Four Ways to Change the Refugee Crisis

In the last few weeks I've written about many topics that can be rather depressing: refugee radicalization, the flaws of the EU Turkey deal, and camps in Europe where migrants are stranded. These things are definitely sad, and often they can seem too far away and too overwhelming for us to do anything about them. These feelings of despair keep most people from helping because they don't think they can really make a difference. But individuals can make a difference. Today I want to share four ways to change the refugee crisis - personal and practical things you can do to make a difference.Stay Informed For several weeks after the tragic story of Alan Kurdi washing up on the shores of Turkey the international community turned their attention to the refugee crisis. But it wasn't long before other news stories eclipsed the tragedy of refugee lives lost at sea. If what I write about here disturbs you, then remain informed about the migrant crisis, even when the majority of news outlets have moved on. Here are some of my favorite sources for continuing coverage of forced migration around the world.

Refugees Deeply

The Guardian

[bctt tweet="Stay informed. Check out @refugeesdeeply and @guardian for great updates on the #RefugeeCrisis. "]

Spread Your Knowledge If you are informed about the refugee crisis, the next step is to inform others. This doesn't require starting an in depth blog like, it just means sharing your thoughts on this issue with your circle of friends and acquaintances. Let the subject come up in everyday conversations, or if you read a thought-provoking article on one of the websites I mentioned above post it to your Facebook or Twitter feed to promote the conversation through social media. Just being intentional about what you share can have a much farther reaching impact than posting pictures of your significant other sleeping or a video of cute cats. Another way to get conversation started might be to wear your opinion. This shirt is one of my favorites and wearing it often prompts perfect strangers to comment about the crisis or the presence of refugees in our country. Far too often those comments reveal ignorance of the issues, so it gives me an opportunity to gently correct and influence the understanding of someone who might never come across this blog. Plus, 100% of the proceeds of purchasing this ethically made and organic shirt go to the IRC! Win for everyone!

Give Responsibly I receive regular emails from organizations like UNHCR and World Relief that help update me to what's going on in the world of forced migration. Often, though, these emails include solicitations for donations. I tend to be cautious about giving money to an organization if I don't know exactly how it will be used, even if I know that the organization usually does good things. Unfortunately, because of that caution I may end up not giving at all.  So, how can you financially support the work of refugee aid in a responsible way? Here are a few ideas.

[bctt tweet="How can you financially support the work of refugee aid in a responsible way? Here are a few ideas."]

Use your financial resources to buy products that give back to organizations that assist refugees. The shirt I mentioned above is just one example of these kinds of goods. An organization called Heshima Kenya sells scarves on Etsy that are made by refugee women and girls in Kenya. They are provided with housing, education, medical care and taught an income generating trade. 100% of the proceeds from their beautiful scarves are reinvested in the Heshima program. Karam Foundation, which provides aid in Syria, sells traditional soaps and hand embroidered pouches made by women in Damascus who cannot support their families any other way. Whenever I need a gift for a friend's birthday or another occasion I turn to these kinds of products that tell a story to the recipient and help refugees in need.

Another way to share your finances responsibly to assist refugees is to seek out a connection with an individual volunteer or employee of an organization that works with refugees. Volunteers are by definition unpaid, and many nonprofit employees struggle to make ends meet. Financial support is often what makes it possible for these individuals to do their jobs. I have a friend who is working with refugees through a church overseas and I love getting to hear first hand accounts of her work. I know that my monthly contribution to her is making a real difference because I don't have to wonder if it is being used on things that don't directly make a difference in people's lives.

Finally, if you do want to give to an organization in the traditional way, make sure you do your research. Find out what you can about them online. The tax statements of non-profits are public record, so do some sleuthing and look into them. Better yet, volunteer with the organization, if possible, and get to know the people who work there. If you take these steps you can be confident in your decision to write a check to further their work with refugees.

Volunteer and Make a Refugee Friend The most important way I responsibly give to refugees and the organizations that help them in the US is by giving my time instead of my money. Refugee resettlement agencies are often understaffed and can always use people to do everything from office filing and sorting donations to furnishing refugee apartments and meeting arriving refugees at the airport. I also mentor new refugee families, which just means that I volunteer to be their first American friend. This usually entails checking in on them weekly, accompanying them to different appointments to help fill out paperwork, helping them get groceries until they get their US drivers license and working on English together. When I am friends with a refugee family I can also use my financial resources to bless them with things they might need instead of making a donation to an organization and just hoping a refugee family gets what they need. To find an organization in your area that you can volunteer with visit our How to Serve page.

[bctt tweet="Volunteer to be a refugee's 1st American friend through @WorldRelief. #MakeARefugeeFriend"]

So, there you have it - four ways to change the refugee crisis. These four things are not really especially life-changing or unique. They're just practical ways to think and act intentionally when it comes to the refugee crisis, but they can also be applied to many other global issues. Ultimately, making the effort to take these kinds of extra steps is a way of showing you care, and I want readers of this blog to be people who think deeply about forced migration, but also who care deeply about those affected by it. So, take some time in the next week to do one of these four things: stay informed, spread your knowledge, give responsibly, and make a refugee friend.

Image Source: Tim Reckmann