The recent news cycle has everyone distressed. We’re asking everyone to do their bit to make the world a more compassionate and welcoming place for the most vulnerable among us. It might be tempting to simply tune out and switch the channel, but remember as hard as it is for us, for others this is their reality. They can’t simply tune out.
1. Dispel the Myths
One of the easiest ways to dehumanise refugees is to create a system of “us vs. them” through language. Referring to people as rats, rodents, an infestation, or other animalistic terms is a way to create a differentiation marker. Somehow these people are inferior. Vermin to be gotten rid of. Using rhetoric like this is very simple, and yet, highly effective. The reality is people don’t flee their homes for a laugh. These are people who are facing war, extreme gang violence, death threats, and sexual violence being used as a systematic tool of oppression. They are deserving of our help. If you see something that is wrong speak up. It’s not always easy – in fact, it can be exhausting, but a calm rational conversation can work wonders.
2. Sign Petitions
If you don’t feel fully equipped to join discussions adding your voice to a petition is probably one of the easiest ways to enact social change. Nowadays with sites like Uplift, Avaaz, and Change.org it’s as simple as clicking a button. It might seem like signing a petition won’t achieve much but they do work. Policies have been changed and laws have been blocked through the power of the people.
- Add your voice to the #WithRefugees campaign from the UN Refugee Agency
- Add your voice to the ACLU petition calling for the end of Family Separation in the USA
Donating money is another easy way to help champion causes that are close to your heart. Again with various platforms being set up just for this it couldn’t be easier and most charities allow you to donate online too. We know that more and more people are feeling the financial squeeze, but trust me even the smallest amounts can help. These are just a few of the human rights organisations who need funding:
- Donate to the RAICES Family Reunification and Bond Fund
- Donate to the Canadian Human Rights International Organization
- Donate to the Irish Refugee Council
- Donate to Amnesty International, UK
If you’d rather something more hands on, or have valuable skills why not think about volunteering? Lots of organisations need help, and it can sometime be as simple as driving resources from point A to point B. If you are thinking of volunteering make sure you go through an established organisation. While it might seem like diving in is the best bet, sometimes that can do more harm than good. It’s always wise to scope out what efforts are currently being done and seeing how you can fit in as an asset. Remember you are there to help others to teamwork and getting stuck in is the name of the game.
- Find volunteer opportunities with the Texas Civil Rights Project
- Find volunteer opportunities with the International Bureau for Children’s Rights, CA
- Find volunteer opportunities with human rights groups in Ireland
- Find volunteer opportunities with human rights groups in the UK
Getting out on the streets is a huge part of making noise about an issue – literally. Protests can be highly effective at pushing an issue as they draw media, and therefore public and official attention. Whether it’s the Women’s March across the USA, the protest against the verdict of the Belfast rape trial, or the March for Justice in South Korea; marches and protests draw issues into the wider consciousness. They can also help garner international support for causes.
6. Lobby for Refugee Rights
Political lobbying might seem like something only large groups do, but you can too. Your elected representatives are there to do just that. Their job is to represent you. If you don’t like a government policy, or want to see a change happen tell them. Find your local officials and contact them via phone or email. And if you realise that their policies/stance is at odds with yours then it’s time to make sure that the politicians you do align with get voted in next time round.
Voting is one of the best ways to enact change. If a political party is creating and supporting inhumane policies, then stop voting for them. If a party has a history of not supporting societies most vulnerable people – cutting vital services like healthcare or education, then stop voting for them. If a party has continually favoured one sector of society to the detriment of others, then stop voting for them. This a surefire way to make a world that is a little bit more compassionate and little bit fairer and safer for us all. You have the right to vote, so use it. And use it wisely.
These are just some of the easiest ways to push for the social/political changes you want to see. For many of us, there are limitations as to what we can do but push yourself to be as active as you can. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the face of the current news cycle, but one way to overcome this is to get involved. Not only will it give you a boost, but it has a greater knock-on effect. Firstly, it’s signifies to those who are fleeing for their lives that there is hope and people are pushing to make their lives safer. And secondly, when you get involved in something it encourages your friends and family to get involved as well.