As you guys know, I spent time in 2017 living in northern France and working for the Dunkirk Refugee Women’s Centre. After I left, I struggled emotionally coming to terms with this huge crisis I witnessed, and not knowing how to help refugees without actually being there in the camps. The reality, however, is that not everyone can/wants/or is able to travel to the front lines and volunteer. But refugees all around the world still need our help, as we’ve seen in the news lately with Refugee Week and the separation of parents and children in the US. Since I left the Refugee Women’s Centre, I’ve discovered how to help refugees in a practical, location-independent way.
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How to Help Refugees From Home: Practical & Achievable Tips!
There are many ways to help refugees, but I want to provide you with 10 practical, achievable acts. I have tried them all myself except for #10 (yet!).
1 . Get a Choose Love ASOS tee or sweatshirt
I love the Choose Love tees and sweatshirts – In the UK, this logo is such an iconic symbol of solidarity with refugees, I only wish more people knew about them here in the US!
Choose Love clothes are listed on ASOS, a company I love and often shop from. However, all profits from sales go directly to Help Refugees. This is an amazing charity on the ground in multiple refugee camps, making a huge difference, and actually helping fund lots of smaller grassroots charities.
Shop Choose Love clothes here
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Another magical week for Choose Love. 💕💕 As always, so incredible to see thousands of people in their @katharinehamnett #ChooseLove Tees this week. Special thanks to @oprah, @anoushkashankarofficial @anniemacdj, @gemma_chan and Polly Stenham, and everyone who continues to share the #ChooseLove message. Get yours today at @asos, all profits go to support displaced people across Europe & the Middle East!
2. Buy a Women Without Borders shirt
Or coffee mug, or tote bag, or sticker, or any of the options on the shop here. All profits from sales of the “women without borders” gear go directly to my beloved Refugee Women’s Centre. RWC is a grassroots charity run entirely by women volunteers, and is the only organization providing 7-day-a-week support to refugees in Dunkirk, France. As a bonus, I actually created this design myself, in collaboration with the entire RWC team. It was meant to be a holiday fundraiser but people loved it so much we kept it live! I love “women without borders” because it is feminist, shows solidarity with refugee women, and is perfect for travel-lovers like myself.
Shop Women Without Borders here.
3. Shop from refugee-owned businesses
The most empowering thing for people in distress is actually doing things themselves. For refugees, these opportunities are taken away. Often, refugees aren’t allowed to work for a period of time. Even well-meaning help can backfire when too much help is given, limiting independence.
Because of this I believe it is so important to support refugee-owned and run businesses. Doing this, you are economically supporting their independence, subsequently upholding both their livelihood and wellbeing.
Here are some refugee-owned/run businesses:
- Chatterbox: London-based online and in-person language courses taught by people who are refugees
- Eat Offbeat: NYC-based meal delivery service of ethnic foods catered and delivered by people who are refugees
- Modabox: delivers personally styled outfits to your door, owned by a refugee woman
- Foodhini: DC-based meal delivery service owned by and employing refugees
- Liberti: minimalist jewlery company which offers training to refugees and supports them with profits
- Sep Jordan: luxury embroidery/homeware weaved by refugee women living in the Jaresh camp in Jordan
- Gaia: clothing and accessories store handcrafted by refugee women resettled in Texas
- The Social Outfit: clothing, homeware, and accessories from a company that trains and employs refugees
4. Volunteer locally
There are ways to help refugees without spending money or traveling all the way to a camp. Many cities have local refugee resettlement offices or charities. Personally, I volunteer as an ESL assistant at my local refugee resettlement charity (you don’t have to be trained in ESL, you just have to speak English!).
To find local refugee volunteer opportunities, I recommend Googling “your city” + “refugee charity” OR “your city” + “volunteer with refugees”
If you are based in the US, another great resource is the International Rescue Committee (IRC) with resettlement offices all over the country. Search their volunteer database here.
If you are based in the UK, check out volunteer opportunities with the British Red Cross (mainly works with asylum seekers), search local volunteer opportunities with Refugee Council, or email your local city council to enquire about local charities.
