700 more refugees drowned.
And good people wonder what to do.
You can give money, of course. But a lot of people can’t afford to give much. Maybe you’d like to help more, or more directly. In that case, as the former foster mom of four South Sudanese refugees, a.k.a., “Lost Boys,” and former manager of a couple of Boston-based refugee microenterprise programs, I have a suggestion: give your time and skills.
Find a local immigrant or refugee group—or simply an individual or family–and spend a few hours a week or month helping them get health care, enroll their kids in school, learn English (or whatever the main language is in your locale), get into college, find jobs, start businesses.
If you’ve got a skill to share, such as carpentry, auto mechanics, sewing, or gardening, find refugees who are similarly inclined and work with them to develop their skills and employability.
If you’re part of a profession, such as programming, law, medicine, accounting, or engineering, help a young person enter your field.
Please note that some groups of refugees, like the Iraqis, tend to be highly educated; and also some individuals from other groups. There are often credential and other barriers to their practicing their profession in their new country, but you can help them navigate the system and figure out alternatives.
Even if you think you don’t have anything to teach, I promise you you have. Immigrants and refugees often need help in areas native-born people take for granted, including things like how to how to be a wise consumer or apply for a job (both offline and online). Just show up and ask what’s needed.
The rewards of this kind of volunteering are rich, and the ROI is as high as any I know of. You typically help not only the person(s) themselves, but their extended family here and at home. (Because of remittances and also communication of information and strategies.) You also build a lot of cross-cultural appreciation and understanding, as the pic of a couple of 3-footers showing some 6.5-footers how to play Twister attests. (The 3-footers are my niece and nephew, who are somewhat bigger now).
To find a group, Google “YOUR TOWN refugee assistance.” Or, contact your local community college or religious organizations for leads. If you can’t find your niche email me and I’ll be happy to help.