How to Help Refugees
The world has seen huge impact from the people of the world forced to start a new life away from home. There are many refugees throughout history that have greatly contributed to our art, culture, science, and history. This month, and especially today—World Refugee Day—people around the world are showing support for the strong and persevering people who brave the dangerous journey they never asked for. But this is just a kick-off for the continued support and action we can and will all provide for the refugee community going forward!
So, what can we do to show our support and help efforts to provide the assistance needed?
Well, while needs are increasing, in much of the world, refugee admissions are not (and are often admission is become less and less frequent). A third of all refugees reside in refugee camps and less than 1% are resettled in any given year. Regardless of where someone may end up, they deserve (and we all benefit from them having) an opportunity to live, not just to not die—access to professional opportunities, education, health care, and community should be the standard.
This year, for World Refugee Day, people from all over are coming together to raise awareness about the refugee crisis. We all have the capacity to help in one way or another and the impact of your contribution is huge. So, how will you take action?
Spread the word and get active:
Did you know that ever year, refugees travel 2 billion kilometers (1.2 billion miles) to reach safety? This month people around the world are taking part in the #StepWithRefugees campaign organized by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The goal of the campaign is to collectively cover the same distance in solidarity. Get moving—walk, run, bike—and record your distance to contribute to the 2 billion kilometers today!
Go to an event:
Local communities around the world are coming together to honor the strength of the refugee families that seek a life in a new country. Join your community to thank those that have impacted our world so deeply, and support those that can change it in the future. Search here to see what your community is doing to honor refugees today.
Be an advocate:
In the U.S., the president decides how many refugees will be granted admission each year. Donald Trump has lowered the cap to an all-time low: 30,000. Lowering the limit does not make the problem go away. It exasperates it. As mentioned, the refugee crisis continues to grow to unprecedented proportions.
You can see why it’s so critical to take action in any way you can.
Today, tomorrow, and the next day, refugees need each of us to continue to advocate on their behalf to our local and federal governments. But how!?
First, when the time comes, vote! Vote for representatives that further the principles of human rights and human dignity for all people.
In the meantime, let your elected officials know that you and your community supports refugees and the resettlement process.
The Refugee Council USA provides a sample message for your Rep in case you’re at a loss for words:
“I am a constituent from [CITY, STATE], and I urge you to welcome refugees and support the U.S. refugee resettlement program. Resettlement is a core American legacy that extends hospitality and offers a chance for refugees to rebuild their lives in safety and dignity. My community welcomes refugees and I urge you to reflect the best of our nation by supporting refugee resettlement in the United States.”
Unsure of who your elected officials are? No problem! Search here to find out. Give them a call today and let them know you haven’t forgotten them, you have a demand, and you’re expecting a response. If calls aren’t really your style, and you’re more of a Twitter guy/gal: elected officials love that! Give ‘em a shout- @[yourrep].
Make a donation:
NGO’s around the world are taking action every day to provide services refugees are in desperate need of. As countries close their borders, these groups do their best to pick up the slack.
Monthly donations can be the same as a TV subscription or the amount you’d spend on one coffee run. It’s doable! If that doesn’t work, you also have the option of a one-time donation. Truly, truly, truly every dollar of your contribution makes an impact.
There are so many organizations you can contribute to. If you have a passion for some particular aspect: education, children, legal rights, women, professional training- you can find an organization that is providing that exact support. But, in case you need a one-click shop, here are a few organizations who you can support:
- American Refugee Committee: The American Refugee Committee understands that giving is a personal experience and they provide fantastic guidance on different options that may be best for you. (employer matching, “in memory of” donations, and even giving stocks!)
- World Vision: World Vision provides opportunities to donate to different crises around the world through a one-time or monthly donation. (maybe you can pay the amount you don’t pay for your friend’s parents’ Netflix account?)
- CARE: CARE provides cool opportunities to give—in addition to a monthly or one-time donation, you can give your spare change (they round your spending to the nearest dollar and donate the change, so for a purchase of $4.70, it’ll be round up to $5 and your $0.30 will go to helping a refugee!) or browse their “gifts of lasting change.”
- International Refugee Assistance Program: IRAP provides legal aid and advocacy for some of the world’s most vulnerable citizens.
If you’d like to rally your own community, you can also start your own fundraiser for many of these organizations. If you have a creative idea to raise funds and support, this is a great opportunity to turn that idea into action.
- International Rescue Committee: The IRC provides options for all sorts of contributions: monthly or one-time donations. Pick your amount
- United Nations High Commission for Refugees: The UNHCR provides an easy framework for starting your own fundraiser in your community, at work, or at school.
Volunteer opportunities range from single-day local efforts to longer-term volunteer commitments. Every effort supports refugee families and the organizations that are organizing to provide humanitarian aid and social support refugees need.
- IRC: The IRC has opportunities of all sorts, leveraging your existing skills from design and photography to summer camps and mentorships to providing employment opportunities.
- Airbnb: Volunteer your home as a temporary shelter for refugees arriving in your city through Airbnb’s Open Home project.
- UN Volunteer: The UNHCR provides opportunities for volunteers who are interested in working for 6-12 months.
- HIAS: HIAS allows you to search for volunteer opportunities based on where you want to lend a helping hand.
- Local efforts: If you live in a city that is taking in refugees, look for local efforts to contribute! For us in San Antonio, the city and its volunteers are working diligently every day to provide for the buses of refugees arriving with clothes, food, know your rights information, and travel arrangements.
Support businesses that employ refugees and those that commit to assisting their transition once they arrive in a new country!