I thought I’d compile a list of nine ways to help Syrian refugees to remind us not forget about our neighbors accross the ocean, as their situation is still demanding global attention.
First, an Update on the Syrian Refugee Crisis
Last Fall I wrote If Syria Was the USA: What is Happening in Syria and How to Make it Personal because it is so difficult to understand such a huge conflict without putting ourselves in their shoes (If you aren’t familiar with this crisis, this post breaks down those last five years in layman’s terms).
In the past twelve months, the number of displaced people in the world has risen to the greatest it has ever been, with one in thirteen humans having been forcibly relocated (learn more about the global state of refugees here). Although Syria is a small county, the Syrian crisis has been adding greatly to this number, with almost twelve million displaced, and nearby Iraq and Yemen are also rapidly adding to these numbers with turmoil in the Middle East continuing to rise.
This year a lot changed in the dynamic of those fleeing the war in Iraq and Syria. For awhile, boats of all types were fleeing with families through dangerous waters, mostly headed to Greece.
This short update really made what this looks like real to me. I thought you’d like to also check out this quick glimpse from this organization as they attended to those fleeing, freezing, and packed into one of eighty rafts that would arrive arrive daily where this NGO camped out:
The Rising Tide – Europe Refugee Crisis You’ve probably seen footage on the news of refugees arriving in Greece by boat, but you’ve probably not seen anything like this. You’ve heard opinions about who they are or what they want, but you can see it firsthand in this video. These are the ones lying destitute on the road, and we must be the Good Samaritan… ▶http://bit.ly/1WNfyDO
Posted by Samaritan’s Purse on Wednesday, October 7, 2015
(go here if the video doesn’t show up on your browser)
But the refugees who made it to Greece–so close to the safety they were hoping to find in Europe–are now stuck, waiting in horrible conditions without the ability to do or be anything. Without hope, many wish they had attempted to survive by risking their lives in Syria or even joined the Islamic extremist groups (read more here).
On the other hand, some are considering aid to be more effective if given in cash form, instead of pushing people into massive refugee camps that are really temporary cities. Learn more about refugees living in areas surrounding Syria.
You can always check for the most current update at the UNHCR Syrian Refugee Crisis page, but note, this number only includes those officially having applied for refugee status. There have been over one million who’ve applied for Amnesty within Europe, and over six million are still internally displaced within the borders of Syria (according to the Global Trends Report on refugees).
Thank You, World Changers, For Playing a Part to Help Refugees in 2016!
Before I give you Nine Ways to Help Syrian Refugees, I wanted to give a shout out to my fellow world-changers and Average Advocate readers.
In one of our previous posts, Action Idea: Collecting Baby Carriers for Syrian Refugees, we began helping Syrian parents through donations and baby carriers. The grassroots movement of Carry the Future grew at such an exponential rate there was no need to collect more baby carriers for those fleeing through Greece! They have since gone on to care for refugees in new ways. Thanks to the Average Advocates who helped us collect baby carriers!
Also, in this post, LBD Project 2016 Is Finished & Was Awesome! you can see that we raised a lot of money for A21’s human trafficking prevention efforts among refugees. We loved hearing the stories of modern slaves being rescued and knowing we were also providing refugees prevention education, clean water and safe places to pause on their long journey. Thank you 2016 LBD Project donors and participants!
Nine New Ways To Help Syrian Refugees
Because we were born to make a difference and we want to love our far-away neighbors, we aren’t just going to stop caring for these millions of displaced people! So, without further ado, here are nine ways you can actively help Syrian refugees:
1.) IRC Rescue Gifts — Game of Thrones
Honestly, I am a little lost about what Game of Thrones has to do with these, but I making an educated assumption that these celebrities are just using their influence to make a difference. Partnering with International Rescue Committee, they set up the typical non-profit online gift catalog, where you buy a goat for someone in need on behalf of your great-uncle’s birthday (or your parent’s anniversary). Yet this gift catalog is unique as these items only go to refugees:
- Emergency toilet: $45
- Four temporary shelters: $54
- Emergency cookstoves: $53
- A year of school for a refugee: $58
- Teddy bear & creativity kit: $45
- Fifteen warm blankets: $83
Check out their gift catalog to help Syrian Refugees here.
2.) Soup for Syria
Who thinks foodies can’t change the world? Check out Soup for Syria, a cookbook specializing in–you guessed it–soup recipes from around the world, submitted by eighty acclaimed chefs. The profits of the cookbook go to relief aid for Syrian refugees via the UNHCR. As the cost for refugees usually falls on the UNHCR, and they are running billions of dollars short, every little bit helps!
In addition, you can hold your own soup dinner party, inviting your friends over and then asking them to order a cookbook too! I’m also thinking this would a great gift to get the cook in your life. (Wow. That sounded so cheesy!)
Are the recipes good? I have no clue. I haven’t gotten a copy yet, so if you do, let me know so we can hear about them!
3.) Be a Welcome Family to Help Resettle Refugees
My dad regularly assists refugees and asylum seekers in the D.C. suburbs, and when he can’t introduce them to me himself (which is really hard now that I live accross the country) he relays these crazy stories of their survival to me.
Believe it or not, these people are as tough as nails and work their butts off to survive in the United States. If there is one thing I’ve learnt it is that they need us advocating for them. They want to feel human again, by being able to provide for themselves and have their own places to live. But there are so many barriers to overcome in a new land with such little start-up help.
