Sunday, June 20 is World Refugee Day, a valuable reminder that refugees and displaced individuals are families - mothers, fathers, daughters, sisters, brothers, cousins... global citizens who like all of us are searching for a sense of safety and security, especially right now.
This past year, we have been forced to rethink our daily lives due to the pandemic. From the availability of basic necessities and access to COVID-19 testing and vaccines to even being able to see and take care of our loved ones, around the world everyone is feeling the long-lasting effects of a global crisis. Those displaced from their homes are all too familiar with these challenges, and you may be wondering how to help refugees at such a time.
Currently there are millions of families and communities who are displaced by conflict, disaster or disease. While confronting numerous hardships, they must also navigate the complexities of scarce access to medical care and vaccines. While we have heard all too often that we must find our “new normal,” refugees are forced to embrace this on a much larger and more intense scale. Fortunately, there are many organizations to help refugees.
With this in mind, for the month of June, we are donating 15% of sales sitewide to the International Medical Corps to support their crucial work making essential health services and care available to refugees and displaced people worldwide. Here at Prosperity Candle, we have worked for over a decade to support women refugees by offering an opportunity for employment at a living wage and to grow their skills. World Refugee Day is one occasion where we can honor the journeys of refugees, including those of our local artisans.
This past year has taught us many lessons, especially the importance of unity within and beyond our circles of family and friends. Like us, you may be thinking more broadly - how to support others in your community, and perhaps how to help refugees during COVID as well. So for this World Refugee Day, we have put together a list of 8 ways to help refugees in America and beyond.
1. Hear Their Stories
One of the easiest ways to understand someone's story is to get to know them. There are resettled refugees in many of our communities. A simple hello can lead the way to discovering similar interests and fostering compassion and connectivity. If you prefer connecting online, local and global platforms create a space for people to share their experiences, connect with others, and offer help when needed. Try following community advocates on social media to stay informed, or seek out local groups who want to create connections in the community. If you have extra time on your hands this summer, try reading books by refugee authors about their experiences.
2. Raise Awareness
As we learn more about refugees’ experiences, we can continue to support them, their goals, and organizations working to help refugees. Sharing a story that resonated with you can help spread awareness with friends, classmates, teachers and coworkers, which helps to foster a more supportive community for refugees. This also extends to the online community where you can share your own message or amplify others’ stories. You can connect with new people of different backgrounds, and participate in creating a welcoming environment.
3. Buy Refugee-Made Products
The pandemic brought a surge in online shopping, and choosing refugee-made products is one way how you can help refugees. It helps to ensure that these often smaller-scale or locally-owned businesses can continue their work. In addition to our own handpoured candles, other social enterprises include WomenCraft offering hand-woven baskets, artisan-crafted clothing and accessories from Vickery Trading Co., and facemasks and other clothing from RefuSHE. Purchasing from businesses such as these and others helps ensure that refugees have access to jobs with training, dignified employment opportunities, and community support.
4. Support Refugee-Owned Businesses
Many businesses not only employ refugees, but are owned by them too. Refugee entrepreneurs make up artists, entertainers, restaurant owners and more across the country. They help their local economies thrive, and may offer you a glimpse into their home culture. In the age of online shopping, try shopping from refugee-owned businesses, or support organizations such as One Journey which is working to create a digital platform for creatives to share their work.
5. Donate To Organizations
Another way to support from a distance is to donate to organizations that help refugees. For the month of June, Prosperity Candle is donating 15% of all sales sitewide to the International Medical Corps. This nonprofit provides global relief in times of need, including emergency aid, training people in their own communities, and guiding communities towards self-sufficiency. In response to COVID-19, the International Medical Corps has trained and supported frontline healthcare workers, deployed PPE and case management systems to places in need, and conducted community outreach efforts. By supporting this kind of organization, you can help refugees in America and around the world.
6. Organize A Donation Drive
Many organizations that help refugees welcome donations of household goods, such as the San Diego branch of the International Rescue Committee. Try contacting local groups, or even start your own donation drive. Take advantage of spring cleaning and give back to your community with household items, food items, school supplies, or even unused facemasks.
7. Support Local Efforts
Volunteering your time is as valuable as any other type of contribution. If you’re able and willing, try volunteering with local organizations. Even small gestures can help create a more welcoming environment. Volunteer to help refugees thrive in their communities through organizations such as Refugee Council USA.
8. Participate in Remote Volunteer Opportunities
In addition to in-person volunteering opportunities, organizations such as the International Rescue Committee offer virtual volunteer positions, where you can tutor a student, teach technology skills, or mentor a family.
There are many ways how we can help refugees and contribute a welcoming environment for their families. In the wake of a particularly difficult year, we can all continue to work together to support one other. We hope you'll join us in sharing this message far and wide!