If there is one thing I have learnt in my years working in the humanitarian sector it is the amazingness of the human spirit: our ability to get back up when knocked down, our determination to improve on ourselves and the world around us, our resilience, our desire to help each other, our will to resist and our ability to dream.
I have seen it over and over again in my work. Amazing stories of survival, of determination, of solidarity, of companionship, of struggle. When we decide to come together for one another there is nothing that we cannot do. We are creative, innovative, resourceful. We feed off each other and prop each other up. We can be a force to be reckoned with.
Refugees and asylum seekers have taught me not to take anything for granted. Nothing. Things can change quickly, beyond your control, dramatically, dangerously. And you have to run. It is a basic human instinct, to survive, to connect and to re-build. Any of us could find ourselves in their shoes. And we, of course, would try everything possible to get ourselves, and our families, to safety, we would try to ensure that we can access opportunities so that we can continue contributing to the societies we live in, to live with dignity. It’s in our nature.
To those of you out there feeling helpless, frustrated, angry, paralysed, depressed: we’ve got this. We are going to come together and we will do what we do best: survive, connect and re-build. In the last 24 hours we have seen an enormous outpouring of love and resolve, and it keeps growing. There are many initiatives around the world being put together, and they are going to be awesome. Because that is one thing we as humans do remarkably well: when times get rough, we don’t give up. The most beautiful and powerful stories, the ones that we love to watch at the movies, read in books, the ones that serve to inspire, are those of strength in the face of adversity, of love, of unity, of humanity above all else. The ones where we celebrate our human spirit.
To help you out, we will work to provide you with insights into different ways that we can all help spread love and fight hatred and injustice. Opportunities to learn from each other and to come together. Ways to channel our anger and feelings of hopelessness, and to advocate for our common human spirit.
For now, here are some examples and we would love to hear of any other that you may have come across:
- Together Rising – an initiative to support families with nowhere else to go
There will be a lot of refugees that will be stuck in their transit countries (countries where they have first arrived and where they register with UNHCR or where they are detained) unable to be resettled. It will be hard to improve their conditions as they are often not allowed to work legally or attend schools. To protect them from poverty, there are important initiatives focusing especially on community-based organisations:
The Refugee Learning Centre (Indonesia)
The Refugee Learning Nest (Indonesia)
Urban Refugees have Incubation projects that support refugee community-based organizations in transition countries. Disclaimer: they are currently running Incubations in Malaysia and I work for them, which of course means that I am biased, but it also means I have insight into their work and know it to be worthy of supporting.
The Pollination Project, provides seed funding to worthwhile initiatives and are based in the US.
The Fabric Social is a very worthwhile social enterprise in Australia. Social enterprises are generally a very good way to help communities as they offer opportunities for income generating activities that fall within legal frameworks. They promote dignity, independence and sustainability.
The Refugee Council of Australia are helping to set up a Refugee Youth Network in Malaysia, and APRRN are this year starting to support other refugee-led youth networks in the Asia Pacific Region. Your support and contribution would be very much appreciated. Connecting youth of refugee background that are disempowered, in limbo, unable to access counseling services, higher education, traineeships, is incredibly important if we want to see future generations rebuilding their countries and to avoid the risk of radicalization. There are thousands, and thousands of youth cut off from services in transition and destination countries, disconnected and feeling hopeless about their future. They are the future, and we need to invest our efforts in them. There are refugee youth networks in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Pakistan, the UK, Denmark, etc. Given the opportunity, many youth welcome being part of initiatives that foster unity, understanding and love. They need your help, to navigate this complex world that we live in, and we must listen to them.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement also have a history of setting up community initiatives that support refugees and asylum-seekers in almost all countries in the world. Look up your national society and find out what needs they have and opportunities they might offer. Check out their work and see if it fits with what you might be interested in.
Are you aware of any initiatives or opportunities that you want to promote? Do you have any new ideas? Are you feeling a bit down and wanting to connect? Contact us and we will help making connections where we can. We are in this together.