As refugees make their journey to Europe, one group is helping them stay connected to their loved ones.
In the six months since its February launch, the group has garnered more than 20,000 members and raised almost 100,000 British pounds ― or around $130,000, according to the Guardian.
Refugees simply post in the Facebook group when they need credit added to their pay-as-you-go phones, according to the page. Donors can then add funds directly to their mobile accounts online, or donate to the group so the administrators can distribute funds.
The goal of the Facebook group is to provide refugees with access to much-needed internet and calls so they can stay connected along their journeys.
“I can only imagine when you are many miles from home in very uncertain circumstances that being able to keep in touch with friends and family is a big priority for most,” founder James Pearce posted in the Facebook group. “Hopefully together we will be able to help lots of people sustain this incredibly important communication lifeline a little bit more easily.”
Pearce, a social service worker from the U.K, started the group after volunteering in the Calais Jungle, France’s makeshift camp, according to The Guardian. He was alarmed by the number of people who couldn’t reach loved ones, and was inspired to help.
For refugees on the move, having access to cell phones to use the internet and make calls is essential. Wifi can be just as important as food or water for many migrants, aid worker Isaac Kwamy told Reuters.
“Very few of them (migrants) said, ‘We are hungry, we need food. Or we are thirsty, can we have water?” Kwamy said. “They were literally asking, ‘Do you have Wi-fi access and where can we charge our phones?’”
Refugees use their phones to access key information on border closings, according to research from BBC Media Action. Migrants also use apps like Google Maps or Facebook to map their journeys, so they don’t have to rely on traffickers.
The ‘Phone Credit for Refugees and Displaced People’ Facebook group allows refugees to get the cell phone credit they urgently need to stay connected.
“My hope for the group is that we will be able to grow to the size necessary to meet the need that’s out there,” Pearce told the Guardian. “And in the process, that we can humanize and raise the profile of those caught up in the refugee crisis among ordinary people.”