In honor of World Refugee Day, USA for UNHCR, in partnership with Refugee Congress and USAHello, brought together members of the Citizen Verizon Volunteer Community to honor refugees around the world and reinforce the critical importance of the right to seek safety.
During the event, Verizon volunteers wrote welcome letters to resettled refugees sharing messages of support, hope and encouragement for individuals who have been forced to flee their homes. Beyond warm sentiments, people included images and their location to complement their words. Over 60 Verizon volunteers joined the session and there have been nearly 200 welcome letters submissions.
“Welcome to the USA. Although I am sure this transition is extremely overwhelming at times, please know you are not alone. We are here for you.” - Marie
Preceding the letter-writing activity, USA for UNHCR was joined by Sarah Ivory, President of USAHello, an organization that uses technology to eliminate barriers to the information and resources refugees and immigrants need to build brighter futures in the United States.
Drocella Mugorewera, a board member and the Honorary Delegate to the Refugee Congress, a national nonpartisan advocacy organization comprised of refugees, former refugees, asylees and asylum speakers whose mission is to promote the well-being and dignity of all, also joined as a speaker.
Drocella opened the discussion by sharing her personal experience fleeing Rwanda in 2008: “Fleeing my country in 2008 was so painful –– but also hopeful. I left my country without any direction. I lost a country, a family, a career and everything that I had invested in for more than 40 years.”
More than 100 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes due to war, conflict or persecution. These individuals seek safety and protection across international borders or as internally displaced people within their home countries.
Many refugees cannot go home because of continued conflict, wars and persecution. Many also live in perilous situations or have specific needs that cannot be addressed in the country where they have sought protection. In such circumstances, UNHCR helps resettle refugees to a third country.
Organizations like USAHello and Refugee Congress can help with this transition, which can be difficult as refugees often face discrimination and xenophobia in the communities where they have resettled. Sarah Ivory underscored the importance of small actions to help people feel welcome in their new communities. She shared a story of an elder refugee woman from the Democratic Republic of Congo who struggled after arrival with a feeling of isolation. She said that even when she wore bright traditional African clothing in her neighborhood she felt that “no one ever looked my way.” She felt invisible. Something as simple as making eye contact and sharing a warm smile can go a long way.
Verizon volunteers asked what individual actions people can take to help those forcibly displaced, and these were some of the speaker’s suggestions:
Are you interested in donating, advocating, welcoming or connecting? Visit “4 Ways You Can Help Refugees” to learn more.