Saturday, September 5, 2015

Syrian Refugees - How are you helping?

I did not have the "typical" US university experience. I lived at home, worked and took classes at an inner city community college for a while until I moved on to a full university to complete my degree.

One of the best lessons I had there was in a three minute conversation with a fellow student. We were in a very advanced math class together and this guy was incredibly intelligent. Like the guy that could always solve all the problems in any exam. He was typically quiet, but seemed so comfortable and wise with his knowledge, and knew more than the instructor.

There were many international students at the school, so one day before class I inquired about his background.  In that three minute conversation I learned he was from Cambodia. Before he came to the United States, he and his father lived for 10 years in a refugee camp.....

This was before the internet. Before the general population had any idea of what leads up to and happens when populations are displaced. Needless to say, I was shocked when he shared his story. To my knowledge I had never met someone that lived in a refugee camp. And the fact that he lived there 10 years to get to the US to attend a community college that some people might dismiss from the definition of quality education left me speechless.

Now that we have access to that information, Facebook, Twitter and all other social media have been inundated with an outcry to help Syrian refugees.  The image of the boy that drowned and washed up on a beach in Turkey was a huge tipping point in this crisis, and got people's attention. I have probably seen this image 100s of times in the last two days.

Is it sad, awful, and has everyone wondering "How did it get to this?"  Sadly, it has been a crisis situation for some time.

I could see my Facebook newsfeed full of outcry for countries and their leaders to do something. Only a few people actually shared links about how to help.

Yes, there are many things countries can do, but just opening a border is not enough. Once this displaced population arrives they need the infrastructure, supplies and volunteers to help. This is where we as individuals come in. What can I do?

I spent some time yesterday looking for specific charities that offer relief for diabetic Syrians. Since my son has Type 1, this is a subject very close to my heart. I know that a Type 1 refugee would not survive without insulin. If I were suddenly displaced, every ounce of my being would be focussed on getting insulin.

Through my search, I concluded that the crisis is so big that I cannot find a way to specifically support diabetes for Syrian refugees at this time. I think this speaks to the magnitude of the situation.

If you google "how to help Syrian refugees" many options come up. I have decided to start with some of the organizations in this article from PRI.

Before you dismiss it, and your potential to help, take some time to look up "famous immigrants and refugees".  You will find reference to people like Steve Jobs' father (a Syrian migrant), Albert Einstein, Madeline Albright and many many others that have had a huge impact.

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