There’s an inherent power in storytelling. When we watch a film, our bodies physically react by releasing oxytocin and sparking empathy. We identify, mourn with, and feel for the people in the story we’re hearing.
But what if the story we hear and see is sad to start but pivots to be uplifting and enlightening? In many people, that triggers a response to participate in the solution that lifted the character out of treacherous conditions and into a better life. In many ways, film and storytelling are the ultimate tools for education. This is how Home Storytellers is shedding light on the powerful solutions surrounding the global refugee crisis.
By focusing on the incredible potential of these people to succeed and drive change in their new communities, Home Storytellers uniquely brings awareness to the refugee crisis as a whole through the lens of refugee crisis solutions. The nonprofit organization shares uplifting refugee stories to inspire people, businesses, and governments to act in support of refugees becoming self-reliant. Plus, each film partners with a nonprofit organization that is providing aid to displaced peoples for the utmost impact.
What Is a Refugee?
A refugee is someone who has been forced to leave their country and cannot return safely. So how many refugees are there in the world? According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, there are 26.3 million refugees and a total of 80 million people who have been displaced worldwide as of mid-2020. Children make up half of the world’s refugee population.
Refugees flee their home countries to escape violence, war, economic instability, natural disaster, or persecution. Families face separation and deadly risks when pursuing a life free of conflict. A family could be ripped apart with a son making the journey but siblings not. Refugees typically live in a refugee camp or temporary village upon arrival to their new country but continue to face one issue after another while pursuing true freedom. A refugee camp may have basic healthcare, education, shelter, food, and water, but these camps are often overcrowded and supplies are limited.
Where Do Refugees Come From?
Today, 67% of the refugees come from just five countries: Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Myanmar. The Syrian refugee crisis has spanned an entire decade, with roughly 5.2 million Syrians as refugees and more than 6.2 million displaced people within Syria, where brutal conflict still persists. While 83% of Syrians have stayed in the Middle East, many make it to Europe and the United States, far from the challenges they faced in their homes.
Another conflict-ridden region is Venezuela, where ongoing human rights violations and instability have forced citizens to flee. Although the country isn’t technically an active war zone, the daily conditions faced by the average family are treacherous. The number of Venezuelans living outside of the country is nearing the number of those who fled Syria.
Many of the people fleeing Venezuela are families with children, elderly people, and people with disabilities. Siblings can be separated; parents can lose children, and refugee camps are not always safe for everyone. When family members reach their final destinations through often dangerous conditions and with only a few items, they’re met with further instability, few supplies, not much food, and lack of access to crucial resources like medicine.
What Does It Feel Like to be a Refugee?
When these asylum seekers leave their countries, they’re not often met with support, safety, food, or a community. The journey to gain refugee status in a new country is arduous on top of the culture shock, language barriers, and horrific memories many asylum seekers live through. Displaced people face hardships far beyond the decision to uproot their lives, and a number of them face uncertainty in a new land.
We can’t fathom the plight of the modern refugee, but we can collectively support their journey to self-reliance and prosperity, whether they’re struggling to receive adequate education, health care, or safety. The story of each refugee is unlike the next: From farmers to parents to children and more, thousands upon thousands of refugees have unique stories to share.
Inspiring Refugee Stories
In three films, Home Storytellers shares the stories of refugees who are rebuilding their lives and making an impact on their local communities, the lives of their children, and the futures of their families.
After facing gang violence and economic instability, at 17 years old, Mario fled his home country El Salvador for a new life in Mexico. Mario and his mother received legal assistance and support from Asylum Access, which helped him get his first job in his new country. After earning a promotion at his place of work and gaining full refugee status in Mexico, Mario and his mother are working towards bringing his little sister to Mexico from El Salvador to complete the family.
Mario’s film Hot Dogs on a Tricycle with Home Storytellers raised nearly $130,000 for Asylum Access, an organization that fights for legal empowerment and policy change, supporting thousands of refugees in their search for care and assistance.
Batool’s story is featured in the Home Storytellers film No Single Origin, which highlights the importance of human connection and community-driven support, all through the world of coffee.
Batool fled Damascus, Syria, with her parents and landed in the United States. As a young woman and Syrian refugee about to start college, Batool found 1951 Coffee Company, a nonprofit coffee shop that has three locations in the Bay Area of California and offers barista training and employment to refugees. 1951 Coffee Company helps them to start a new life by opening opportunities for work that provide benefits like health care and solid wages, setting them up for long-term success.
