As “one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our time,” the war in Syria alone has led to the displacement of more than 11 million people.
According to the International Organization for Migration, a record 522,124 migrants and refugees have braved the treacherous journey by sea into Europe this year.
With winter around the corner, the problem is only going to get worse as the migrant trail drops below freezing, rougher seas add new risks and the flow of immigrants shows no signs of slowing down.
The need for swift, creative solutions to help refugees and displaced people who are suffering through violence, starvation, and loss of family, friends and livelihood – has never been greater.
In light of this global crisis, there are people who aren’t waiting for their government to take action. They are helping now; with creative, out-of-the-box solutions to the refugees’ problems. These non-government solutions do not address the source of the refugee crisis nor do they claim to do so, but they do fill in the gaps and showcase the fact that every little bit of effort counts when people are in crisis. Here are 5 of the most creative initiatives designed to help the refugee crisis:
1. Refugees Welcome
Launched by a couple in Germany – the top destination for asylum-seekers – Refugees Welcome is now known as the ‘Airbnb for refugees’, allowing residents to sign up and offer space in their homes for the refugees.
‘All they have to do is provide details about their accommodation and Refugees Welcome then puts ‘the host in touch with an external refugee organisation, who will match them to a suitable refugee and facilitate an introduction between the two people or groups.’
Uber app-users looking to donate can simply order a car to collect their donated items, including clothes, books and toys. The donated items are then delivered to Save the Children where they can be sold to raise money for refugees.
3. Welcome to Dresden
Developed by two IT companies in Dresden, Germany, the ‘Welcome to Dresden’ app gives refugees arriving in the country vital information to help them deal with the complicated bureaucratic process of immigration and help them integrate easily and legally.
Available in English, German, Arabic, French and Russian, the smartphone app provides important, practical information on how to register with the authorities, get health insurance and find their way around the city.
4. Shatila Refugee Camp (#ShatilAlive)
Originally built in 1949 for 3,000 Palestinian refugees, Beirut’s Shatila refugee camp now houses more than 22,000 with more trickling in from Syria every day. Recently, the grass-roots organization launched the #ShatilAlive campaign on Zoomal to raise funds for its Basmeh wa Zeitooneh arts and cultural centre which seeks to empower its refugee residents and enable them to live in greater dignity.
Children are especially vulnerable to the extreme trauma associated with being refugees. Unfortunately, the camp does not have psychological support readily available for it’s residents, young or old. But they have been resourceful and have infused the camp with a vibrant artistic and cultural energy. The centre’s programs include workshops and theatre classes for children designed to help kids heal and move forward through self-expression.
“At the beginning of the school year, they were drawing bomb scenes and soldiers,” said 30-year-old Osama, an English teacher at the school. “But now they’re drawing hearts and angels. They’re drawing their hopes and their dreams.”
5. Migrant Offshore Aid Station
Launched by Maltese-based American millionaire philanthropist Christopher Catrambone and his Italian wife Regina, this unique charity runs a humanitarian search and rescue fleet of boats patrolling the Mediterranean to save migrants lost at sea and help prevent incidents like that of Alan Kurdi, the 3-year-old Syrian toddler whose body washed ashore on a Turkish beach, sparking global outrage.
So far, the MOAS has saved 11, 680 lives.
By Saneela Jawad
If you know of other creative ways people are helping address this global crisis, let us know in the comments!