Writer: Shreyas Raman writes from India where he notices the different perspectives that thousands of diverse people have.
The sad truth of our world today is that the calamity of the Syrian refugee crisis has devolved from a global catastrophe to a page three headline. We see reports of boats full of migrants capsizing, refugees not finding shelter, racism against innocent refugees and we dismiss them as just another news story. Sometimes we empathize with these people, and we feel the urge to help them. But then we think, “Oh, there are so many NGO’s and organizations out there. How will my help make a difference anyway? And what could I possibly do that could have a lasting impact? I’m just one person reading articles on the internet!”
However, that’s where we’re mistaken. One person alone can make a huge difference. All it took was one Martin Luther King to stand up for equal rights. All it took was one Mahatma Gandhi to lead a nation to freedom. And all it takes is one person to help solve the greatest migration crisis our world has in over half a century.
Okay, so now you’re interested. “What can I do, then?” you ask. Well, there are many, many things you can do, both from your desk and out on the streets.
Obviously, the most prominent way of helping that comes to mind is monetary contributions and donations. Money makes the world go round, and refugees who have fled their home nations have little or none of it. The UN estimates that by the end of 2016, half of the total population of Syria will be in need of financial aid, and the current gap between the amount required and the amount received is (in US Dollars) $1,679,749,286. That’s more than the combined GDP of Cook Islands, Anguilla, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, Montserrat and Tuvalu! In order to cover up this gap, international agencies have been pushing to get donations from all around the world. So what can you do?
You can donate in whatever little way you can. It needn’t be a massive contribution of hundreds of thousands of dollars. To put things in perspective, if every person who has viewed Taylor Swift’s ‘Blank Space’ music video on YouTube donated a dollar, 88% of the deficit would be covered up!
There are countless NGOs working tirelessly to provide aid to those in need, and even your smallest contribution would go a long way. Some notable ones you can contribute to are Refugee Action (based in the UK), Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the UNHCR, Medical Teams International (which offers opportunities to volunteer in the USA and internationally), Hand in Hand for Syria, and several others. Donations are not limited to money, either. Donating clothing, warm blankets, toys for children, books, can help poor refugees obtain the essentials required for decent living conditions and provide them with the basic amenities we all enjoy. Organizations like Refugee Action will also accept donations of clothes and materials.
Fundraisers and Collections:
If you or someone you know runs a shop or retail outlet, you can arrange for a small donation box to be placed at your cashier counter. You’d be surprised to know that many stores that do this receive a large amount in donations, which can then be sent a charity of choice. Some stores even ask their customers if they’d like to add a small amount to their bill, which will go towards helping those in need.
If you’re more of a community-involvement type of person, and you’d like to organize events or fundraisers, then there’s a great variety of what you can do.
Campaign and Raise Awareness:
While there are many people out there working tirelessly to help Syrian refugees, there are many others who hold racist prejudices and false notions regarding refugees. For example, there was a hue and cry raised in Europe when people claimed that refugees brought along with them increased violence, rape, murder, theft and other crimes. The basis for this rumor is understandable, given that the refugees are poor and have low standards of living, and seeing the luxurious lives of those in richer European countries tempts them to commit such crimes. However, that does not make these allegations any less baseless. Often times, reports and statistics backing these claims are not completely unbiased and neutral. Samples are taken from groups that are not representative of the actual percentage of refugees, and therefore exaggerate the figures.
One of the most prominent examples is that of Germany. There were false reports that the influx of around a million refugees was leading to a disproportionate increase in the crime rate. The truth is that refugees seeking asylum there are actually committing fewer crimes than the German natives, and most are relieved and grateful to have a place to live and food to eat. However, the damage had been done by these reports, and there was a drastic increase in the number of hate-crimes committed against refugees.
Many refugees view Europe as an ideal place; a utopia compared to the war zone that is their homeland. However, in intolerance against them has been increasingly concerning.
The case of Rami, a 23-year-old refugee demonstrates this. In his homeland, due to cultural mindsets he had to suppress his homosexuality and could not openly confess to it. However, in Europe, he thought he could freely express who he was as it was a tolerant place. To his dismay, he was teased and harassed and his homosexuality was insulted and shamed.
This treatment also causes mounting tension among groups of refugees. Take for example, the case of an 18-year-old Albanian refugee and an 80-year-old Pakistani one. After a heated exchange, the youngster punched the elderly man in the face, and caused a commotion at a refugee camp. Ultimately, it evolved into a brawl involving over 300 men, and the police was called in.
So what can you do to help? Well, hosting a campaign in your neighborhood to spread awareness about the true nature of refugees is an ideal place to start. You can:
The problem of Syrian refugees is not an easy one to solve. It will require a tremendous amount of hard work on the part of administrative bodies, companies, organizations, governments and of course, individuals. Clichéd as it may sound, every bit counts. Do your part in helping these refugees. Donate, reach out or campaign for them. Whatever you do, know that you are helping those who are most in need of help, and every dollar, pound or euro raised and every person whose mind you change brings about a new ray of hope for refugees.