[Photo source: Wikipedia labeled for reuse]
Many people have asked me why I am fundraising for this specific cause at this very busy time of year.
I was interviewed on Roundhouse Radio the other day and answered this question for Carol Thorbes. Enjoy!
I also wrote an article on LinkedIn about my motivation:
The article below was first posted on LinkedIn on December 18, 2015:
Why compassion for refugees is hope for our future
It is easy to depersonalize the refugee crisis. The numbers are huge – 4,390,439 refugees – from Syria at last count. The problem can seem pretty far away. It’s a drama playing out in Syria, on the shores of Greek Islands, in the Mediterranean Sea.
The Syrian refugee crisis seemed distant to me back in August as I got back from summer vacation, and prepared for the upcoming busy semester at the University. There are so many problems out there in the world. Sometimes you just need to shut some of them out.
But then on September 2, 2015, a little three year old boy named Alan Kurdi washed up on the shore of Turkey after a failed attempt at crossing the Mediterranean to the Greek Island of Kos on route to their desired destination of Vancouver, B.C. – my own home.
The photo of him lying face down in the sand will forever be burned in my brain. He looked just like my own son in what is a classic toddler sleeping position. Alan instantly became the icon of the crisis worldwide and my call to action.
By October 30, 2015, the day before I took my own four year old son out for our annual Halloween trick-or-treating, more than 70 other children had died in very similar circumstances.
On November 5, 2015, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) appealed to donors to help raise the funds required to support the continued influx of refugees, mostly women and young children, crossing the sea and arriving in refugee camps as harsh winter conditions were approaching.
Today on December 18, 2015, seven days before Christmas, I feel grateful that I will spend the holiday with my family sitting by the fire, enjoying our abundant feasts, and kissing my son goodnight as he falls asleep safe in his own bed dreaming of Santa.
So many other mothers will not be so lucky. Millions in fact will instead be forced to leave their homes behind, and pray for safety as they load their young children onto dangerous plastic boats in the middle of the night with the hope that they will survive the journey so many others have not.
They do this because they do not have the option I have – to stay and feel safe in in my home. They do this because they have no other choices, and this is the only option left to them. I can imagine the heartbreak this must cause these mothers.
It is this empathy with these other mothers that drives me to do my part and contribute to the global fundraising initiative to help a few more survive, and to make the journey and the future that awaits them that much more bearable.
There are so many crises in the world and children always seem to be the losers in them. Why, some have asked, have I chosen this particular crisis over another? Why not world hunger, child trafficking, baby brides, or one of the numerous other injustices thrust onto children?
My only answer is that this is the worst refugee crisis since WWII, that climate change is causing such dramatic shifts in ecosystems, and the livelihoods that depend on them, that forced global migration will likely be the humanitarian crisis of our generation. People will be on the move in numbers unprecedented in history over the next few decades. Most of these people will be children and young adults…our future. This doesn’t just affect them…it has spillover impacts for all of us. Poor and desperate people tend to resort to desperate measures. How we choose to respond will make all the difference in what these impacts look like.
This morning I had a meeting with my son’s preschool teacher about a situation where my son was getting hit regularly by another child. When I talked to my son about the situation he told me that his friend “just didn’t know any better, and that when he grew up he’d know that hitting someone wasn’t the answer to a problem”. My heart was warmed by this four year old wisdom.
This is hopefully the greatest conflict my son will experience as a four year old. But even if not, because he has a loving and safe environment to experience it in, he is becoming more resilient rather than jaded. The children escaping Syria, even if they survive their journeys, will forever be changed by the violence they have witnessed, and the losses they have experienced.
After all this will they see the world as a harsh place that abandoned them in their time of need? Or, will they see the outpouring of compassion from the global community and be infused with hope?
This is why I am doing my part and raising money for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to help provide the people coming out of Syria with a chance to survive, and hopefully in the future thrive. I am doing this because it is what I would wish a Syrian mother would do if I were forced out into the night with my own son and they had the means to help.
My goal is to raise $10,000 by December 31st. Its not a lot in the larger scheme of things, a drop in the bucket perhaps, but it is something I can do. I have been helped in this cause by some very generous individuals and businesses, which I will be highlighting on this blog https://unhcrfundraise10000.wordpress.com/ .
Special thanks to Entrust, Sola Skin Care and numerous individuals for helping me get the funding up to the $4,000 mark to date. I hope that others agree that the little bits add up, and are worth contributing, and help me reach my final goal.