Yesterday I listened to this Ted Talk by David Miliband. David talks about how the crisis with the refugees is a test of character for all us. Previously we (society) have embraced, welcomed and sheltered refugees. This time we have the US President building walls, the Australian government towing refugees to open water or placing them in camps, and Britain choosing to leave the European Union rather than help their neighbors.
David also talks about how such a large problem feels like it’s too big to solve. The war zones also aren’t in our backyards, making it easier to ignore too. But there are things we can do to help the refugees.
How We Can Help Refugees
This was David’s suggestion in his Ted Talk. There’s often a a perception that the refugees lack skills and don’t know English. This is definitely far from true. If you have an open role, I recommend chatting with your local refugee resettlement office about who they are supporting. They may be able to fill your role, and it’s probably cheaper than a recruiter. If you’re in Seattle, I recommend this group. They do great work, and are also suing the Trump administration over the travel ban.
Donate Time, Items and/or Money
If you have spare time, please consider volunteering. Most refugee resettlement offices teach classes on everything from English to opening a bank account. They need people to teach these. Not a good teacher? Some refugees were born in camps and all have to learn how to exist in our society. Volunteers buddy and help new volunteers do things we take for granted, like catching a bus.
Also, these people are arriving with just the clothes on their backs and setting up house is expensive. Find out what’s needed locally and organize a donation drive.
How many of you have money in the micro-financing organization, Kiva? I do. A $25 loan from us may be nothing but it can start a business in Syria or other war-torn countries. Plus, it’s a loan, so as repayments come in, you can re-lend and help more people. My thoughts are that if we can create stability before they become refugees, we can help stop the problem.
Eat at Restaurants Owned By or Employing Refugees
This one is win-win all-round. You need to eat, so why not try something new? Pick a cultural group, then use Yelp to find a restaurant near you. Who knows, you may find something nicer than a burger and fries (not that it would be hard).
Learn Their Stories
Be a Friend
This is the simplest and cheapest thing of all. and is probably the most effective and powerful. I look at the attacks in London and Belgium and have sympathy for the attackers. I don’t condone what they’ve done, but in some ways have been forced into it. Their homes and lives have been destroyed and they’ve been forced to flee. They arrive and most of the media and often new neighbors tell they’re as bad as the people they’re fleeing from. They are just responding the only way they know how. Let’s all be friends and treat these people better.
The problems are huge, but there are small things we can do to help the refugees.
Featured Image: © UNHCR/Photographer