Cultures

Let these creative endeavors inspire you to help refugees too

By  | 

Let these creative endeavors inspire you to help refugees too

According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), nearly 60 million people are currently displaced as refugees worldwide, which sets a global record. Resources available to the agency and other international refugee relief groups have been overwhelmed by the number, which continues to grow.

Big names are on the job

Pope Francis’ remarks to the assembled crowd upon his recent visit to the Moria refugee camp of Lesbos on April 16 were, “Before they are numbers, these people are first and foremost human beings,” after which he further criticized Europe’s developing deportation plans for thousands. The Pope was reportedly so moved after the experience, he parted from protocol and took twelve refugees back home with him. Susan Sarandon, Angelina Jolie, and Queen Raina of Jordan are names among additional high profile visits to the island in recent months. Amidst images of enormous piles of life jackets and tattered rubber rafts strewn across the island, Sarandon spoke about the basic supplies being provided and the very real dangers of crossing the seas necessary to reach the island. Unfortunately, latest reports confirm these risks with an estimated five hundred drowning en route to the shores on April 20—a tragic, but sadly not unusual, event.

What can you do to help?

With so much tragedy and desperation being reported, regular citizens may feel hopelessly unable to help. However, there are numerous options available for those who feel called within many parts of the world. In the United States and Europe, depending upon your location, there are numerous opportunities for volunteering.

You can become a landlord and offer housing, attend or host events, provide a space for classes, training and other projects, provide pro bono attorney services, donate supplies, mentor families new to America, hire them for jobs, do an internship or work with refugee assistance organizations, do some filing, other office work, and other forms of advocacy through organizations like the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, International Rescue Committee or the UNHCR.

Some agencies can use assistance with being part of a welcoming committee, tutoring, teaching basic life skills in a new community, ESL language teachers, instructing on utilization of public transportation, teaching job skills, providing transportation to health care, social service, school enrollment and other appointments, and assist with setting up homes for those who have arrived with only a suitcase—or even less than that. USCRI, for one example, has field offices in various locations.

Creative endeavors alleviate boredom

Others have offered a few more creative ways to help, such as Dr. Anna Kim of Courtauld Institute of Art, who states, “The arts and access to beauty encourage human dignity—far from being just the cream at the top of society when all basic needs are fulfilled, such as medication and health and so forth, are fundamental to human thriving.” Kim and other scholars developed a project with a group named “Thriving Cities” aimed at enhancing community health and well-being for refugees and other groups. More groups target refugees with their volunteer skills, including Clowns without Borders, travelling theater, art and music groups like Good Chance , circus groups, as well as yoga instructors and more. According to CircusAid‘s Jill Maglio, long days with nothing to do can create psychological effects similar to being in solitary confinement. Maglio adds, “Having nothing to do and being in a positive mental state can be hard enough—but having nothing to do and having the trauma you’ve experienced, leaving your family, conflict at home, all these unknowns… that’s quite maddening.”

An impressive and emotion-evoking exhibit currently on display at the Annenberg spotlights refugee struggles within five continents, a project comprised of several photographers’ skills. Another photography project lead by Save the Children intended to draw attention to and exemplify the plight of refugees was completed by girls in the Za’atari camp of Jordan. Artist groups are following suit with projects and art therapy at the Calais Refugee Camp, where Art Refuge UK offers psychosocial activities in hopes to promote well-being within the traumatized groups.

Whatever your talents may be, it appears you can easily find your niche in helping refugees if you explore the multitude of agencies and groups participating—or start your own! It seems there are few other uses of skill more fruitful or purposive in today’s world of need.

Kristen lives in the Michiana area, where she enjoys lake-effect weather, apple orchards and occasional South Shore rides into Chicago. She can probably tell you more about apple cider vinegar than you'd ever want to know. You can reach her at: http://lakesedge.wix.com/lakesidewriting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.