Show Compassion: How can we help refugees?
by Melanie Gasmen-Fleck
In our upcoming issue, featuring Olympian Yusra Mardini, we shed light on Yusra’s difficult experience as a refugee and the hardships refugees face. According to the UN Refugee Agency, there are nearly 25.9 million refugees in the world—and over half are under the age of 18. We interviewed Jenn Tendero, VP of Strategic Engagement at humanitarian nonprofit Partners Relief & Development, who shared meaningful ways you and your kids can support refugees. A dollar from each Yusra Mardini issue purchased will go to the Partners Relief & Development organization to help refugees worldwide.
Tell us more about the Partners Relief & Development organization and the work you do.
Partners Relief & Development is an international nonprofit that for 26 years has been helping families and children displaced from their homes by violence. When families have to leave their homes because of war, they also leave behind the schools their kids attended, the grocery stores they used to shop at, and the jobs their parents had. Living in a refugee camp is scary and hard! We start schools so kids don’t have to fall behind; we train refugees to be health care workers, and we give them food if they can’t get any because it’s no fun being hungry.
What are some ways people can get involved in helping refugees?
Locally, find the helpers in your community and ask them how you can help refugees too. It can be hard and confusing to come to a new country, but there are many wonderful organizations that help newly arrived refugees adjust to life in the United States.
To help refugees outside the United States, donate to organizations that work with refugees and have a reputation for using money wisely (Charity Navigator and Guidestar are two good sources for finding top-rated organizations). Partners has team members on the ground in refugee camps in Syria, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and other places. These team members talk to the refugees, find out what they need most, then tell me and my team, and we tell you! When you donate, we send your money to the people who need it most.
Is there anything kids can do to help refugees?
Always! Want to do something fun? Take our #stronger2getherchallenge: post a video or photo on social media to show how you are staying safe, have your parents Venmo $2 to PartnersRelief and tag 5 friends to do the same thing. We will send your money to our teams around the world who are on the front lines fighting coronavirus. We want to show the world that a virus isn’t the only thing that can spread; love can go viral too!
During this global pandemic, what are things like for refugees?
Most of us are safe at home. Refugees are neither safe nor home: they are stuck living in a tent in a refugee camp AND trying to stay healthy. It’s really hard to stay 6 feet away from people in a crowded camp and it’s impossible to sew your own masks when you don’t have a sewing machine or even a needle and thread. And in places where hospitals have been destroyed, refugees can’t see a doctor when they get sick. So things right now are very scary for refugees, who worry they won’t be able to stay healthy in this pandemic.
What are some things people can do to help refugees during this pandemic?
Because we all are safer sheltering at home, we need to show refugees that we are in this together even if we are apart. Partners has a hospitainer—I think we invented that word!—that is a mobile hospital in Syria. The Syrian doctors and nurses who work in the hospitainer see patients every day. You can help buy masks and thermometers and medicine so they can do their jobs by donating at https://www.partners.ngo/.
What has Partners been able to do with funds that have been donated?
We have pop-up schools in the world’s largest refugee camp in Bangladesh, and our community health workers are teaching students how to properly wash their hands with water from wells we have installed there. In Thailand, the team at our organic training farm is making soap to distribute because they don’t have any trainees at the moment! Migrant women in our sewing program are sewing masks and our teams have given out more than 25,000 masks (not all handmade!) to kids and their parents. We are continuing to deliver family food kits that contain enough food to feed a family for an entire month. And in Syria, our teams are disinfecting the schools families are living in until it is safe for them to return home.
Jenn Tendero helps lead Partners Relief & Development, an international non-profit that works toward free, full lives for kids affected by conflict and oppression. (www.partners.ngo) She and her husband Tony have six children and live at a place they call Middle Farm, named after one of their kids' favorite read-alouds, Astrid Lindgren's Children Of Noisy Village. Jenn has a M.Ed from Columbia University Teachers' College, once worked in a pickle factory, and dreams with her sons about opening up a tiny restaurant someday.