Jacques and his family fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world. The Dzaleka refugee camp is overpopulated with more than 42,000 people, and the average wait for resettlement is a staggering 17 years.
Jacques and his wife live in a refugee camp with their six children. In 2001, former refugee Innocent Magambi founded There Is Hope, an organization that provides vocational training and opportunities for refugee success in camps like Dzaleka. It is here where Jacques has gained the tools for self-reliance in his new country. Jacques’s success and situation are an excellent example of how a bottom-up approach to helping those in refugee camps who have fled civil war, violence, or uncertainty can uplift an entire village. Jacques’s story and journey as a father, husband, refugee, and worker will be featured in Sawdust, a Home Storytellers film with the goal of raising $300,000 for There Is Hope.
Home Storytellers: Amplifying the Voices of Refugees
A nonprofit visual storytelling organization, Home Storytellers is run by a father–daughter duo. The nonprofit organization is combating the global refugee crisis through the power of storytelling, which brings attention to solutions that enable refugees to become self-reliant.
Storytelling has the power to change the status quo through short documentary films. Home Storytellers inspires action in everyday viewers, businesses, and governments. For every $1 spent to create their first film, Hot Dogs on a Tricycle, $4 was donated to Asylum Access. The organization’s character-driven and solutions-oriented storytelling ignites empathy and inspires change in a way that supports the millions of displaced people seeking asylum around the world.
Francisco & Alejandra Alcala Cofounders of Home Storytellers
After being gifted a camera in 2001, Francisco fell in love with capturing the world around him and learned to use it for visual storytelling. Francisco served 30 loyal years at the Kellogg company, working on multiple continents and bringing his wife and children along the way.
It wasn’t easy moving so many times and adjusting to a new culture and new terrain. It was then that Francisco began thinking about the people who don’t get to choose where they move to but are forced to leave their homes for fear of losing their lives.
He left the corporate world and joined forces with his daughter Alejandra, who had a creative background in graphic design, video production, and creative strategy. This father-daughter team aims to inspire action through the power of visual content.
“It’s a proximity and closeness that we can bring with these films, and they can hopefully eliminate some of the barriers and misconceptions or perceptions that people have. We hope they will want to respond with the solutions that already exist in this world.” — Alejandra
Scaling Solutions: The Home Storytellers Framework
By shedding light on the refugee experience and the solutions surrounding the issues this group faces, Home Storytellers is sparking change across industries. Their framework uniquely highlights solutions and can be applied in a variety of sectors for a variety of global issues.
- Ordinary to Extraordinary: Home Storytellers highlight refugees who have remarkable stories. From disaster, exploitation, or war, these humans have emerged to create a new life and become leaders against all odds. We often don’t see the most extraordinary things right in front of us. How can you do this in your life?
- Heartfelt Empathy: Driven by connectivity, Home Storytellers gives refugees the space to tell their truths. This radical honesty and transparency give viewers the opportunity to fully connect and empathize with the hardships of refugees. Empathy is one of our most powerful tools to grow as people and share resources.
- Narrative — the Power to Make It Real: Storytelling to evoke a certain reaction is no easy feat, but through the careful cinematic power of video, this organization transports viewers inside a story. In many industries, the power of image and film is able to garner support. A film has the ability to take a page out of someone’s book and enact change.
- Change Agents: Through a well-constructed web of players, Home Storytellers knows how to help refugees and drives support to nonprofits employing, caring for, or providing services to them.
Closing: Strength in Refugee Stories
There will always be families fleeing violence and rising global temperatures causing climate-related disasters. We can’t change the fact that displaced people will always exist, but we can learn how to support them. Just like any group of people, the refugee workforce has talent, passions, and a hunger for life.
Home Storytellers is one of many platforms dedicated to sharing stories. By contributing our time, energy, or funds to the many organizations that are providing or showcasing data-driven solutions to the issues that the global refugee population faces, the world can be a more accepting and interconnected place that prioritizes safety for all.
Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode:
- Home Storytellers on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn
- Francisco Alcala on Facebook
- Alejandra Alcala on Instagram, LinkedIn
- Asylum Access
- There is Hope
- Watch Hot Dogs on a Tricycle
- Watch No Single Origin
- Watch Sawdust Trailer
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.