Right now it doesn’t matter who or what you believe, it doesn’t matter where you live or who you are, all that matters is that people who were just trying to live their lives as best they could, men, women and children, have been caught in a war that has decimated their homes, ruined their lives and killed their neighbours and soon them, while we have all just watched on. We can make up all the excuses we want, “not our war”, “they are all terrorists”, “why should we always have to reach out to others”, but none of those excuses erase the fact that we are just sitting here in the comfort of our homes watching the people die. We watched it happen in Srebrenica, in Rwanda, in Sudan, and in the DRC, always sending too little too late. All eyes were on Egypt and Libya in 2011, but who remembers what happened in Bahrain? Who is watching what is going on in Yemen as I type this? As fellow humans we need to stop thinking in terms of “us” and “them”, stop making excuses about why it isn’t our problem, and do what little we can to help stop unnecessary suffering that happens all over the world. And at the same time, we should also be counting our blessings, thankful that we are warm, safe and fed, because these type of things can change overnight, with the blink of an eye. I’ve been sitting on this blog post for a while now, but I need to post it, as the woman that I interviewed a few months ago continues to provide me with hope that there are more of us out there who want to make a change than we think. If you want to help, I have provided links to trustworthy charities below. If you are only interested in telling me that I am wrong, or trying to convince me that I am wasting my time, don’t waste yours. You can pick and choose what media sources you want to believe but no one is denying that people are dying. This blog post and interview are about the current crisis in Syria and how to help, but you can easily apply anything we say in it to any other cause that may apply to you.
I can’t say that this year has been any worse than other years, news-wise, but between this farce of an election over here in the US, the continuous stream of stories coming in from all over the place of people fleeing for their lives, only to end up being pawns in a political mess, stranded in camps with no place to go, and the inevitable deaths of so many animal species in our near future, I feel helpless. Where does one start? We don’t eat meat or fish anyway, but I am halving our consumption of dairy. I can’t vote in the country I reside in but I will write about immigration as it really is, not how it is portrayed by electoral candidates or right wingers who have no idea what they are talking about. We don’t have much money, but $25 here and there towards a good cause won’t stop us from eating, and can surely help someone receive medical care and food that they really need.
I still have a love/dislike relationship with social media, love because it’s the easiest way for me to keep in touch with my friends and family all over the world, and because I’ve met some wonderful, like-minded people via platforms such as Instagram. Dislike because I sometimes feel tied to it, and resentful that it’s becoming kind of a status symbol to have X amount of followers, and that some writing gigs actually demand that you have a certain online “presence” before they hire you. But that is all irrelevant really for today’s blog post. I bring up social media because it allowed me to “meet” a most wonderful lady who constantly does her best to make a change in this world (with a witty repartee that always brightens my day). This fabulous human being made it her mission this summer to collect medical supplies and donations in order to fill a container to ship to Syrian refugees. She threw it out there on Instagram and got a great response. I personally loved the idea that I knew exactly where the money I donated was going, and that it was all going towards providing a little relief to those who desperately need it. Sometimes it’s difficult to trust certain charities (Haiti post-earthquake comes to mind), because you have no idea if your money is actually helping those who need it rather than lining someone’s already velveted pockets (HERE is a great place to go to if you have doubts). Anyway! Enough rambling, because this lovely lady (who prefers to remain anonymous apart from her IG handle, @whattheschujj), answered some of my questions, and I hope that you find her as inspiring as I do.
How did the idea of getting a crate full of medical necessities come about? How were you able to actually get approvals for this to happen?
The idea came from the charity itself. Most collect clothing, dried food and medics aid as a lot of the work done at refugee camps (Turkey, Greece etc) is done voluntarily. Registered charities raise money for containers and once they are full, the aid is shipped. Syria is literally running out of everything but the demand for food and medical aid is so high, therefore the charities I work with asked to put a hold on clothing donations.
I found it amazing how you actually gathered together both the donations and the supplies and made it all work. It must have been a logistical puzzle, especially as you have a family and a job! How on earth did you do it?!
Oh my goodness I've no idea! I work part time- I scour the Internet on the best bulk buys in the evening after putting the children to bed. I prefer to do things physically if I can. When I can it is all done either on my days off (with baby number 3 in tow) or after they have gone to bed!
