Ways College Students can Help with the Global Refugee Crisis

From the recent attacks in many major cities, to news of millions of refugees crossing borders to flee Syria, what is happening right now across the world can be heartbreaking. There is little one can offer from far away and unless you have the youngest politicians in your area, it is likely that you aren’t hearing much from 18 to 25 year-olds about how to respond, how to help, or what to do.

Young people have been involved in movements and changing the face of their countries for hundreds of years. Combining passion, innovation and ingenuity, it is the young that can shape the future by getting involved, learning about what is happening, raising awareness, and using their time and energy to help.

Here are a few ways you can get involved. It doesn’t have to feel hopeless and you don’t have to feel helpless.

Donate – Time or Money

Partnering up with an organization in your area and donating your time and/or money can help further that organizations mission. There are a lot of non-profits that work with refugees that have already come to your area and are looking for help resettling and rebuilding. Help with language classes, with navigating systems that are new like finding and renting an apartment or house, with looking for work or filling out paperwork for visas or citizenship. Everything a refugee has to overcome – language limitations, bureaucratic systems, building a new community, getting help to heal from traumatic events – can be made better with a caring person willing to walk through it all with them.

Red Cross

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

U.N. High Commission on Refugees

Join an Organization

Some campuses already have organizations focused on refugees – like the Student Action for Refugees network, or STAR, that started in the UK. These organizations help educate, raise awareness, fundraise and more. If your campus doesn’t have one of these organizations already, consider starting a local chapter. If you are thinking about how to help, chances are others are as well and coming together will invite others into the conversation.

Use your Clout Wisely

We all have social media accounts that contain everything from embarrassing pics of the last party we attended to thoughtful shout-outs to our parents. The way you talk about refugees and the events that are happening right now will either invite people into caring and having a conversation, or will shut people down. Use your social wisely to open up dialogue and share meaningful things or information you find in a way that draws people in. Share what you agree with  – For example, is your state keeping their doors open for refugees to resettle there, let people know.

Raise your Voice

Politicians are going to be navigating the refugee crisis as it unfolds. You can raise your voice and let them know where you stand. Follow them on social media so you can share or respond to what they say. Send in letters based on the policies they back or don’t back and encourage others to do the same. Don’t let yourself be silenced when it comes to standing up for others.

Think Ahead

One of the best things you can do is think long-term. Work a class into your schedule that will help you better understand development, international relations or foreign policy. Every bit of education you get will help shape the way you can respond in the future and the impact you can have.

Share ways you are getting involved by tweeting to @StarterNoise and using the hashtag #StudentsWelcomeRefugees

Image: “Iraqi refugee children, Damascus, Syria” by James Gordon from Los Angeles, California, USA – Iraqi refugee children, Damascus, Syria. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – LINK
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