I couldn't sleep that night. I kept on trying to figure out what I - way over in the States - could do to help. I already donate on a monthly basis to organizations that are helping there, but it didn't seem like enough.
After sleeping on it, I came up with a plan. Here it is. I hope you will join me. (Some of the links are more applicable to those in the United States, but the same ideas could be implemented anywhere.)
1. Let the US Government Know I Want to Help - A few weeks ago Senator Grassley, from Iowa had a telephone "town hall meeting". Basically a huge conference call that anyone could listen in on. He was taking questions and my husband indicated he had one.
The screener asked what his question was and Brian said that he would like to ask the Senator how we could increase the number of refugees the US was accepting from Syria.
The woman paused and said, "You mean how can we decrease the number of refugees?"
"No, how can we increase the number?"
"Oh...ok" He didn't get to ask his question, but it illustrates a point. If the assumption is that we do not want refugees in the country, that is what our elected officials will do. We have to make it Overwhelming Clear that we want to help! So step one was to contact my congressmen/women.
You can click here to find your US Senator and Representative. You just have to enter your zip code and the site will give you their contact information. To expedite the process, I sent each congressman/woman the same message. It took a total of 7 minutes to email all of them.
2. Stand Up and Speak Up - I recognize everyone's right and privilege to have and express an opinion. Freedom of speech is one of the most important rights we have. I also have a right and a responsibility to speak out. I am very concerned about the rhetoric that is floating around America and the world right now. It seems like we are just steps from going down the same road with Muslim Americans that we took with Japanese and German Americans during WWII. I really thought we had learned from our past, but I am not sure we have.
So, another prong of my plan is to speak up respectfully, but very clearly if I hear racist, disparaging, violent or prejudges remarks about Muslims. I am going to use my freedom of speech to defend. Yes, there are Islamic terrorists - but a very, very small number compared with the millions of wonderful Muslims in the world. We cannot turn our backs on or stereotype a whole group of people because of what a few do. We are better than that.
3. Donate - There are soooo many organizations that are helping refugees and we can help them! The UNHRC (the UN Refugee Agency) is on the front lines of refugee relief programs, but they are running out of money. You can donate to them directly or take part in a Kickstarter campaign in their behalf.
4. Fund Raise - I can only contribute so much, but I am going to help organize a fund raiser at church. The wheels are already in motion! This is a way that one person can make a difference. There are so many people who want to help - we just have to give them a way.
5. Donate a Quilt - I was planning on giving my siblings quilts for Christmas, but the quilts may end up being set to refugees instead. There are a number of places that will accept quilts. You can send twin sized quilts to Lutheran World Relief (details here), any size quilt to LDS Humanitarian Aid (details here) and children sized quilts to Quilts Beyond Borders (details here). You might also consider making a monetary donation to help cover the cost of transport.
I am also reaching out to some quilting publications to see if I could do a series on charity quilts.
6. Volunteer to Help Refugees Already in the Country - An online search of "Refugee Services" in Iowa showed that the department needs people to help refugees learn the ropes in the city (transport etc) and just to talk to them so they can start to learn English and have a friend in their new home. Every state has "Refugee Services". See what their needs are.
7. Blog About It and Post a Link to the Post on Facebook - Check! :)
So, that is my plan of attack. Will you join me? In searching for ways to help, I found this great article. 10 Things You Can Do From [Anywhere] to Help Refugees. Maybe it will help you think of things tailored to you.
I would just like to ask everyone to do something. I know there are so many people in need - at home and in so many places around the world. It is overwhelming, but if each of us could do something to help maybe it could get better a bit at a time. If you have anymore ideas on how to help please leave them in the comments. I would love to hear them.
Thanks for reading through all this text! I promise we will go back to quilting. :) In fact, Marlene and I are having a blog hop starting Friday for You Can Quilt! I hope you will check back in and join us for that.