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Be Aware: Lesvos and the refugee crisis

'A father, a little girl and a boy older than me: Stories from Lesvos' is an article by Joely Fashokun in issue 001 of One Aware, with illustrations by Meg Abbott. It narrates three encounters Joely had while working at a refugee camp in Lesvos, as well as a brief overview of her own experience there.

The stories our contributors put forward never fail to impress us, and this one made us feel like we needed to live up to the ideals of Be For Change and try to have a positive impact. Given how the magazine isn't profitable yet, it would be a scam to say that we'd donate a percentage of profits. Which leads us here, to this page.


How to make a difference in the refugee crisis

It's easy to feel too small in the face of crisis, and especially in the face of people fleeing their homes, struggling to find safe harbour, and ultimately being unable to return to the lives they used to know. It's easy, in such situations, to feel too small to make a difference, tempted to look the other way. Unfortunately, ignoring problems doesn't make them go away; instead, it allows the perpetrators of crime and chaos to carry on doing what they are doing.

In the face of the current refugee crisis, here is what you can do.


Know what is happening

The first thing you should do is get familiar with what is happening.

The U.N. states:

An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18.
There are also 10 million stateless people who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement.

This means that nearly 20 people per minute are fleeing their homes as a result of conflict or persecution.
More than half of the world refugees fled from one of three countries: Syria, Afghanistan or South Sudan. The ongoing civil war in Syria, which began in 2011, is largely responsible for the refugee crisis that people in Europe talk about. But there are many other areas where people have been displaced, from Somalia to Myanmar - where 1.7 million Rohingya people have ran from persecution.

In 2016, only 189,300 refugees were resettled in new homes where they can start new lives. That is less than 0.3% of the people who have been displaced, and less than 0.8% of the total of refugees.

This TED talk gives you some information on what is happening and how you can help.

The mistake that i made
my heart close the way
to imagine about life
i did wrong with my life
i reached europe
to find safety
but when i came here
life was almost finished
still lots of people
hope for death
hearts broken
in spite of all
Sham’s not hopeless
— 'Mistake' by Shamshaid Jutt, refugee in Lesvos

Get involved

There are many different ways you can get involved with the current refugee crisis, not all of them involving money.

Take a stand for education: education for refugee children should be an essential, one which has the power to shape the rest of their lives. Several institutions accept donations of learning materials, notebooks and writing supplies.

Support companies and organisations employing, and otherwise helping, refugees: like any of us, refugees need to support themselves if they are to live independently of charity and/or state money. For that to happen, they need employment. We all make regular purchases, and we can be more intentional on where our money goes. In the UK, check Cook For Syria - an initiative which has raised over £350,000 through food. If you aren't in a position to support through your purchases, then liking and sharing the messages of such companies on social media can go a long way towards spreading awareness.

Support politicians who support refugees: because your vote does matter. Sometimes people have come to be in such a fragile position that they need a fresh start, a new chance at a new life. If you believe in that, then you must vote accordingly.

Donate: if you have the willingness to help, then donating your money or your time can go a long way. Your money can help people who have escaped from conflict or disaster to purchase basic necessities and regain control of their lives. Your time can be leveraged as a volunteer delivering help to those in need. Have a look at Rescue for how you can help. We also suggest considering Mosaik if you are thinking of donating money - this is the institution referenced in Joely's article.