By now you’ve probably seen the heartbreaking images of a drowned boy who fleed from Syria to Turkey to escape his country’s ongoing civil war, with the hopes of reaching the shores of Europe and Canada one day.
The pictures of three-year-old Alan Kurdi have jolted Canadians awake to the Syrian humanitarian crisis that has steadily grown since it began four years ago. 200,000 people have lost their lives in the armed conflict and more than 11 million are now displaced. Many of these refugees are taking extraordinary risks to escape the turmoil and reach the shores of Europe and a brighter future.
Like many, you might be feeling helpless and overwhelmed by what you can do to make a difference. But you can make a difference. Here are three ways you can start making an impact, right now.
1. Make a donation to a non-governmental organization (NGO)
Here are some NGOs that are offering life-saving assistance to Syrians:
OXFAM Canada provides clean water by rehabilitating the water infrastructure and repairing wells within conflict stricken areas in Syria. They also provide refugees, who’ve escaped to neighbouring countries, with cash, clean drinking water, blankets, stoves and vouchers for hygiene supplies.
A monthly donation to the UNHCR can provide a Syrian family with vaccines, emergency assistance packages, a tent and a well.
Care Canada provides much of the same help to Syrians in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and Syria. They’re also raising awareness among refugees of sexual exploitation and other forms of gender-based violence in Egypt.
2. Join a local grassroots movement
If you have the means, consider sponsoring Syrian refugees who are moving to Canada. Here are a few organizations that are providing help:
Toronto-based Lifeline Syria is recruiting, training and assisting sponsor groups that will be supporting 1,000 Syrian refugees coming to Canada as permanent immigrants over the next two years.
Faith group Mennonite Central Committee Alberta has partnered with several agencies, communities, and local church congregations to assist Syrian individuals and families living as refugees.
3. Get in touch with your local politician
If you’re willing to reach out directly, make a call to your Member of Parliament and ask what your community and Canada as a whole is doing to help Syrians caught up in one of the worst humanitarian crises of the 21st century.