There are many causes that are very dear to me, some more than others. What made you decide to do all of this work towards this cause over others?
I have worked regularly supporting a charity whose aid goes to refugee camps in Turkey; refugees from all over the world live in these camps. Although it has been covered in the news, one particular news article just stopped me in my tracks; the attack on one of the only 'working' hospitals. Once I'd done crying I decided I need to try. To try and do something and the digging around then started.
I find that I want to help in so many ways that I get pulled in too many directions and end up trying to do too much at once. It results in me often feeling at a loss on how to REALLY help. How do you get around this feeling of helplessness in order to actually accomplish something?
Charity is pivotal to my faith. I believe strongly in 'lending a hand' wherever I can. I can also feel helpless at times however I do not let it consume me because the feeling of 'must do this' is much stronger. I simply research the issue. I find out as much as I can about the 'need'. I am fortunate enough to come from a community whereby 'someone knows someone' ; a well connected one so this helps when I'm doing the digging.
Would you say that social media helped bring people together to raise funds and awareness for this cause in particular? Do you find Instagram to be a good platform to bring people's attention to specific crises in the world?
I have never used Instagram before- ever! This was the first time and I was completely overwhelmed with the response. I have used Facebook before but generally I send out messages to people who I think could help/ be interested. I feel Instagram is a beautifully wonderful supportive community and I hadn't thought about my actions as bringing attention to a specific crisis to be fair. I do think Instagram is used as a 'happy place' however, I'm not trying to infringe on anyone's happiness as such. I think it is full of likeminded folk who don't consciously avoid global issues; they sometimes just don't know where to start or what to say.
I've been talking about the war in Syria since it started and how horrific the whole situation is and I am often met with a wall of silence or the usual "oh well you know they are always killing each other over there, let's change the subject to something a little more appetizing". How would you advise others to help raise awareness in places where people don't really care, or can't be bothered to care?
I think it's difficult to tackle people who don't really care/ can't be bothered to care. I have never insisted life should stop for the ones on the 'other side' however I will say this; embrace your blessings. In my mind it is simple; we have a moral obligation to help our fellow man. As I mentioned earlier, some are a little afraid to speak out on the issue but some genuinely do not know what to say. I believe in doing. If you don't know, go find out. It is easy to be detached from the whole thing as we stare through the television screen but it affects us all. I cannot force the hand of anyone however we should all ask ourselves one question "when the present becomes our history how will it dictate our futures and what could we have done about it?"
What do refugee camps and the people of Syria really need right now? How can we continue to provide help to these people in dire need of it? How can we make sure what we send is actually going to the right people?
This can change according to where the camp is/ how well equipped camps are/ how supportive governments are. The best thing to do is to research a reputable charity who supports refugees; support can be in various capacities. Ask as many questions as you can. I always try to donate to charities with a 100 per cent donation policy as I hate charities who build an empire of fat cats!! Ask around; has anyone you know volunteered? Research blogs of people who have/ are volunteering (many specifically in Lesvos) and ask them for guidance. Many people have Facebook pages to document the donations journey and can regularly update to confirm the goods get where they at supposed to.
What are your next steps in this entire endeavour? I feel that while this part might have been accomplished there is a lot more that you want to do!
It's difficult to constantly ask people for money; this is can sometimes breed a culture of apathy and detachment so I'll try to volunteer my time locally for now. I would love to give up my life to volunteer globally on a regular basis but that's not going to happen any time soon!
We have all been watching the news this week, watching the final days of Aleppo, the terrible plight of the people still stuck in a city of ruins, expecting each hour to be their last. I made the mistake of reading several comment sections on different news sites and the ability for people to gaslight themselves is ridiculous. The amount of excuses I have been hearing on why we shouldn’t help people is crazy… Even without knowing or understanding the ins and outs of a situation we should at least put humanity at the forefront of our minds and try to help those who have no say in what is going on around them. It doesn’t matter what part of the political spectrum you place yourself on, if you are safe, warm and fed, you are 100, no a million, times better off than a person who is about to be hit by a barrel bomb or a sniper bullet (whether it comes from a government army or a rebel army).
Here are some links to different charities that you can donate to and/or volunteer with:
You can also reach out to your local refugee center and see how and where you can help. Even a few hours a week or month getting to know a family and helping them to navigate their new home can be super helpful.