Ok. But what can we do?
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead
We’re not going to sit here and tell you how to think about the crisis and what to do about it. But here are some suggestions to help you get started:
- Do your research
- Help refugees integrate
- Raise awareness
- Contact your political leaders
- Volunteer time or donate money to support current projects
- Come up with your own ideas
Do Your Research
Learn more about the various regional conflicts that have contributed to this mass migration crisis and what governments, organizations and individual people are doing to help.
Here are some useful resources to get you started:
“Fractured Lands: How the Arab World Came Apart”
In a five-part story, NYtimes journalist Scott Anderson and photographer Paolo Pellegrin tell the story of the development of chaos in the Middle East over the last decade or so through the eyes of six people. (Here)
Primers on the Syrian Civil War:
Crisis in Greece:
- “Greek island refugee crisis: local people and tourists rally round migrants”(full story, here)
- “Welcome to Greece’s refugee squats” (here)
“4.1”- In this short documentary, Greek filmmaker Daphne Matziaraki follows a coast guard captain on a small Greek island as he goes out on his boat to rescue refugees from drowning at sea. (watch it here)
- “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” (Part I, Part II) Samantha Bee (formerly from The Daily Show) visits a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan “to get to the bottom of whatever it is these people are up to.”
- From Vox, “Syria’s war: Who is fighting and why” (here)
- A slightly simplistic and clearly biased, but still useful, “The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained” (here)
A note on media bias:
For a more nuanced view of current events, consistently seek out media sources that have different biases. Seek out different opinions and challenge your own assumptions.
Read this note on journalistic bias from the American Press Institute (here):
“What if journalists acknowledged that bias does exist, that it is built into the choices they make when deciding what to leave in and what to leave out?”
And for a more general look at the role media plays in shaping our understanding of current events, read Brooke Gladstone’s The Influencing Machine.
Help Refugees Integrate
Once asylum-seekers are granted asylum and begin their lives in their host countries, the process of getting a job, going to school, and finding your place in your new home is difficult. People can help out on many different levels to help new residents integrate into their new communities. Not only does it help the immigrants themselves, but it is also essential for the safety and health of countries and neighborhoods.
Germany has acknowledged the importance of integrating its large numbers of refugees by drafting a law that requires newcomers to integrate into society or risk losing support. Requirements include language and culture courses. Read more here.
“Successful Integration Begins with Community Outreach” (here)
In the US:
- Check with the International Rescue Committee for volunteer and internship opportunities in your area (here).
- Check with Catholic Charities (here).
The role of social workers, teachers, and mental health professionals is incredibly important when it comes to integration.
- Schools: (here and here)
- Social Workers: (here and here)
- Mental health professionals (here and here)
- Host a discussion or fundraiser at your local community center or campus, like these UConn students.
- Use your voice to raise awareness, like the Game of Thrones stars (here)
- Organize a visual protest, like Alexander J. Farrell, who laid out 2,500 life jackets in front of London’s Parliament Square (see here)
Contact Your Government Representatives
According to this article, Eleanor Roosevelt’s greatest regret was not convincing her husband to accept more refugees before World War II.
The same first lady was passionate about the responsibility of regular citizens of democratic society to get involved with local politics. To raise the issues that matter to them. To hold their elected representatives accountable. (For more on this subject, read ch. 10 in her guide to a living a better life, You Learn by Living)
Elected representatives need to hear from you.
It’s not the only way to respond to this crisis, or even necessarily the most effective. But if enough people pressure enough representatives, maybe it will help.
Support Current Projects
We are inspired by the many wonderful individuals and teams who tirelessly work to help the refugees who are stuck in Greece.
Below we have compiled a (limited) list of groups currently working to address needs of refugees. Most groups are grateful for any type of support—whether it’s sharing their crowdfunding link on your Facebook page, donating your hard-earned money to support their projects, or volunteering your time and services.
We encourage you to check out each group’s website and/or Facebook pages to see what projects they are working on.
Groups that provide many different services including shelter, information, communal support, education, and skills training.
