Touched by the situation facing nine million refugees in what’s now known as the Syrian Refugee Crisis (or in Europe, the related Mediterranean Refugee Crisis, as Syrian and Libyan refugees attempt to flee in unseaworthy boats)?
If you are looking to help, we salute you.
Here are top ten things to keep in mind, all of which are also useful tips for any war-related future, or any issue that causes people to flee their homes and seek refuge elsewhere…
- Activate Your Connections. If you are already associated with a house of worship that is affiliated with a denomination, then likely that organization is already involved. For example, a local United Methodist church could raise money for UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, already on the ground and helping.
- When Donating, do your homework. Get educated about the situation. For example, with the Syrian refugee crisis, there are dedicated web resources, including one offered by the European University Institute, at http://syrianrefugees.eu. Also, when donating, choose your charities carefully. MyPhilanthropedia.com and Charitynavigator are just two of many websites that help you choose. Be careful whom you trust… unfortunately there are those who would take advantage of tragedy for personal gain.
- When In Doubt, Choose Experience. It’s smart to choose organizations that are well experienced in the cause at hand. In this case, one such well-vetted organization is Doctors Without Borders, with direct medical aid inside Syria, and they accept donations online www.doctorswithoutborders.org/Donate, but there are many others as well, as highlighted in a recent CNN article.
- Send funds, not goods. Yes, your blankets and clothing are great, but they’re hard to divvy up, and they cost a great deal of time and resources to deliver. If you have “things,” consider having a garage sale or rummage sale. Sell the items to raise funds, and then send the much-needed funds to the disaster relief workers who can put them to the very best use.
- Give when Buying. Some organizations, such as Amazon (smile.amazon.com) allow you to choose an organization that’s helping, and send a token donation every time you buy. It costs you nothing, if you’re buying online anyway. Remember, though… buying local and in person is better for your community (more money stays in your community) than buying online.
- Say Yes to the Local Grocer Ask. If your grocer is asking for spare change to be collected and sent, why not? It might not be as effective as the top organization, but would you really send the pennies otherwise? This is called crowdsourcing, and our pennies and one dollar donations do, indeed, add up.
- Don’t Drop Away. Often, these efforts take years, but our attention span can be short. If an effort has touched your heart, then commit to it for a longer time horizon. Or, latch on for the long-term to some other portion of the puzzle to help heal the world, and don’t let go.
- Work for Peace. Often, refugees arise when war erupts. Why not consider becoming involved with activities on behalf of peace. This can be as simple as adding your voice to the song (as with the For Our Time project) or you can consider financial support of organizations that are working for peace in the region, such as The Carter Center.
- Lift Your Voice… Spread the Word. Whatever you find out, share it. You can start by sharing this page. And speaking of words, don’t forget to activate the power of prayer. Prayer helps!
- Never underestimate your ripple. Don’t belittle the effect that you can have, even what seems like worlds away! Check out more tips on making big, positive waves at www.elfenworks.org/ripple.
“How can I help?” is a great and generous-hearted question. All of us at NHM Ministrants applaud your warm heart for refugees, and we wish you Godspeed with your humanitarian efforts their behalf!
-The NHM Ministrants Team