Written by Yuki Hayashi
3 minute read
Imagine fleeing your home, risking your life, sacrificing your career and property, and leaving your loved ones behind, all in the hope of finding safety in a far-off land. This is the reality for millions of civilians around the world, as they flee conflict, poverty and violence. Every year, the United Nations marks August 19th as World Humanitarian Day and recognizes those affected by global crises along, with those who help them.
In 2016, Canada welcomed and resettled a record number of refugees – 46,000 – and the need remains strong internationally.
In communities across the country, organizations and neighbours have come together to help newcomers start new lives. Challenges newcomers face can include trauma, language and cultural barriers and poverty. Strong social networks can empower refugees to overcome these obstacles.
The more people that help newcomers settle in, the better their odds of success. And the more people who share the load, the easier it becomes. Wondering how you can help out? Read on for three low-, moderate- and high-commitment ways to chip in.
Wondering why you should consider helping out? Besides the common good, studies show volunteer work and philanthropy benefit the giver dramatically! Side effects of altruism include an endorphin rush (the famed “helper’s high”) and improved appreciation of our own circumstances. Fostering social ties and social connectedness, can help others reduce stress and even lower morbidity rates. All told, helping helps the helper, too! Here’s how to get started.
THREE GREAT WAYS TO HELP REFUGEES IN YOUR COMMUNITY
If you have a jam-packed calendar and can’t handle an ongoing commitment right now, making a donation will provide much-needed financial aid to local organizations that support refugees.
Eager to roll up your sleeves? Try volunteering your time!
If you want to collaborate with friends, relatives or colleagues, consider forming a Welcome Group. Welcome Groups consist of teams of five or more people who will support and help integrate newcomers and their families to life in Canada. According to the Together Project, which matches Welcome Groups with newcomers, five is the minimum number of people necessary to help a newcomer family develop a broad social network.
Welcome Groups assist Government-Assisted Refugees and do not take on a sponsorship role. Google “refugee welcome groups” to find out how you can get started in your community.
Private sponsorship involves completing a settlement plan (including how the group will help the newcomers with housing, language training, employment and more) and financially supporting the refugee family for one year or until they are self-supporting (whichever comes first). Financial support will cover the family or individual’s housing, food, medical expenses and personal products. Sponsors live in the same community as the newcomers and provide social support and friendship as well.
You can learn more about private sponsorship through the federal government’s Guide to the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
When volunteering, share the load to avoid burnout. Good communication is key: volunteer team members should choose responsibilities suited to their strengths and interests, to stay motivated and benefit from that helper’s high.
Join the conversation: What community organization do you most enjoy lending your time to?
Read more: Click here to learn more about World Humanitarian Day.