by Michelle Palmer
I had several ideas floating in my head regarding what to write about this week; there seems to be so much in the news that we could (and perhaps should) address. But as I laid in bed Sunday morning, scrolling through my Facebook feed, I came across a couple of posts from organizations that are committed to refugees and people in crisis zones, and it just made sense to me to highlight a couple of them. I know many of you have been burdened over the last few weeks by the plight of refugees, and I want to offer a little hope that 1) there are people fighting for them and 2) there is something you can do to help.
I’m going to highlight two rather different organizations. The first, Preemptive Love Coalition, is less than 10 years old with a budget a fraction of the second. The second, International Rescue Committee, started because of a suggestion made by Albert Einstein and has been around in various forms since 1933.
[Sidenote: I’m highlighting two organizations here because people connect to different organizations for a variety of reasons. (For example, I explained my undying love for Free the Slaves on the blog a couple months ago.) Maybe it’s a particular ethos you connect to or you love their founders’ tweets or there’s a story of their work that impacts you on a deeper level than all the others. If you don’t particularly connect with either of these, there’s a list of others at the end. As they say, get in where you fit in!]
Preemptive Love Coalition
Where: Primarily Iraq. Also Syria, Libya, and Iran.
- Lifesaving Heart Surgeries for Children
- Emergency Relief for Families Victimized by ISIS
- Empowering Grants for Small Business Owners
- Education for At-Risk Children
- Peacemaking in Conflict Zones
- Counsel to Policy Makers
When I first read that one of the big things Preemptive Love Coalition does is provide heart surgery, I was bit thrown. It didn’t quite fit with my assumptions, but it all makes sense when you read the story of how it all started:
“Our story began in a hotel lobby inside Iraq in 2007. A fearful father, his beautiful daughter, her ailing heart, and the simple question, ‘Please, will you try to save her?’ From that day, we threw ourselves into eradicating the backlog of children waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery, often in the most war-torn, unreached parts of the Iraq like Fallujah and Tikrit.
“These years of investing in Iraq’s medical infrastructure through training and lifesaving care resulted in over 1,300 heart surgeries. Because of our world renowned surgical teams, we were invited into every major region of the country. When ISIS rampaged onto the global scene, we were uniquely positioned to expand our programming so that we could continue to go to the conflict-zones others were fleeing, to love those no one else will love.”
Specific reports of what PLC does on the ground aren’t hard to find on the website. Take the Fallujah Report for example. It documents how much was raised ($672,226 between May 26 and early July), how much food was delivered (306,600 pounds), and how much water was provided (414,039 liters). In addition to the reports, there’s a blog with lots of information as well.
Numbers help us to measure the size of the impact, and these are the big numbers for Preemptive Love Coalition:
- 2,200 operations for children
- Over 1 million pounds of food delivered to ISIS victims
- 95 businesses started by displaced men and women
But beyond the numbers it’s important that the impact not only serves the locals in the short term, but leaves lasting (and sustainable) improvement. PLC is clearly committed to locals. Firstly, in their medical work, they welcome foreign volunteers, but they also seek to train locals. Secondly, instead of requesting supplies, they request money so they can source supplies locally to support the local economy. And thirdly, it’s clear that empowerment is key to their work. Direct quote from the website: “When a family says they don’t need us anymore, we consider this a success.” Organizations like PLC should always be seeking to put themselves out of business in an area.
How you can help:
- Shop! (I wear a 2x tee, and my birthday is in August…)
- Put on a fundraiser!
- Follow & share! Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Vimeo
- I personally particularly enjoy PLC Senior Field Editor Matthew Willingham’s Instagram
- Volunteer – If you’re a doctor or nurse, you can look into volunteer opportunities here. Or if you live in the Waco area, you can contact the stateside office here.
International Rescue Committee
Where: Worldwide, and in crisis zones of Nigeria, Burundi, Greece, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
“Internationally, IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning, protection, and economic support to people in more than 30 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. When crisis occurs, the IRC arrives on the scene within 72 hours with urgently needed relief supplies and expertise. The IRC stays as long as required, helping survivors to heal, recover, and rebuild their communities. In the United States, IRC teams help resettle thousands of refugees each year in nearly 30 cities”
One of the more interesting strategies I read about on the IRC website is cash relief. Rather than just providing the goods, cash relief helps families to purchase necessities and regain control over their lives, while also keeping money in the local economy. Like Preemptive Love Coalition, sustainable solutions are central to the IRC mission.
As a data and research geek myself, I am very excited by the work of the Airbel Center. In humanitarian work, resources are limited. Research matters because it’s important that we seek the most cost effective solutions to humanitarian crises.
“The Airbel Center’s mission is to design and test life-changing, scalable solutions for people affected by crisis. By bringing together field staff, designers, strategists, researchers and technical experts, we aim to uncover and nurture ideas that make a big impact on people’s safety, health, education, income and power.”
In 2016 alone, the IRC served over 26 million people in various ways. (You can check out more stats here.) And like PLC, the IRC seeks not only to serve locals in the short term, but leaves a lasting (and sustainable) improvement.
To demonstrate, here are few of my favorite stories from the IRC website:
- Congo: “The International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its partners implemented a large-scale community-driven reconstruction (CDR) program called Tuungane (“Let’s unite” in the local Kiswahili language) from 2007 to 2016. Funded by the UK Government, this program took place in more than 1,900 conflict-affected communities of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with a budget of approximately 103.7 million GBP.”
- The Muppets & Education: “The Muppets are embarking on humanitarian missions. This spring, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for the Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, a director at the International Rescue Committee, announced a collaboration to develop educational programs for refugee children.”
- Jordan: “There are limited livelihood options for refugees in Jordan and they can face negative repercussions if they are caught working without necessary permits. Recognizing the direct benefits many vulnerable families will receive from financial assistance, the IRC started its cash assistance program in May 2013, and has since reached over 4,100 vulnerable Syrian and Jordanian families in Mafraq and Irbid Governorates.”
How you can help:
- Follow & share: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube
- Volunteer! (And help refugees resettle.)
If neither of these organizations appeal to you, there are other organizations serving refugees. The organizations in the following list also have opportunities to get involved, give, and volunteer. We cannot stay silent when so many are suffering. Find a way to plug in, and let us know what you’re doing!