The Rio 2016 Olympics has brought renewed attention to the refugee crisis through the 10-member Refugee Olympic Team, while an Amnesty International initiative, The Refugee Nation has gained traction by creating a flag for the team that symbolizes the orange and black lifejackets worn by many refugees as they perilously cross the Mediterranean Sea.
The refugee crisis is continuing to grow in importance, as there are now more displaced people in the world than ever before, and yet negativity and exclusionary nationalism continues to gain popularity across the globe. Brexit, Donald Trump running for president in the US, and the increasing popularity of racist and xenophobic political parties across Europe are all the result of increasing fear in regards to massive flows of refugees.
Yet these sentiments exist, despite assertions by many economists, including Alexander Betts of Oxford University, that immigration is a "net positive for the economy as a whole under almost all circumstances." While there is an obvious humanitarian imperative to aid refugees, it also makes a lot more sense economically to integrate them than to exclude them.
The six organizations below are examples of initiatives undertaken by individuals to use the skills and ideas they had to create a better life for refugees and a better world for everyone.
SINGA, a French organization, links locals with refugees who share their interests and gives refugees the opportunity to participate in daily community events. The organization offers support in professional, social, cultural, artistic, and entrepreneurial projects and since 2012 has guided 50 refugees to success. In order to provide extra support and help refugees build stronger local connections, SINGA also runs CALM (Comme à la maison or "Just like home" in English), which gives locals the opportunity to host refugees for temporary stays from two weeks to six months.
La Fabrique Nomade, also in France, is giving refugees, with skills as artisans, the opportunity to continue working in their domain. The social startup plans to accompany the refugees in all stages of their business development by helping them attain certifications, language skills, and clients. They also organize workshops where skills can be shared and connections built with other refugees and locals.
Natakallam, in the US, is supporting integration and providing employment to refugees through online tutoring of Arabic. Natakallam currently has 1,500 students signed up to practice their Arabic with displaced Syrians. Natakallam explains that, "Through this online platform, students have the option of practicing their speaking skills while providing Syrians with an enriching part-time work opportunity in a country where finding a worthwhile job is difficult." Natakallam is currently in discussions to develop partnerships with a number of universities including CUNY, Duke, and Georgetown.
Catalytic Action's Playgrounds for Refugee Children program is supporting the healthy development of children living in refugee camps. They believe that "a playground represents a vital role in providing relief for the Syrian children who have witnessed conflict and displacement... these children deserve the right to play and heal following the trauma of war." The playgrounds are built with children's participation and with one playground set up in Lebanon, serving 357 children, they are hoping to build many more.
Incubators for immigrants is an organization working to help refugees build "a new economic and independent existence in the Netherlands." The organization accepts business plan submissions from migrants and if the plan is promising the organization will provide guidance, foster a good start, and provide legal and social assistance.
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