You Can Make a Difference in the Refugee Crisis

Jessica Pelter, Staff Writer

By Jessica Pelter

Though it seems as if most of the world has forgotten amid a global pandemic, March 15 marks 10 years since the start of the world’s largest refugee crisis in Syria after peaceful protests sought reform in the government.

This triggered a forceful crackdown by Bashar al-Assad’s government, escalating to a full-scale civil war throughout the country. In those 10 years, nearly 11 million Syrians have been displaced, forcing them to find refuge wherever possible and placing them in immediate need of humanitarian aid.

Though a Turkish-Russian ceasefire has been in place for nearly a year, reducing the immediate threat of hostility, survival amidst a raging pandemic remains a constant burden to those living there. There has been no progress with discussions to resolve the country’s ongoing conflicts, so the looming threat of violence remains a reality for its population.

The pandemic has also impacted the ability to get humanitarian aid to those who desperately need it. As the world begins to enter another important holiday week – another opportunity to spend time gathering with family and friends in celebration – it is difficult to conceive that Syrian families are still being subjected to tremendous violence, homelessness, and the looming threat of a virus with no appropriate healthcare infrastructure in place.

During this season of reflection, I wonder if this suffering will be on the hearts and minds of our global community enough to act and support those in desperate need.

In the YouTube video,, we watch a young girl practice mindfulness and other coping skills to manage the trauma-related anxiety attributed to the substantial losses she has already faced at 8-years-old. This young girl has never known a time without war.

Young Syrian children make up 45 percent of the refugee population, and have been born into conflict, instability, death and destruction. They’ve lost family and friends. Many lack a home base, living in whatever circumstances are afforded to refugees in their host countries—which can be abandoned buildings or tent settlements.

One-third of refugee children are out of school because their school buildings are destroyed or are currently called home to others who have been displaced. Since these children must work to help support their families, they are forced to into undignified circumstances with no child labor law protections.

Young Syrian girls are disproportionately affected, also being forced into arranged marriages, as their families struggle to find ways to protect their daughters and survive with no income. This is what the young girl in the video is faced with. Her anxiety is connected to one of these tragic circumstances. She fully grasps her situation. She’s managing through unimaginable challenges, and she’s still determined to change the world. She has every right at an opportunity to do so.

Today’s society tends to become complacent and allow long-standing crises to become the norm. We initially gasp in horror at the atrocities we witness, send our thoughts and prayers, then move on. As we move on, these children grow.

Unresolved circumstances manifest into dire situations for many. It is up to us to not remain complacent and remember that these circumstances are not just a flash on a cable news network for those living it. Those who are fortunate enough to take the time to inquire about these circumstances comfortably have an obligation as fellow human beings to use their more comfortable and privileged positions to help any way they can.

Here’s what we can do to provide these Syrian children a chance to live in a world where they only have to fight for their dreams, not just try and survive the next day.

● Find out how to welcome local refugees into your community – If you speak Arabic, see how you can help with translation. Help with their taxes, finding legal support, or other services.

● Donate or volunteer with the IRC, International Red Cross, or White Helmets. These organizations have been on the ground providing aid to Syrian refugees, providing services and cash vouchers to millions.

● Donate to Doctors Without Borders. Medical support is critical during the pandemic.

● Speak out. Advocate for more action from your local, state, or federal representative.

● Share refugee stories and bring awareness. Let’s end the complacency and share their stories in hopes that others will be mobilized to act.

If each of us does just a tiny amount, that’s still more than what was being done previously, and maybe those actions will be enough to impact at least one life. Even if that’s all that happens, that’s more than enough. We owe humanity to other humans, but especially children. Let’s afford that to those who need it most.