We have been absent from social media lately. It's been hard to focus on anything other than the photos and stories coming out of Syria and the Mediterranean region right now. As a mother and as a human citizen of this world, the photo re-tweeted by Peter Bouckaert, Director of Emergencies at Human Rights Watch, a few days ago - paralyzed me. A three-year old boy trying to escape the brutal violence in Syria with his family by attempting a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, didn't make it. Neither did his mother or brother when the overfull rubber boat capsized. The Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, put words to the desperation:
“You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.”
It's easy to feel small and powerless when you see the photos coming out of Syria and trying to understand the magnitude of this conflict. More than half of Syria's population have fled the violence and the devastation is incomprehensible. As is the violence in Afghanistan and the brutal oppression in Eritrea. The list goes on. But everyone can do something to help. Every little effort counts. From donating to a charity to volunteer work, we have gathered ideas from many great sources to help guide you through the multitude of ways you can help.
Incredible charities, UN agencies and non-profit organizations are working to assist refugees inside conflict zones, in refugee camps and in countries of resettlement. Many have opened appeals specifically aimed at helping the plight of refugees who are fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan or Eritrea and spell out exactly what a specific donation could provide. Here’s a sample:
Right now, IRC teams are working around the clock in Greece helping thousands of refugees each day who have risked everything to escape war and chaos inside Syria as well as conflict in countries like Afghanistan and Somalia. Click here to help IRC in their work.
This UN agency focuses on assisting children by providing healthcare, nutrition, immunization, water and sanitation. Specifically, UNICEF and its partners on the ground in Macedonia have distributed water and tents, provided safe spaces for rest and recreation, and are working to reunite lost children with their families. Click here to support UNICEF in the work.
The charity which runs independent rescue boats to rescue migrants at risk of drowning. It is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels. Click here to support MOAS in their work.
The humanitarian agency has three rescue ships in the Mediterranean, on Tuesday alone they rescued 1,658 people in its biggest day of operations. Click here to support MSF in their work.
International Rescue Committee along with eight other voluntary agencies are helping to resettle refugees in the US. Check which agencies are present in your town and ask them what you can do to help. Their volunteer programs often include mentoring refugee families, helping in job searches and finding furniture, food and clothing donations.
By the end of April 2015 , the UN estimated 6.5 million people had been displaced in Syria, while more than +4 million refugees had fled to countries such as Lebanon (1.2 million), Jordan (608,000) and Turkey (1.75 million) and thousands more in Europe. Germany expects to accept 800,000 asylum seekers this year, four times more than in 2014 and more than any other EU country.
The US has so far admitted less than 1000 Syrian refugees.
People all over Europe are putting pressure on the European Union to take more responsibility and stand by their humanitarian values. It's time to ask the US to do the same. United States of America; the most powerful nation, the largest economy, and the champion of democracy and human rights should stands for its values. The International Rescue Committee has argued for the U.S. to accept at least 65,000 refugees. We are asking the President and the government to pledge to resettle at least 65,000 Syrians by 2016. Sign the petition to the White House here.
Use social media to share articles, photos and hashtags to show your support and to put pressure on governments to act. Share this blog post or others that you find which describe what people can do to help.
To learn more about refugees, current conflicts and what else you can do to raise awareness - click here
100% Sales to IRC
In our effort to help, this Labor Day weekend we have made the decision to skip the planned Labor Day Sale and instead donate 100% of profits from our sales to IRC. I have personally worked closely with IRC's refugee programs over the years and have the utmost admiration and trust in their efforts to assist refugees in their struggles.
I'd like to end by posting this BBC clip circulating on social media today. This is what humanity looks like!