In Your Community: Raising Support and Awareness for the Refugee Cause

Blue Key Champions unlock awareness for refugee cause

Blue Key Refugees

When we started the Blue Key campaign, we knew that spreading the word about the life-saving work that UNHCR does would take more than just us, or the media.

It takes YOU.

So we brought on board a range of Blue Key Champions: people who are active online, passionate about causes and the work that UNHCR does, and who were generous enough to share our message for us.


Don't take it from us. Here's what they had to say about the experience:


Tinu - Blue Key Champion

Participating in the Blue Key campaign has shown me in practice what I’ve always believed in theory – many people doing a little part of a large mission can truly make a difference. It used to completely paralyze me emotionally to know that there are so many suffering and that there’s only so much good a single person can do, even working ceaselessly their entire lifetime.

As a Blue Key champion, I’ve learned that there are other people, close by, who care as deeply as I do. And social good projects can work, with reasonable goals and expectations; working together, we not only can change the world, we are."  - Tinu Abayomi-Paul

Kami Watson Huyse

"The Blue Key campaign has shown that just a few people can make a difference in a problem that seems bottomless. It is much easier to turn away than to do something.

I think the awareness this brings to those of us that are far away from the problem is invaluable." - Kami Watson-Huyse


"Getting our Blue Keys gave us an opportunity to teach our son about helping others in a tangible way.

"For him, holding his own key brought home how he can make a difference in the world with one small gesture and he talks about it often. We have to teach our kids how big the world is and how very lucky we are not to be in a similar situation to the children around the world who have been forced from their homes." - Janet Fouts

vanderbilt university students raise awareness and support for flood victims

Un refugees events

Caitlin Van Orden addresses attendees of the Dores for Pakistan event.

USA for UNHCR staff member Caitlin Van Orden traveled to Nashville, Tennessee to speak to students at Vanderbilt University and members of the local Pakistani community about UNHCR’s response to the devastating floods that engulfed Pakistan over the summer. The group Dores for Pakistan organized the event and (Dores is short for Commodores, the Vanderbilt mascot) has been working with a consortium of other student groups across the country to raise money for UNHCR flood assistance. 

Dores for Pakistan is an entirely student-created and run group dedicated to raising awareness about the floods and funds for its victims. They made an online video, set up a Facebook page, and used various on-campus methods to promote the event. The event was well-attended, with between 75 and 100 guests. Caitlin spoke about UNHCR’s relief efforts in the region and then took questions from the audience along with Asfandyar Ali Mir, a Pakistani student from Stanford University who also spoke. 

The event was also an opportunity to promote the new Blue Key Campaign, which raises awareness and support for refugees worldwide.


Notre dame high school San jose and bellarmine college prepatory host author and goodwill ambassador khaled hosseini

Dr. Khaled Hosseini, UNHCR Goodwill Envoy, spoke about his latest book, as well as The Khaled Hosseini Foundation, which provides humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, his homeland. He also shared information on his foundation’s Student Outreach for Shelters (SOS) program, a service-learning program for high schools that supports Afghan refugees in the building of homes.

SOS provides educational opportunities to students studying Hosseini’s novels, while also giving them an opportunity to connect with and aid the community and people they have learned about. The program focuses on tailoring and expanding the existing study guides into national standards-based lesson plans and activities for high school students, while also incorporating a service component to raise funds for shelters in Afghanistan.

We applaud Notre Dame's success in raising funds to build four shelters in Afghanistan as Bellarmine considers the rich possibilities presented by the SOS offerings for their 2011-2012 Service Outreach and Academic Programs.


charity cricket for pakistan

The Minnesota Cricket Association (MCA) and orgnaized a cricket tournament for the benefit of Pakistan flood victims in 2010.

Local teams representing the cricket playing nations of India, Pakistan, West Indies, and the United States participated.

100% of proceeds were directed to USA for UNCHR. To contribute or participate in upcoming cricket events, find more information on the MCA website



Lori Panu after completing her first mud run in Dallas, TX © Lori Panu

Lori Panu from Shreveport, LA is a great example of how volunteers can in stay in shape, have fun, and increase awareness for the lifesaving work of UNHCR all at the same time.  Moved by the overwhelming need of refugees globally and inspired by their perseverence, Lori committed herself to making a difference.

In November, Lori completed Mud Run 2010 in Dallas -- a 10k with 20 mud-filled obstacles.  She dedicated her run to UNHCR and worked to raise awareness and funds for the Agency as part of her training. 

"UNHCR seemed the best choice," Lori said, "because of the amazing work that has been done all over the world for 50+ years." Friends, family, and donors could follow her training on her blog and at the same time learn more about UNHCR's work around the world.  Lori regularly posted updates as the race approached that focused both on her training progress and various refugee crises. 

From Pakistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lori highlighted the Agency's work providing shelter, medical care, and education.  After the success of her first race, Lori completed another mud run dedicated to UNHCR in April 2011.


Students at David Lipscomb Campus School during their Walk Djibouti Off fundraiser, raising money for Somali refugee families © Rita Cochran

walk Djibouti off

Rita Cochran's 7th grade world geography class at David Lipscomb Campus School in Nashville learned about refugees and decided to make a difference.  

Students learned about Somali refugees who were forced to flee to Djibouti and the many challenges and hardships they faced. 

Inspired by the refugees, many of whom are close to their own age, the students held a fundraiser to raise awareness and support for the work of the UN Refugee Agency. 

For the first annual “Walk Djibouti Off” event, family and friends pledged to make a donation for each completed lap the students walked around campus. 