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CALAIS & DUNKRIK UPDATE – WE’VE RUN OUT OF TENTS! We’ve completely run out of tents at the Calais warehouse. There was another police clearance of tents this morning, but this time we aren’t able to replace them as our stock is COMPLETELY OUT. The gym is closed in Dunkirk, people are sleeping out in the cold with NO PROTECTION. We urgently need donations to buy more tents. For just £20 you can make sure someone has someone has a tent. Please please donate today if you can via link in bio. Alternatively, speak to friends, family, work colleagues and organise a collection of tents. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
5. Write blog posts & articles supporting refugees
I know that many of my readers are also writers and bloggers. This is actually one of your greatest assets if you are wondering how to help refugees without physically traveling to camps. Use your writing skills and your platform to spread the news (If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to write about this topic, read #6).
Since I left France, I’ve written many blog posts about how travelers can support refugees.
I’ve also written an article about my volunteer experience for Travel Her Way, and have an upcoming article with Hosteling International. I’m sure this is a topic I will continue writing about and pitching to magazines.
6. Get familiar with refugee policy and have smarter debates
Y’all, this is the easiest way to help refugees without physically traveling… but it is also the one fewest people will do! I became passionate about helping refugees when I was assigned a refugee resettlement agency as one of my MSc work placements. I had to learn about refugees and policy and it completely opened my eyes.
The two most important things to know are 1) the definition of a refugee (from the still-upheld 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees):
“Any person who: owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
[The key here is that refugees are fleeing for their lives. If someone enters a country seeking safety, they are not an immigrant or an economic migrant.]
And 2) your country’s policy for accepting refugees. Having worked with refugees in the UK and the USA, I know the processes are VERY different. I talk a little bit more about the US policy in my blog post here. I’d recommend having a scan through the UNHCR website, as well as your country’s government websites.
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Welcome to our new followers! We are a team of six to eight women working tirelessly to provide psycho-social and material support to displaced women and children in Northen France. We are currently supporting around 90 wonderful women; 70 of which with young children, and 40 unaccompanied minors, across 4 locations. Regular support we provide includes: – Empowering activities for women and children – Monitoring and responding to vulnerable people – Material and hygeine distribution – Connecting families to emergency accommodation – Connecting people to legal support We work hard to coordinate with local groups so that those displaced have a solid network of support and have their basic needs met. We also continue to fight for long term, sustainable responses to the refugee crises in the area! Please view our URGENT needs list via the website: www.dunkirkrefugeewomenscentre.com Or alternatively donate through the link in our bio and be part of the womens solidarity movement today! With love, RWC
7. Do a fundraiser
This one is easy and fun! Earlier this year I ran a half marathon and raised money for Dunkirk Refugee Women’s Centre. (So many of you who read my blog donated and I am so grateful for that!). To do a fundraiser you need to decide:
- Who are you going to raise money for? Choose your organization wisely. I raised money for RWC because I knew first hand the great work they do. I talk more about charities to donate to at the bottom of the post!
- What are you going to do? I ran a race, which is a common one. You can also host a bake sale or dinner party (choose a relevant cuisine!), teach a class, hold a concert, and more.
- How are you going to get the money? There are many platforms online that people can donate through. Examples are Go Fund Me (this is what I used), Crowdrise, Firstgiving, YouCaring, and even Facebook. Online platforms make getting donations easy, but keep in mind most do take a small percentage of the donations you receive as a service charge. Because of that, I also asked for donations in-person and in cheque form from people who wanted to avoid the service charge.
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We want to say a huge THANK YOU to @skullfades_barber_shop for bringing great energy and hair cuts to the children of Dunkirk last week! As well as their awesome contribution of top notch children's activities and clothes! During their visit they gave 150 refugees across Dunkirk and Calais a fresh cut. One by one each client hopped off the seat, proud of their new cut, with a renewed sense of dignity. Thank you, we highly anticipate your return! Today we took our brand new toys on our weekly visit to an accomodation centre, where 80 refugees are currently living. Alongside our usual material and hygeine distribution, we made bracelets and ran unicorn/ horse relay races, much to the children's enjoyment! We hope you've enjoyed your weekend! In love and solidarity, RWC
8. Create a product
I love this one for a few reasons. First, it is not one that people often think of doing. Second, once you’ve done your initial time commitment, it earns money in the background! And third, your donors are getting something in return. People who might not otherwise donate to a fundraiser or donation platform will be more inclined when they are getting something meaningful in return.
