed in front of you. Many of us will never know what it feels like to have the places where we once played and attended school bombed and unrecognizable.
Refugees are one of the most vulnerable and voiceless populations in our world and it takes all of us to make the world better for them. Since we’ll never know what it’s like to be a refugee, we can use our privilege to alleviate this crisis and make life enjoyable for them once again. If you’re wondering what you can do to help I’ve listed some resources below:
1. Contact your local refugee agency to give some of your time!
Many refugee agencies need volunteers to help them with several different tasks. Getting admission to a country is no simple task for a refugee nor is it easy for those who are involved in the process. You could possibly help the with the large amounts of paperwork agencies have, filling out and filing applications, or just being a friend to a refugee family.
I’ve listed all the of the resettlement agencies I’m aware of below! Additionally, you can contact your county’s social services office to see if they have any special programs for refugees in particular.
Many of the above resettlement agencies need items to help their clients get settled into their new homes. Instead of sending all of your unwanted items to Goodwill, why not contact your local resettlement agencies? Use the list above to see when and where you could donate some of your items. It is very important that these agencies have practical items such as clothing, winter items, appliances, baby items, shoes, etc.
3. Get involved with your local ESL classes.
One of the most important things to learn when getting settled into a new country is the language, and refugees need this skill too! A large percentage of refugees begin looking for employment only weeks after arrival, and need language skills to get adjusted to their new environment. Thankfully there are many free ESL courses offered that are taught by community volunteers. This is a great way to help a refugee become familiar with the people in their new community as well as help them gain practical English skills. You can easily do a quick Google search to find your nearest ESL offerings or head over to volunteermatch.org and begin there.
I recently read a quote from Alice Walker and I believe it perfectly describes the shared responsibility we have to help those in need:
“Whatever happens to humanity, whatever is happening to humanity, is happening to all of us.”
Until next time,
The Pint Sized Traveler