Until every war, conflict, and man-made disaster is stopped, every week for us is Refugee Week.
This week, hopefully no-one – not even our politicians! – has been able to escape the fact that it is Refugee Week.
A week in which the world’s activists (including 250 faith leaders) have united to remind people that whatever games of silence our media and political leaders may be playing, refugee camps go on; the attempt to flee in unlivable conditions go on; that thousands of volunteers are continuing to help millions seeking refuge; and that wars, conflicts, environmental disasters, dictatorships, land-grabs and all the root causes to the above, go on. Despite Covid-19.
The theme for this year’s Refugee Week was Imagine. There could hardly have been a more apt theme – because that is what most frontline aid responders do. They imagine…
From what it must be like to have lost and risked everything, to imagining what can be done to help, volunteers the world over spend hours, months, years of their lives, imagining. And if they’re very lucky, they might even get to action those imaginings to create a new reality.
It’s been one of the biggest honours of my life to be involved in this year’s campaign. From having none other than the great Pal Hansen popping me on a hoverboard so I can be pulled along by The Boy at the Back of the Class, to contributing to the Imagine Anthology, to seeing Sound Delivery gifting copies of the book away every day this past week, it’s been a wonderful, surreal journey.
But as it ends, it’s back to forging new realities from our imaginations.
And in the hopes you want to join me, here are just some ways you can help me and my teams do just that…
Seven #SimpleActs to take beyond Refugee Week…
1. Read on…
WHY: Refugee stories are everywhere – they are the baseline for many of our literary superheores/heroines, yet for some reason, we never speak of these same stories as being ‘refugee’ stories. From Superman to Harry Potter, from the Pevensie children in the Narnia chronicles to Dr Who, refugees – characters fleeing war, seeking a home, trying hard to save themselves – are everywhere.
So go back, revisit, re/read classic tales, and help refashion the negative language and stereotypes surrounding the image of a refugee, into a positive one..
LINK: See Popchange article HERE.
2. Donate towards a new Van
Why: Our Maison Sesame team are in urgent need of a van to help us continue to take in vulnerable families, arrange medical / legal sessions, run activities etc. Come help us raise the funds for it, and we’ll match fund every donation made to £5,000.
3. Get to know our amazing s/heroes
Why: They’re not on our news streams and chances are, you probably haven’t heard of their names (yet)! But to us, and to the thousands of refugees they help month in and month out, these phenomenal hearts are akin to superstars, giving their all to help refugees access everything from tents to a bottle of water, and ensure they are treated as human beings.
Get to know them, talk about them, learn about their motivations and needs, and help support them. The hidden faces saving lives every day, deserve to have many a spotlight shone on them.
4. Tents, tents, tents…
What it means: The brilliant team at Mobile Refugee Support are urgently in need of tents (with donations of these dwindling). A good tent costs £11, and we need to get hundreds in. If you can donate to their tent fundraiser, we will love you forever – and matchfund the first £5,000 raised.
5. Help us keep Ruhi Loren in Greece
Why: Shero Ruhi Loren gave up her job at the NHS to aid hundreds of refugees every day on the Greek island of Chios and beyond. She wants to go on doing so for the next three years, but worries about how to cover rent / transport / food costs, are impeding her. Help us gift her a monthly stipend so she can focus on doing what she does best: saving lives.
6. Support the Refugee Women’s Centre Team
Why: Because they are awesome. Because the Refugee Women’s Centre, like all our supported teams, despite being in the midst of a pandemic, have carried on, doing what they can to help refugees. As a thank you this Refugee Week, we will be gifting them £3,000. Follow, support and gift what you can to them too. And if you can’t do that now, do it later when the time is right for you. They’ll be there, serving and aiding, as always.
7. Support our new therapy project
Why: The emotional toll of caring for thousands is rarely spoken of by our volunteers, but are huge; ranging from burn-out to depression to breakdowns. Working with Side by Side, we’re imagining a world where aid workers receive love and care too via a new online therapy programme. And we need your help to do it.