Personally, I created the Women Without Borders design and online shop for RWC (see point #2). I did this through RedBubble, which is an ethically-sourced platform and super easy to submit a design to. I am not a graphic designer, I used Canva to create the design! Other examples of creating a product are the Refugee Community Kitchen recipe calendar, the #CookForSyria cookbook, and more.
9. Donate used items
A valuable way to help out if you don’t want to spend actual money is to donate your used items. Check online with your local refugee resettlement charities if they accept donations. It may not always be in things you expect – my local charity desperately needed school supplies, of which I had tons lying around from years ago! If you are up for shipping donations, look for “urgently needed” lists on different charities. For example, you can find RWC’s list of urgent needs here.
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Today, on our way to the accommodation centres, there was no space left unanswered for! Our broken van did not stop us doing our weekly distribution of nappies, hygiene products, clothes and activities for families in Bailluel and Lesquin. We had lots of fun making origami hearts and bracelets whilst catching up with the adults. Meanwhile, the other half of our team visited families in Dunkirk to play games and take orders for another round tomorrow! We hope you've all had a great weekend and thank you to everyone who makes our work possible. RWC ❤
10. Rent a room/Airbnb to refugees
Yes, now you can actually rent a room in your house out to refugees. Be careful to check specific rules in your country, but now many companies offer services helping match your room with a person who is a refugee. In fact, many landlords particularly love renting to refugees.
If you are in the UK, check out Room for Refugees.
If you are in Australia, check out Enough Room.
Related: So You Want to Meet a Refugee
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NAWROZ PIROZ BET As our wonderful Kurdish and Iranian ladies celebrated their new year, we hired a kitchen space in Dunkirk for them to make dolma- the traditional food of the holiday. They spent hours showing us the many steps to the dish, while the children were entertained by the incredible @theflyingseagulluk collective with magic, music and games. In the evening the food was generously shared around the temporary shelter and greatly enjoyed by all! We feel so lucky to have shared in the culture of those we work with, and are grateful that they let us into their traditions! ❤
How to Help Refugees: It’s Your Turn Now
As a final note, I want to encourage you to donate mindfully. What does this mean? Before you send all your hard-earned money to the top Google result for “refugee charity,” research a bit into the charity. I’ve found that most of the massive charities already are receiving large donations. Also, if you donate to a large corporation, often that money is going to things like CEO salaries, and not directly to the refugees. That is why I like to donate to grassroots and smaller charities where I know my money is needed. Of course do your own research, but these are some charities supporting refugees that could use your donations:
- Dunkirk Refugee Women’s Centre (Northern France)
- Refugee Community Kitchen (Northern France)
- Gynecologie Sans Frontieres (France)
- Students and Refugees Together (UK)
- Help Refugees (UK, Northern France, Greece, Serbia, Italy)
- Raices (USA/Texas… provides legal representation to families separated at the border, donations are currently being matched)
- Women’s Refugee Commission (USA)
- Refugee Development Center (USA/Michigan)
If you’ve made it this far through the article, THANK YOU. I’ve truly collated all my years of experience working with both resettled refugees and refugees living in camps into this post. I hope you take these practical tips with you and use your power to make a difference.
Endless Distances is all about living well and widely. I want to provide you the best content to help you travel well. But what does traveling well mean? To me, traveling well isn’t merely having a fun time, it’s also leaving a positive impact. I believe everyone can make a difference, you just need the right resources and the courage to try.
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*This post is part of the monthly travel linkup. This month’s theme was kindness and making a difference, based on host Polly’s (Follow Your Sunshine) #spreadalittlesunshine campaign. Other hosts are Adventures of a London Kiwi, SilverSpoon London, Wandermust Family, and Binny’s Food and Travel.
*This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of my links, I may make a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you. This helps me in the running costs of Endless Distances, and to continue bringing you meaningful content like this!