Five things you can do (right now) to help the refugee crisis

September 4, 2015

By Jennifer Moreau, Burnaby Now

Maybe you’ve seen the thousands of people streaming through the borders in Europe, hair catching on razor wire, people pushing others in wheelchairs for days.

Perhaps you heard how Aylan Kurdi, a three-year-old child who drowned at sea was supposed to come to Vancouver with his family.

Maybe you’ve seen enough and now you’re wondering how you can help. Here are five things you can do right here, right now, to help alleviate the world’s worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

1. Educate yourself and others. Learn as much as you can about the problem. Follow the news, read up on the history of the conflicts that are forcing millions of people out of their homes. Follow the conversation on Twitter (#refugees #refugeecrisis #refugeeswelcome) Check out websites for organizations like the Canadian Council of Refugees or the UN Refugee Agency. Educate others. Spread the word on social media. Raise the conversation with friends, coworkers and family.

2. Ask politicians questions. We’re in the middle of an election. Ask your local candidates what they plan to do to help the refugee crisis. Research the party’s platforms, write letters, attend all-candidates’ debates and raise the subject. Now is the best time for them to listen to voters.

3. Volunteer with a local group that helps refugees. Immigrant Services Society is the main organization that helps government-assisted refugees settle in B.C. ISS also runs a mentorship program, matching volunteers with newly arrived refugees who have no friends or family here. You can volunteer to show them around, help them learn English or cope with the stress of adjusting to a new culture. Click here for more on volunteering as a settlement mentor. Check out Journey Home, a faith-based group that helps asylum seekers in New West and Burnaby.

4. Donate money to groups helping refugees on the ground. The UN Refugee Agency is the world’s leading organization helping refugees with the necessities of life: food, water, shelter, medical care and safety. The agency helps more than 50 million refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people. Eight six per cent of the money goes to humanitarian aid, while only 14 per cent goes to administration and program costs. Donate here.

5. Sponsor a family, and you can literally save people’s lives. Canada allows for private sponsorship by groups of five or more people. So gather four friends and fundraise to cover the costs of helping a refugee or family settle for one year. Amounts vary depending on where you live and the size of the family, but a family of four would cost an estimated $25,000 to $27,000. That may seem like a lot, but when you split that between five or more people, it’s completely doable. (Set up a crowdsourcing campaign online and alert your local community paper.) Sponsors are responsible for helping the person or people with food, clothing, housing and settling in, which could include signing them up for English classes or enrolling their kids in school. If that’s too much responsibility, find another group sponsoring refugees, and donate to them. Click here for more info on Canada’s sponsorship program.

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