The refugee crisis isn’t going away. You can help
A refugee’s problems can’t be solved overnight. But here are some groups helping them get back on their feet, for a start.
Cybercare uses education and mentorship to empower refugee youth. Parastoo uses art to give voice to refugees and build their confidence. The Picha Project uses food cooked by refugees to bridge different cultures, while giving refugees the means to support themselves.
In the course of telling their stories, we also came across many other groups lending refugees a hand. Because for refugees, fleeing desperate circumstances and losing everything is only the beginning.
Most spend years in flux, dependent on the generosity of countries that do not always want them to stay. Their days are spent awaiting asylum, legal resettlement in a third country, or simply for it to be safe to return to their country.
In the meantime, they often struggle in poor living conditions, have few legal rights, are vulnerable to exploitation, without knowing when any of it will end.
There are nearly 1.2 million refugees and asylum-seekers in Southeast Asia, Bangladesh and Mongolia, according to UNHCR’s 2017 estimates.
Bangladesh has borne the brunt of the Rohingya crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, with an estimated 700,000 Rohingyas having fled there, as of 2017.
Within Southeast Asia, Malaysia has the biggest refugee population — over 150,000 people have sought refuge from countries like Myanmar, Syria and Afghanistan.
Thailand meanwhile, is home to nearly 100,000 refugees living in camps, many of them ethnic minorities from Myanmar. And Indonesia has close to 14,000 refugees from countries like Afghanistan, Myanmar and Sudan.
If you are wondering whether you can help, the answer is, “yes”. We’ve compiled a list of organisations doing good in this area, to help you get started.
These ground-up efforts are helping refugees with things we often take for granted, such as education, healthcare, and a chance to survive using their skills.
More importantly, they offer hope, acceptance, and a space to be seen and heard.
Support them so they can continue to help refugees find a place to call home once more, wherever that may be.
What they do: Cybercare runs development programmes that see volunteers coach and mentor underprivileged youth, with the goal of equipping them with hard skills and confidence. This includes refugee children and youth improving their English language skills, and letting their voices be heard.
The difference they make: Refugee children in Malaysia have little access to formal schooling, setting them back in life. Volunteer tutors help these children gain basic skills and adjust to life in a new country.
How you can help: Volunteer to be a tutor, or make a donation to fund Cybercare’s programmes
Earth Heir x Made51
What they do: The social enterprise trains refugee women in Malaysia to create a special jewellery line, providing them with the chance to improve their lives. The project is a collaboration with UNHCR’s Made51 initiative, which aims to connect refugee artisans to the global marketplace.
The difference they make: Officially, refugees in Malaysia are not allowed to work, and can spend an average of 13 years in limbo. Earth Heir’s training gives these women a chance at a sustainable income source.
How you can help: Buy a piece of jewellery from Earth Heir’s Made51 collection.
Fugeelah and Fugee School
What they do: Fugeelah is an accessories line designed by refugee students from Fugee School in Malaysia. Artisans from marginalised communities make the pieces, to provide them with a sustainable living. Proceeds from Fugeelah go to Fugee School, the students and the artisans.
The difference they make: Refugees in Malaysia have no legal right to attend public schools. Children can spend a decade unschooled and without basic literacy skills, crippling their chances in life. Fugee School provides education — drawn from the Malaysian and Singaporean curricula — for about 160 children, each year. Students are also encouraged to become mentors, to pay it forward.
How you can help: Shop for good at Fugeelah, or donate to Fugee School.
URL: https://fugeelah.com/ and https://fugeeschool.com/
What they do: This theatre group sees refugees from Afghanistan perform plays that promote awareness of the realities in Afghanistan, while finding release from the struggles in their daily lives. Plays end with Q&A sessions that allow audiences to learn more about the issues refugees face.
The difference they make: Stuck in limbo, with little certainty as to what the future holds, refugees often feel hopeless and and some suffer from mental health problems. Parastoo gives them a stage to speak up and build their self-confidence, while promoting understanding among the general public.
How you can help: Watch Parastoo’s upcoming play at Refugee Festival in Malaysia on July 1
The Picha Project
What they do: This catering and delivery business comes with a twist — meals are prepared by refugee families, providing them with the chance to support themselves. The social enterprise also organises open houses, where the public can sign up for mouth-watering meals prepared by refugees — ranging from Syrian to Afghan cuisine — and dine with them, to learn more about different cultures.
The difference they make: Refugees have a platform to make use of their skills to support themselves, while the public have a chance to learn more about the life of a refugee, fuelling acceptance.
How you can help: Sign up for an open house, or get your meals catered or delivered by The Picha Project.
Refugee Learning Nest and Refugee Learning Center
What they do: Refugee Learning Nest and Refugee Learning Center are schools set up by refugees, for refugees, with the support of Same Skies, a non-profit founded in Switzerland. Now fully independent, they provide education and other learning activities for refugee children, in West Java, Indonesia, and also offer adult literacy programmes.
The difference they make: Refugees in Indonesia can spend more than a decade in limbo, waiting to be resettled elsewhere. Schools like these help prevent their children from growing up without basic skills, crushing their potential.
How you can help: Your donation will help these schools make their rent, as well as pay for textbooks and other learning materials.
URL: https://www.refugeelearningnest.com/ and https://www.refugeelearningcenter.com/
Threads of Syria by Artisan and Fox and Tight-Knit Syria
Where: Lebanon, where over a million refugees from Syria live.
What they do: Threads of Syria is a not-for-profit initiative under which 25 Syrian refugees in the Chatila camp in Lebanon create hand-knit scarves for sale, with all profits going directly to the refugees. It is supported by social enterprise Tight-Knit Syria and Artisan and Fox, a Singapore-based online marketplace selling ethically produced goods made by artisans worldwide.
The difference they make: More than 5 million Syrians have been displaced worldwide since the conflict in Syria began in 2011. Many of them are left to fend for themselves in impoverished, sometimes dangerous circumstances. Threads of Syria provides this informal women’s knitting co-operative in Lebanon a flexible form of work to earn an income and support their families.
How you can help: Buy a scarf and help these refugees stand on their own feet.