Clementine Adkins and Clark Fry pose with their awards. © Rita Cochran

An overwhelming success, students raised $1,000 – five times their original goal. One of the greatest needs of Somali refugees is shelter, so the class asked that their donation to UNHCR go directly toward providing tents. 

In recognition of their hard work and ingenuity, the two students who founded the project, Clementine Adkins and Clark Fry, won the "Global Citizenship" award at their school.

If you would like more information on teaching about refugees in your school, please visit our Teachers’ Corner page.  You can find free teaching materials and lesson plans and sign up for our teacher e-alerts.


Spreading the word in boston

Erin Reissman and Ashley Armstrong have hosted several fundraisers in the Boston area, benefitting UNHCR. © Erin Reissman

Erin Reissman decided to become involved with helping vulnerable populations around the world after reading the book A Thousand Splendid Suns.

Since then, she has organized several events to raise money and awareness for UNHCR in the Boston area. She pairs fun activities with raising money. Most recently, she organized a NCAA tournament pool. $10 of every $20 buy-in was donated to USA for UNHCR. With nearly 50 participants and an exciting tournament, the pool was a big success.

Previously, Erin and friend, Ashley Armstrong, organized a holiday fundraiser.  Last December, people piled into a local Cambridge bar to listen to holiday music performed by the band Three Day Threshold. A $10 donation was collected at the door, and thanks to both the bar and band donating their resources, all money raised went directly to the UNHCR.

Erin and Ashley continue to plan UNHCR events in the Boston area, and are proof of what a little volunteer energy can do! 

Stop n'donate

Alexa and Ava outside their local Stop N'Shop raising money for the UN Refugee Agency and World Refugee Day. © Daniel Robertson

Alexa is not your average six year old. She knows that there are other little girls, just like her, living in refugee camps around the world, and she wants to help. She knows that when her mom was her age, she was a Vietnamese refugee and able to resettle in America. 

So Alexa decided to raise money for the UN Refugee Agency and World Refugee Day, an annual celebration of the strength, resilience, and contributions of the world's refugees.  Along with her friend Ava, Alexa set up outside her neighborhood Super Stop and Shop in Simsbury, TC one Saturday morning and asked grocery shoppers to donate to the lifesaving programs of UNHCR. 

In one morning, the girls raised over $250.  Alexa wrote a letter to her classmates, entitled Kids Can Help the World, and asked them to join her by bringing spare change to class or some to the local Stop and Shop with their parents.

UNHCR is lucky to have advocates, just like Alexa and Ava, who are willing to donate their time and money to help the millions of refugees worldwide. 

To find out what you can do, check out our community fundraising handbook and organize an event in your neighborhood.


Dedicated to her family

In 1992 the Bosnian War enveloped a small town named Bugojno where Damian Brundage-Guinn's cousins, aunts, uncles and grandmother, a mix of Serbians and Croatians, had spent their entire lives. Over the proceeding months, they were forced to flee for their lives or fight against those they called friends.

Damian Brundage-Guinn dedicated
her half marathon to her family and refugees around the world.

Of those in her family who could escape, ten people crowded into the one-bedroom apartment of a relative in Austria. Conditions were unbearable as her family sought a country that would accept refugees and still allow them the opportunity to support themselves. Once the United States refused to allow her relatives entry, Damian and her parents left the United States and relocated to Germany in hopes of providing security and a future for her entire family.

It was pitch black the night her parents showed up with her grandmother, aunts and young cousin. Other family members had sought refuge elsewhere in Austria, while the rest remained to fight in Bosnia. Damian watched as her family lost its pre-war life--friends, family, education, career, the ability to guarantee food, safety and shelter--virtually overnight. 

To honor the losses of her family and millions like them, and to help people facing similar horrors today, she plans to run a half marathon on May 31st. To date, she has succeeded in raising $870.00 in donations for USA for UNHCR and plans to meet her goal of $1,000.000 before the race.

The Bosnian War resulted in over 2.2 million refugees. Some returned home, some built new lives in new places, and some, like her uncles and cousins, did not survive. Without the protection and support of the U. N. Refugee Agency during this time, many more in her family would have never even made it out of Bosnia alive.

Today, there are over 43 million refugees worldwide, almost half of which are children. Each day they struggle to find food, water, shelter and medical assistance.

Running this race is Damian's way of raising awareness of the needs of many. She writes, "many of us work in an environment where we are dedicated to protecting our country and the lives of our families and friends, but our efforts do not come without consequences."

Damian thanks all those who work every day to support those in need and says, "My run is for a bigger race than just my own."

Boston Marathon to Benefit Refugee Children

Joanna Ritcey Donohue out for a run.

As Joanna Ritcey-Donohue trained for the Boston Marathon, she decided to dedicate her run to the refugee cause. A mother of two young children, she called, emailed and set up a Facebook Cause asking friends, family and colleagues to donate to - a UNHCR initiative that provides refugee children with better access to education, sport and technology by 2010.

Joanna has run only one marathon previously - 15 years ago.  When she finished that marathon in Washington, DC, she vowed to run one marathon every decade of her life after that (30s, 40s, 50s, etc.). She felt it was time once again "to bite the bullet and hit the pavement".  As the miles accumulated, though, she craved "some additional inspiration".  Joanna decided she needed to make her goal about something bigger than herself and her family. 

Joanna had worked at USA for UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) several years ago, so she decided to set a goal to raise funds for refugees. When she learned about the campaign, she asked supporters to donate the campaign in honor of her marathon.

The campaign believes every child has a right to play and a right to learn. Joanna has run hundreds of miles for these children, and raised over $600 for refugee children. 

Learn more about the campaign.