Za’atar Shelter in Athens
Zaatar’s mission is to provide a safe space for refugees to rest, learn, feel empowered and grow. We aim to accomplish this mission through:Assisting in locating or providing shelter for vulnerable families and unaccompanied minors.Proving educational experiences, including programs teaching art, languages, and computer skills. Offering training opportunities to increase refugees’ chances of gaining work, and in order to foster their integration within Greek and westernized societies more generally. (Website; Facebook)
Our aim is to provide solidarity to refugees stranded in Greece. We provide support with food, sanitation, language skills, asylum case work and accommodation. We act as bridge between donors, large NGOs, grassroots activist groups, independent volunteers and immigration services. We work collaboratively with all actors so not to duplicate efforts or waste resources. (Facebook)
Filoxenia International is dedicated to improving the quality of life of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants without discrimination. We intend to build strength within vulnerable communities by providing services, resources and structures that enable self determination and dignified living. We aim to achieve a positive socioeconomic outcome, both for residents and for the local Greek community. (Website; Facebook)
Groups that focus on basic survival needs such as health, food, clothing, shelter, etc.
Allied Aid is a grassroots organization working to meet the critical needs of refugees stranded in Greece. (Facebook)
Giving for a Better Future
These refugees need help with the basic essentials we take for granted in our everyday life. Clothes, shoes, toiletries, food, clean drinking water and toys – the list goes on and on. Many of the refugees in these squats are the most vulnerable members of society: children, old people, and people with disabilities.We have been to Greece several times over the last year to provide direct help. We have been doing this with our own money but with your help we would be able to do more. (Website; Facebook)
United Rescue Aid
We are a close team of volunteers working together in the aim of saving as many lives as possible by crisis management and communication with people in distress, coastguards and other rescue operators. (Website; Facebook)
A Drop in the Ocean
A Drop in the Ocean aims to provide immediate and direct aid to refugees. Our main focus is to help children and their mothers arriving in Europe by coordinating volunteers and by collecting the necessary equipment and financial support. A Drop in the Ocean was founded in September 2015 and since then we have sent over 1,600 volunteers to Greece, where aid is needed the most. (Website; Facebook)
Solidarity with Ritsona
Solidarity with Ritsona is a citizen initiative that provides decent housing and support to people most vulnerable living in the refugee camp Ritsona (Greece), while awaiting the resolution of their applications for international protection. (Website; Facebook)
Because We Carry
The teams help those arriving on feeble boats on the inhospitable shore, by handing out dry clothes, deliver baby carriers for the long walking journey ahead, and supply the often exhausted people with food. We also aim to bring joy, and spark some hope and respect into this further desperate context. To make our charity on the island of Lesvos as lean as possible, we daily decide on which needs we are going to focus our attention and budget. We are a hands-on organization, UNCHR approved and collaborate with various parties present. The teams of volunteers provide their own funding and accommodation; every donated euro will go straight to its purpose. (Website; Facebook)
Following the complete evacuation of Eidomeni we have decided to relocate part of our team to Thessaloniki after having gained full access to the camps. We will continue distribution of essential items everywhere needed, including all the camps and we will undertake new projects to provide as we have been doing for 10 months now. With so many lives in upheaval again, including our own, we are in desperate need of emergency funding to rebuild and continue our efforts. (Facebook page)
InterEuropean Human Aid Association
The mission of the InterEuropean Human Aid Association (IHA) is to provide protection and assistance for refugees in a fast and efficient way. This is accomplished with teams of volunteers working closely with local and (inter-) national organizations along the European borders. We provide much needed emergency relief and supply the camps with basic needs provisions. (Website)
At the heart of what we do is a system for the collection and distribution of humanitarian aid that is consistent, fair and dignified. As a result, we are making life a little more comfortable and dignified, improving their health and contributing to a more harmonious, supportive camp environment. (Website; Facebook)
Information and Legal Services
Groups that focus on providing essential information on legal rights and work opportunities
Our mission is to provide refugees with knowledge about their rights and obligations and the administrative and legal processes. We believe that knowledge empowers refugees to make decisions and take back some control over their lives. (Website: Facebook)
Asylum Links EU
In collaboration with the UN Refugee Agency, Asylum Links EU empowers refugees in Greece through access to reliable, up-to-date asylum information so they can better defend their rights. We are also providing signposts to help people access the medical and housing services available to them. (Website; Facebook)
Education and Arts
Groups that focus on providing classes and materials for the study of language and arts
No Border School
We started to provide language classes at the Piraeus Port and at its closure moved to different venues in central Athens. The aim is to allow language and cultural exchange between people living in Athens due to the closing of borders and the people who have come to support and help. We do not differentiate between volunteers, refugees, activists, and migrants. We believe that language education enables self-empowerment and hope that our school will help people stand up for their rights and more fully participate in society. (Website; Facebook)
Refugee Language Initiative
The Refugee Language Initiative is a non-profit organisation that uses qualified teachers to bring English language skills to refugees and internally displaced people living in or near to camps and conflict zones throughout Europe. Our main aim is to provide education and employability to those who are most in need, as well as offering hope and ambition through the learning and improving of new skills. (Website; Facebook)
Our mission at the Hope Project is to equip and mobilise displaced children and adults through informal curriculum-style educational programmes and integrational activities, which includes Maths, Science, English, Greek, Art, Sports and Life Skills. Hope Project provides a safe environment and a platform where they develop and contribute towards the project, society and their own future. (Website; Facebook)
Books for Refugees
1. Humanitarian groups throughout the United States and Europe contact me about the projects they are doing that are related to the education of the refugee children. I also reach out to people who are doing projects and who are volunteering in camp schools.
