As more refugees are being resettled in countries across the world, young people are creating innovative ways to mobilize their peers.
You, too, can make a difference in the lives of refugees. No matter where you’re from, there are countless opportunities to support refugees in your local community. Ranging from tutoring refugee children to screening films about displacement at your school campus, here are four ways to stand #WithRefugees:
1. Tutor Refugee Youth in Your Community.
An easy way to help refugees in your community, or even abroad, is to teach them the local language. Learning the language of your new homeland is critical for integrating with the local culture. In fact, refugees who learn the language of their new country have a far greater chance of integrating into their community, finding employment, and succeeding in higher education.
Paper Airplanes, created by a college student, is an online service that pairs young Syrian refugees with student tutors. The tutors help strengthen their proficiency in the host countries language, and create a resume, cover letter and personal statement to apply for university and jobs. If you are interested in serving as a tutor, visit the Paper Airplanes’ website!
In addition to Paper Airplanes, there are countless other programs where you can tutor young refugees or help them with homework and school assignments.. Nearly every major city now has an organization dedicated to refugee empowerment and education. For example, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has chapters in almost every European, Asian, and African country. Search online for a local IRC center that is in need of help.
2. Launch a Clothing or Toiletry Drive.
One of the easiest ways to engage your peers in making a meaningful impact in the lives of refugees is to launch a clothing or toiletry drive at your school or community. When people are driven from their homes, many times they are forced to leave all of their belongings behind. When they arrive in refugee camps or their new home countries they are often in dire need of basic staples, including food, toiletries, and clothing items.
Clothing and toiletry drives can be held at any time of the year and allow you and others to give old or outgrown clothing and new toiletry supplies to those who truly need it. Contact your local refugee resettlement agency and inquire how and when you can drop off the donations.
3. Create or join a Refugee Advocacy Club.
Students across the world are mobilizing and are proving to be a powerful force for championing refugee rights. One of the standout student-led advocacy groups is No Lost Generation, which has student chapters in the U.S., Jordan, Norway, and Finland. UNICEF school clubs are also making great strides in bridging the gap between students and local refugee communities - through hosting tutoring sessions, fundraisers, and community engagement events. If you can’t seem to find a local club to join, why not start one in your school or community? Regardless of the club you join or start, you are bound to positively affect the lives of refugee youth.
4. Start a Refugee Awareness Campaign.
Refugees continue to face stigma and discrimination in their new communities and refugee camps. As research clearly shows, stigma and discrimination often prevent refugees from feeling welcomed in their homelands, integrating into the local community, and even seeking healthcare. One of the most effective ways to break down stigma is to shine a light on the plight of refugees and demystify the myths and misconceptions surrounding the resettlement process. This can be done by educating your peers about the refugee crisis.
The Walk a Campus in my Shoes poster exhibit is a UNHCR educational tool designed to inform the minds and open the hearts of college and high school students. The exhibit was created by a group of young people who recognized the lack of awareness among students in their school on the refugee crisis. They decided to make a difference by displaying posters with information and statistics across their campus grounds. Since the series was created, it has been displayed at over 20 universities and has engaged thousands of students. The exhibit can be shipped around the world to educate students on the refugee crisis as they walk on their campuses. Visit the WACIMS Facebook page for more information.
With the advancement of technology, many students have found unique ways to shine a brighter light on the global refugee crisis. One program that students all over the world have been embracing is the United Nations Virtual Reality Campaign, which is focused on harnessing the power of Virtual Reality to give students an in-depth view into what daily life looks like in a refugee camp. Featuring the campaign at your campus, school, or community center is totally free, besides the costs for a VR headset. Visit the UNVR website for more information.
There is a plethora of ways to support refugees locally and globally. When choosing what to do, keep in mind the most pressing needs of the refugee community near you. At the end of the day, though, remember that you—regardless of your age—can positively benefit refugees. Keep up your good work standing #WithRefugees!