Feb. 07

Volunteers are Points of Light During Refugee Crisis

Kathy Hertz greets refugees and helps to warm up children upon their arrival at the Greek island of Lesbos.

As millions of refugees around our country and the world continue to strive for safety, freedom and opportunity, there are volunteers who act as points of light on the long and arduous journey to a better life. These volunteers give their time, talent and voice to refugees both at home and abroad, and serve as examples of the ways in which one can get involved.

  • Turning a simple vacation into a mission trip, Daily Point of Light awardee Kathy Hertz decided to use her time to become a beacon of hope for refugees arriving in Europe. While planning a trip with her cousin, no destination was jumping out to Kathy. But as she sat each night watching the news of the refugee humanitarian crisis, she decided she didn't need a vacation – she needed to help. With her cousin by her side, Kathy soon found herself on the Greek island of Lesbos, helping to carry young children off boats and bring them safely to refugee camps. Her experience, she said, highlighted how people can make a difference in the smallest way. Read her story.
  • Kelli Czaykowsky with a group of 7- to 12-year-old children from different parts of Africa and Burma.
  • Clarkston, Georgia, has been dedicated a refugee resettlement center – it contains the most diverse square mile in the United States. But many of these legal immigrants  lack access to resources around education, health care and nutrition. That's why Kelli Czaykowsky created Friends of Refugees Providing Education and Empowerment to provide refugee families with resources to build self-esteem and self-sufficiency. For the past seven years, Kelli has worked to sponsor children in schools, provide and coordinate lunch programs and enroll children in summer camps. She was awarded a Daily Point of Light award for her work. Read her story.
  • After the resettlement agencies bring refugees to the country and help them find housing, employment, education, and basic health care, they are often left feeling lost and alone. Rachel Humphries, Daily Point of Light awardee of Charlotte, North Carolina, founded Refugee Support Services of the Carolinas  to pick up where refugee resettlement agencies leave off in the effort to help newcomers to the United States become productive, self-sufficient residents and, ultimately, American citizens. Read her story.
  • Drs. Samer Attar, John Kahler and Zaher Sahloul in front of a building in Aleppo that was destroyed by a barrel bomb.
  • Three Chicago doctors – Samer Attar, John Kahler and Zaher Sahloul – traveled to Aleppo, Syria, through the Syrian American Medical Society, to help save civilian lives in an underground hospital called M10. Classified as a level-three emergency, there are only 30 doctors left in Aleppo to treat the population. While Aleppo is now unfortunately closed to help, the doctors recommend that people volunteer domestically with the International Rescue Committee to mentor refugee families and help them develop job skills. The doctors were awarded a Daily Point of Light award for their incredible service. Read their story.
  • Using the talents you already have is a great way to help others. As a Bank of America senior business support specialist, Daily Point of Light awardee Donna Mahon knew she could use her skills to give back to the community. Partnering with Points of Light's Financial Opportunity Corps, Donna has recruited and trained volunteer financial coaches to help people from low- and moderate-income households achieve financial stability, including creating workshops on building credit to meet the needs of women in the Microenterprise Program of the Refugee Women's Network. This financial literacy training helps refugees start to rebuild their life one piece at a time, and can bring stability and a positive outlook to their new life in America. Read her story.
  • You're never too young to make a difference. The Westford Academy generationOn Service Club from Boston wanted to help the refugees who are new to their community. They collected hygiene products from community members and used a grant to supplement the packages to make 50 care kits. Club facilitator Madhumita Kaushik said, “Together, our service group made a difference by collaborating, using our strengths collectively and instilling in us a sense of responsibility, and overall compassion” for people new to their community.
  • At the 2016 Conference on Volunteering and Service, we were inspired by Mariela Shaker, a young Syrian refugee who fled the violence in her country and brought her gift of music to ours. Mariela is a violin virtuoso who was able to come to the United States on a music scholarship, leaving home city of Aleppo – and her family – behind. She now uses her talents of music to unite people and highlight our similarities, rather than our differences.

As the world refugee crisis continues, these points of light – and many others – are helping to guide those in need to a better future. There are so many ways you can take action today. Get involved with UNICEF, which works to protect vulnerable children around the world, or Save The Children, which is bringing food and medical supplies to affected areas. Help Amnesty International speak up for refugee needs and human rights, or volunteer withInternational Rescue Committee as they help people survive, recover, and gain control of their future. You can also search for more opportunities to serve in your area by visiting All For Good.

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