2. I order high quality Arabic children’s books and have them sent directly to the facilities or to friends who volunteer to deliver the books to the facilities. (Website)
Artists in Transit
Artists in Transit is a collaborative arts team aimed at delivering workshops to communities and people in times of hardship founded by Molly Daniel in Sept 16. In October 2016 we will be travelling to Athens to work with displaced people & children in Eleonas Camp. You can read more about the project and how to take part here. (Website)
ART Angels Relief Team
A mobile Music School and Healing Learning Space with displaced kids, youth, women, men – in cooperation with the host population- affected by the experience of forced migration where we offer music therapy and education, promoting human opportunity and development for displaced kids, youth, men, women. (Facebook; BBC video clip)
Groups that focus directly on supporting the mental health of refugees and volunteers
Refugee Trauma Initiative
RTI works to reduce the trauma and enhance the well-being of refugees by offering psychosocial support to individuals and families living in refugee camps, and training and supporting volunteers working there. A core value of our work includes respecting the humanity and dignity of all people. We have reviewed and mapped the lack of qualified and culturally appropriate psychosocial support services that are currently available to the tens of thousands of refugees housed in Greek government and NGO administered camps in Northern Greece. RTI has highly qualified, trained professionals with many years of experience working with trauma and refugees. (Website)
Maternal and Infant Health
Groups that focus directly on supporting the health of mothers and infants
Nurture Project International
Nurture Project International is a US-based, non-profit organization that works to protect safe infant feeding among families impacted by crisis and disaster.We organize and train volunteers and build mother and baby tents where they can provide technical support to mothers and babies fleeing war, oppression and persecution.We provide ongoing peer support from trained volunteers to mothers while they are in transit.We empower mothers and give them training that allows them set up peer to peer support groups in large, established refugee camps as well as temporary refugee situations. (Website; Facebook)
Come Up With Your Own Ideas
All of the projects listed above started with individuals who looked at the situation in front of them and asked two simple questions:
What are the problems here and what can I do to help solve them?
Here are some other ways people got creative with their projects:
Teaching Refugees to Code
From CNN: “Re:Coded is partnering with Flatiron School to educate about 50 Syrian refugees living in Erbil, Iraq — a city where more than 100,000 Syrians have fled to escape the brutal civil war raging in their home country. Alexandra Clare founded Re:Coded in June last year, with a plan to teach software programming to refugees and give them real job prospects.”(Read the full story here)
AirBnb for Refugees
“Housing refugees in private accommodation provides advantages for everyone: refugees are able to live in sound accommodation, learn the language faster, and adjust to a new environment more easily. You, on the other hand, will get to know a different culture and help a person in a difficult situation. If you want to take part in this project, sign up here. We will put you in touch with a refugee who fits you and your flatshare.” (more info here)
Donate your Smartphones to Refugees
“Geecycle collects smartphones from people around the world and then distributes them to refugees fleeing conflict. Right now, your old smartphones are being distributed on the Greek island of Samos. We’ve partnered with a brilliant UK based social business, Impossible, to process the phones here in London and with volunteers on Samos who will distribute the phones.” (more info here)