By the end of 2013, the total number of forcibly displaced persons worldwide reached 51.2 million. That’s EIGHT TIMES the population of New York City. It’s also shocking, disappointing, and ridiculous. There is something you can do to help better the lives of these displaced persons though, and I’m here to tell you what it is.
Picture it, Sicily, 1938…. Actually, I’d like you to picture Palestine, 1948, but if you understood that reference, kudos to you! 1948 was the year Palestine was partitioned into two states, Palestine and Israel, and also the year that began decades of difficulty for Palestinians. As the power of the Israeli state grew, the lives of Palestinians were disrupted as their land was taken from them, their homes destroyed, and their livelihoods undermined. Today, one of the largest groups of displaced persons emerged from the Palestinian territories.
It is this history that has shaped my interest in human rights and helping refugees. As the daughter of two Palestinians, the effects of Israel’s domination over Palestinians has hit close to home several times. The stories came to life during a recent visit to the West Bank in which I tagged along as my mother revisited her childhood home, located in the infamous Qalandia Refugee Camp. Though the situation wasn’t ideal, I listened as memories were recounted, watched as friends were reunited, and learned that people who have it the hardest give back the most.
The experiences of Palestinians aren’t exclusively theirs. Around the world there are people who are suffering and struggling to live conflict free lives: in the Congo, in South Sudan, in Laos, in Syria, and several other places. These persons often flee their homes, becoming categorized in one of three ways based on United Nations definitions.
- Refugee: a person who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
- Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): “IDPs have not crossed an international border to find sanctuary but have remained inside their home countries. Even if they have fled for similar reasons as refugees (armed conflict, generalized violence, human rights violations), IDPs legally remain under the protection of their own government – even though that government might be the cause of their flight. As citizens, they retain all of their rights and protection under both human rights and international humanitarian law.” This category includes those who have been displaced due to natural disasters.
- Asylum-seekers: “an asylum-seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.”
Of the 51.2 million forcibly displaced persons, 16.7 million are refugees, 33.3 million are IDPs, and 1.2 million are asylum-seekers. Regardless of their categories, all of these persons have a few things in common: their human rights are put in jeopardy, meeting basic human needs can be a struggle, and they need help from people and organizations to combat both of these problems.
You Can Help!
As a social justice advocate, I am constantly looking for ways to help people who are in need. The best way to make the biggest impact is to recruit people who have similar goals. Lucky for me, you’re one of those people! If you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t be on a site called Positive Activism and reading this article.
Recently, I was inspired by wonderful examples of people using their birthdays to give back to their communities. Following suit, I started a birthday fundraiser with the International Rescue Committee. Among the organizations out there dedicated to helping displaced persons, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) regularly receives attention for the effective work it is doing to make a difference in the lives of those it serves. Its website offers this description:
“The International Rescue Committee helps people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover, and gain control of their future. IRC teams provide health care, infrastructure, learning and economic support to people in 40 countries, with special programs designed for women and children. Every year, the IRC resettles thousands of refugees in 22 U.S. cities.”
Originally founded at the request of Albert Einstein in order to help refugees of Germany during World War II, the organization strives to hire locals to help with its work in order to have a force that is completely dedicated and invested in the end goal of restoring and rebuilding the lives of their neighbors. By hiring local staff, the IRC also sets itself up for long-term service in the areas it helps; in other words, they stick around until the job of rebuilding lives and futures is complete.
The goal of our fundraiser is to raise $400 for the IRC by my birthday in late March. So far, a number of people have taken the time to donate, and I am so grateful to them. We need more help to meet the goal, though! I hope you consider donating because your money will go toward bettering the lives of some of the world’s most vulnerable people. If you would like to donate to the birthday fundraiser, you can follow this link: http://diy.rescue.org/heba
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. When opportunities arise to connect with like minded people in order to create the biggest impact, I am reminded of the goodness in our world. YOU are making a difference, never forget that!
To donate to Heba’s Birthday fundraiser, please click the donate button below!
To read the United Nations High Commissioner Report on refugees, you can follow this link: http://www.unhcr.org/54aa91d89.html
To learn more about the International Rescue Committee, you can follow this link: http://www.rescue.org/
About The Author
Heba is a recent college graduate trying to find ways to better her local and global communities. An aspiring modern freedom fighter, Heba hopes to work at an international level to help solve human rights crises, to restore peace to conflict-ridden areas of the world, and to prevent future conflicts from arising.