In my opinion, this is the best way for stay-at-home moms and churches to help, because really, these immigrants are just looking for friends. When you are assigned a family (usually after a brief training), you try to connect with them every couple weeks, helping them understand their paper work or show them how to grocery shop (with all of your kids in tow). You can have them over for dinner and it is okay to have awkward conversations over Google Translate. These friendships are essential for survival when these refugees feel so alone in a new and unfamiliar world.
The refugee resettlement organizations in the United States work together to decide where they will resettle refugees through their offices in different localities (in San Diego there are at least three). Last I checked, Syrian refugees have been sent to 138 cities in 36 states since the country’s civil war began in 2011. Check out each of these following non-profits to see how you can help and whether they are working in your locality:
- Church World Service
- Ethiopian Community Development Council
- Episcopal Migration Ministries
- Hebrew Immigration Aid Society
- International Rescue Committee
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
- U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
- Catholic Charities with United States Conference of Catholic Bishops/Migration and Refugee Services
- World Relief
Although you have to go each specific website to see what the needs are, they often go beyond just being a welcoming family. Some even want to know if your company is hiring, or if you can donate a used car. Once the kids and I brought a pile of new towels and pillows to a refugee resettlement office and often they take used things.
4.) Host a Group Welcome Dinner
Church World Service is looking for families, organizations, and faith communities to host Syrian refugees for welcome dinners and welcome worship services. Truthfully, I filled out this form a long time ago and never heard back. Still, it might be worth trying!
Even so, many of the above refugee resettlement offices are happy to help your group host something for new refugees. There is a great need for connections. This is perfect for churches who are concerned about refugees–especially if they already have the classic skills of hosting a potluck dinners down!
5.) Use Your Political Voice
I’ve been compiling lists of different petitions and political actions to take for refugees, but they keep changing before I get a chance to post them!
Here is one that I know is current: Church World Service is asking us to contact our representatives to ask them to not bring the anti-Syrian and Iraqi Refugee bill for vote.
Contact Your Representative
In addition, the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is also asking us to contact our representatives via this form, so that they count us as supporters for general bills that help refugees.
6.) Become A Refugee Responder
A Refugee Responder is a little bit like a child sponsorship, as it is regular giving, but it isn’t focused on a specific person. You can start with as low of a donation as $25 a month commitment to help provide clean water, food, healthcare and safe spaces for kids through World Vision.
Learn more about being a Refugee Responder here.
7.) Addressing the Needs of Persecuted Christians at the hands of ISIS
As many of you know, I am a follower of Jesus. But in all forms of extreme religious oppression I hope we all stand up! Voice of the Martyrs is specifically working to help other followers of Jesus being killed and oppressed in the region IsIS is controlling. You can give to the Christians Facing Islamic Extremists fund and know you are helping these people at severe risk.
In addition, Voice of the Martyrs is also putting their own lives as risk to help change the worldview of Islamic extremists by using an Islamic framework to share about Jesus’ message of forgiveness and hope (Jesus is in the Quran as the prophet Isa). This is no easy task, but I’ve heard so many stories and met former Muslims from extremist backgrounds whose lives changed and they let go of violence. This might not be everyone’s thing, but the following link gives more info on both of these ways to give:
Give to the Voice of the Martyrs Fund Supporting Christians
8.) Write A Letter to Syrian Refugees
Write a welcome letter to Syrian refugees entering the Unites States with Amnesty International by filling out the following form. Talk about easy!
Write a letter to a Syrian family here
9.) Begin to Love Muslims (and Help Others Do the Same)
This post lists twelve ideas specifically on how to help bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims. Many Americans still consider most Muslims a threat (and therefore Syrian refugees from Islamic areas). Although these ideas, from books, courses, to actionable responses are specifically geared to help Christians grow in their understanding and compassion for Muslims, I am sure they will help people of all faiths. We want our fellow Americans to believe that Muslims are people, not a natural enemy.
This might seem like an ineffective way to help Syrian refugees, but changing our worldview (and influencing the otherwise closed worldview of those around us) is usually the first step required before we can actually practice loving others whom we might be very different from.
Here is this article chock-full of ideas: A Dozen Ways To Make A Dent by Shane Bennett
Thank You For Choosing to Love Refugees!
Want more ideas? This list of nine ways to help Syrian refugees is by no means an exhaustive! For one, we already covered how to collect baby carriers and refugee boxes with Carry the Future & the Compassion Collective. Then, whether you want to make women’s sanitary hygiene products for refugee girls (like these) or want to go overseas help in person, I hope you share with us what you did or will do to make a difference!
For more ideas, you can always help Carry the Future with baby carriers. I appreciated Interaction’s list of organizations that are actively helping Syrian refugees that you can peruse in-depth. And here is another post with ideas from Great Non-Profits. If you are outside the United States, your country might be listed on the Refugees Welcome website, a method to connect people willing to help with refugees in need of help.
If you have any other ideas on ways to help refugees that you’d like to share with us, we’d love to hear them in the comments below!
Check out If Syria Was the USA: What is Happening in Syria & How to Make it Personal if you missed it!
Because you were meant to make a difference, get your free guide by clicking on the image below to help you know where to start: